London 2012: The GB para-cycling team targets World Championship success

By Elizabeth HudsonBBC Paralympic sports reporter

The Great Britain para-cycling team head for the Track World Championships in Los Angeles battling for places at the 2012 Paralympics.

The team need to accumulate as many ranking points as possible in the final qualifying event, which starts on Thursday, to help determine the size of the team they can field in London.

They boast a wealth of experience with Paralympic champions Sarah Storey, fresh from her time with the Olympic team pursuit squad, Jody Cundy and Darren Kenny all included.

Also joining the team is ex-RAF serviceman Jon-Allan Butterworth, who lost his left arm while serving in Iraq, and came to the sport via the Battle Back programme which helps injured servicemen into sport.

But the track tussle between the two GB male tandem pairings will be one of the most keenly contested with the possibility that one pair could miss out when it comes to selection for London.

The event has a sighted pilot and a visually impaired or blind 'stoker'.

Anthony Kappes and his pilot Barney Storey won double gold in Beijing four years ago in the sprint and the kilo but since then Kappes worked first with Olympic champion Jason Queally, before he returned to the able-bodied competition and then was reunited with Storey. He is now being piloted by another former Olympian in Sydney team sprint silver medallist Craig Maclean.

In Los Angeles, Storey will partner former sprinter Neil Fachie as they bid to regain the world title they won together in 2009 with Fachie, who triumphed again in 2011 with Maclean, bidding for his third world title in a row in both the kilo and the sprint.

The pairings - top two in the world rankings -external-link want to make a big impact in LA and stake a major claim for selection for London.

The experienced Storey, the husband of Sarah Storey, is hoping to ride in his third Games.

"The four of us are all used to riding with others and the fact that we have two strong pairings helps us go quicker," he explained to BBC Sport.

"Both pairs are putting out better training times than ever before and if it was just one strong pairing, we wouldn't be hitting the times we are."

Kappes, who is hoping to win his first major international title since Beijing, has described the last two years as like being in the wilderness.

He has worked with different partners but also tried out the longer track pursuit event and the road races before deciding to focus on the track sprint and kilo events.

"At times, there was slight uncertainty as to where we were going but it was a good chance to try things out and get it clear in my mind what I should be doing," he said.

"As we won't know how many places we have for London until after LA, it is a possibility that I won't have a chance to defend my Paralympic titles.

"We don't know whether the track in LA will be tandem friendly so although we definitely have a possibility of winning, I don't know whether the track will allow us to go as fast as I think we can make the bike go.

"On the world stage a GB tandem can pretty much trounce any other pairing out there. Domestically, having another tandem nipping at your heels brings both pairings along - it's not always comfortable but ultimately it is good."

In their selection document for London,external-link British Cycling say that their primary aim will be to select the team with the best potential to win medals and competition rules do permit more than one competitor per nation in the tandem event

For Maclean, the transition from solo rider to tandem pilot has not been straightforward but he is relishing the chance of competing in a home Games.

"It's a great privilege for me to be still involved in the sport at this stage in my career," said Maclean, who will turn 41 in July.

"Moving from the able-bodied team to be a pilot on the Paralympic team means I'm not doing just doing it for myself - I'm doing it on someone else's behalf so it required a change in mindset.

"Physically, my body doesn't lend itself to the long sprints which you tend to get in the tandem events so I've had to change my training to help accommodate that.

"Having the Games in London is a great boost for the whole team and definitely a motivating factor for me."