IT MIGHT look like something’s just landed from Outer Space – but this aerodynamic shell could make former London Wheelchair Marathon champion Sarah Piercy the fastest hand cyclists on earth!
Sarah will be hoping to break the current women’s handcycle record of 24.76mph when she hits the highways at the World Human Powered Speed Challenge (WHPSC) in Battle Mountain, Nevada (Sep 12-17).
Despite living with the condition arthrogryposis multiplex congenita, which can lead to a contracting of the joints, Sarah has competed in TEN London Marathons, including her win at the age of just 19 in 2000.
Sarah, from Essex, said: “Throughout my life, I have always been up for a challenge, so when this opportunity came along I knew I wanted to be involved.
“I am used to racing over longer distances, and riding in a different position, so I am going to have to completely change my training programme for this competition.
“But so much hard work has gone into building the bike that I am determined to give it everything I’ve got now and when we get to Nevada.”
Recent tests on the tarmac at RAF St Mawgan in Cornwall have already seen her achieve in excess of 20mph.
Project leader Adam Kyte is confident of success. He said: “We have designed and built a fantastic handcycle – and we know it is fast.
“Sarah’s testing so far has been very encouraging and the time and effort she has put into the project has been outstanding.
“Every time she gets into the bike she goes quicker, so we are quietly confident about our prospects.”
This is the second year that Plymouth University has travelled to the United States to take part in the WHPSC competition, which includes a run-up of up to five miles on a straight, flat, high altitude road before a timed section of 200 metres.
The team is still fundraising for the project and would be keen to hear from any potential corporate sponsors. They have already secured support from Wyedean Canoe and Adventure Centre; RDM Group; R.A. Rodriguez (UK) Ltd; Royal Air Force Engineering; Algeos; Putnams; the Institution of Mechanical Engineers; XMA; Ipeco Composites; Baron Controls LLC; Certini Bicycle Company; Sunrise Software; Inspired Cycle Engineering; Cyclepowermeters.com.
There is also a Crowdfunder appeal currently running, which has so far raised more than £1,000 towards the cost of the record attempt.
It had originally been planned to take two athletes, however former Army Air Corps trooper and Help for Heroes ambassador Chris Jones has had to withdraw for family reasons.