Southland team off to Belgium for Para-cycling Road World Cup

Hannah Pascoe and Laura Thompson ride at a Para-cycling Road World Cup meet in Belgium next week.

Nathan Burdon / Supplied

Hannah Pascoe and Laura Thompson ride at a Para-cycling Road World Cup meet in Belgium next week.

An outstanding ride at the age group national club championships means the Southland combination of Hannah Pascoe and Laura Thompson ride at a Para-cycling Road World Cup meet in Belgium next week.

It’s been a whirlwind few days for Pascoe, who was born with congenital glaucoma and went totally blind at 25, and Thompson, who is the sighted pilot rider and coach for the team.

Their national title in the tandem road time trial in Hokitika last week saw them invited to join the New Zealand para-cycling team for the Belgium event, one of only three opportunities to qualify for this year’s world para-cycling road championships.

Along with the national title, their average speed during the event was impressive enough to grab the attention of the selectors.

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“It was a pretty reasonable time trial time considering Laura’s only been training for three or four months, three hours a week, and we’re still pretty new to it all,” Pascoe said.

“Laura sent an amazing email to the high-performance guys and we managed to get accepted to race in Belgium. Our ultimate goal is to get to the world championships, which are in Canada in August, and you need to do a World Cup to get there. ”

It’s fair to say there will be a sense of relief when Pascoe and Thompson plonk themselves down in an airplane seat tomorrow (Eds: Saturday) morning for the trip to Belgium.

There’s been the logistics of breaking down and packing their tandem bike, organizing their Covid-19 requirements and booking flights.

The two mums also have four boys under the age of four between them and both recently started new jobs.

Because they are outside the national high-performance program, the trip – estimated to cost $ 13,000 – is self-funded. Both were extremely happy to find out the ILT Group were backing them to the tune of $ 3500 each.

While the pair have a strong goal for the World Cup, it’s difficult to gauge what they will come up against in Belgium.

There have been a number of retirements and other team changes amongst the top international tandem combinations since last year’s Paralympics in Tokyo.

Pascoe has only been back training for the past year since starting a family and is still making the transition to road cycling after her initial foray into cycling on the track.

While Thompson has coached Pascoe throughout her time on the bike, she only took over the pilot rider role lately and a new job as the Active Transport innovator with Active Southland’s Healthy Families Invercargill team has limited her training hours.

Thompson, who was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to Paralympic cycling as part of the 2021 New Year Honors after winning medals at both world championships and Paralympics, has coached riders on the same Belgium circuit which will be used for the time trial and road race next week.

“It’s a bit like Invercargill, windy and flat, and that’s one of the reasons we wanted to go there,” Thompson said.

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