Sarah Storey: Hour record is supposed to be tough to beat

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Will Storey break the hour record?

In her career as first a swimmer and then a cyclist, Dame Sarah Storey has broken 73 world records.

On Saturday in London's Olympic velodrome, the 11-time Paralympic champion will attempt arguably her toughest yet - the women's hour record.

It is a record that has stood since 2003, a time when Storey was still ploughing up and down a pool with no intention of riding around in circles.

"It's never something I intended to do; it seems a crazy thing to do," the 37-year-old told BBC Sport.

"But it's a physical challenge and I've spent the last 24 years of my international career taking on physical challenges.

"This is one that I've never attempted before so it seemed fitting to see what happens."

Storey will be the first to challenge the record of 46.065km set by Leontien Zijlaard-van Moorsel of the Netherlands in October 2003.

There is a certain romance in cycling surrounding the hour record.

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From 1993 to 2000 Britons Chris Boardman and Graeme Obree set five new records between them, while Yvonne McGregor broke the women's record in 1995.

Attempts began to wane but a rule change last year by cycling's world governing body, the International Cycling Union, regarding the use of aerodynamic equipment, resulted in a flurry of efforts and successes.

The resurgence began in September with Jens Voigt's record, which has already being surpassed by Matthias Brandle and Rohan Dennis.

Sir Bradley Wiggins also has designs on it.

"There was a lot of talk on social media about the women's record and few people mentioned my name," said Storey.

"It was about time someone from the female side of the sport took it on as well.

"We haven't seen the same avalanche of requests going in to do the female record, but, hopefully, if I'm successful that will come."

Since physiology testing in November rendered favourable results for potential success she has been working on the sorts of things she will need to do in order to ride more than 184.25 laps in 60 minutes.

Dame Sarah Storey
SwimmingCycling (Road & Track)
16 Paralympic medals 1992-2004 (5 gold, 8 silver, 3 bronze)Six-time Paralympic champion (4 gold medals at London 2012)
15 World Championship medals 1994-2002 (5 gold, 5 silver, 5 bronze)Nine world track titles (2007-2014), six world road titles (2009, 2010,2011)

That involves techniques to regulate her breathing, heat adaptation to cope with the sort of sustained exertion inside a stuffy velodrome and hydration as no fluids will be taken during the effort.

She expects not only a physical test but a psychological one too.

"The mental side of things is going to be as big as anything," said Storey. "Physically I'm going to be in the right shape.

"Once it starts to bite that psychological challenge is going to be even greater."

Storey believes that 'bite' will come at some point in the second half of the attempt - although she will not know that until Saturday, joking that she has not wanted to try the full hour in training for fear breaking the record will put her off ever wanting to go through it again for real.

If successful, she will not only be the first woman to break the record in 11 years but also a disability athlete claiming an able-bodied record.

However, Storey, who was born with a partially-formed left hand, is keen to shun labels and simply be seen as a cyclist without any particular qualifying addendum.

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"I don't like to put things into separate boxes," she said. "People take inspiration for different reasons.

"I might be an inspiration to a female para-cyclist or a mum who wants to stay fit. So I don't think we should say I'm going to be an inspiration to one group of people or another.

"It's just I'm a bike rider out there trying to challenge myself to be the best I can be.

"Cycling is a very integrated and inclusive sport, so it's easy for me to race in both able-bodied and para-cycling.

"I've physically got the capability to beat the record but if I get off the track and I haven't done it, it won't be because I have an excuse in the back pocket.

"It'll be because it's an incredibly difficult record - but it's a world record; it's supposed to be hard."

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