December 21 - Paralympic and World Para-cycling champion Sarah Storey (pictured) - who is also reigning British individual pursuit champion in the event open to all cyclists - has been named the first signing for the Horizon Fitness women’s road cycling team.

The setting up of the new team, whose sponsor manufactures home exercise equipment, was announced earlier this week.

Managed by Stefan Wyman, previously Directeur Sportif at Vision 1 Racing, Nicole Cooke's former team, one of its principal aims is to help develop young British cycling talent.

Storey will ride for Horizon Fitness in events in the UK and Continental Europe, and Wyman believes that her experience will benefit more junior members of the squad.

He said: "Sarah is a very strong rider with a massive amount of respect in the sport.

"Her ambition for the future matches her achievements of the past, and that can’t be ignored.

"She’s someone that gives 100 per cent and I think our younger riders will learn a huge amount from Sarah.

"We had Sarah over for a few days training to our team house in Belgium and she fitted in very well.

"She’s easy to get along with and she can give the guys a run for their money on the bike.

"I think everyone involved with the team is looking forward to working with her in 2010.

"To build a team from scratch isn't easy and to blend the personalities is never as easy as it would seem, but I think with Sarah we have someone that going fit in well, and if she races and trains with her usual gusto, she’ll raise standards, that’s for sure."

Storey is enthusiastic about signing up with the new team, which will use Kona bikes, as well as the opportunity to race on the road. 

The 32-year-old from Manchester said: "I'm excited to join Horizon Fitness Kona and making the step up to racing in a team in bigger races.

"Road racing is an area I'm keen to improve on as an individual and know that in joining this team I’ll be able to continue to develop both skills and physical strength to complement my paracycling races.

"I'm excited to be working alongside some of GB's finest young talent and am hoping the 2010 season will see us all mould into a strong team and win races along the way.

"My personal goals lie with 2010 World Para-cycling Champs in Columbia in August and I’d also love to make the team for England at Commonwealth Games."

Despite being born with a deformed left hand, Storey, whose husband Barney is a successful Para-cycling sprint tandem pilot, has amply demonstrated that she merits a place among the sport’s elite able-bodied riders, and she recently revealed that she her longer-term aims include competing in both the Olympics and Paralympics at London 2012.

The time she rode while winning the individual pursuit in the IPC World Championships in Manchester last month would have placed her second in the able-bodied World Cup event at the same track in October, a month in which she successfully defended her British national title in the same event.

Although the Individual Pursuit has been dropped from the Olympic programme for 2012, Storey would be targeting a place in the team pursuit event, which has been retained.

The 2012 Paralympics, meanwhile, would represent Storey’s sixth consecutive appearance at those Games.

Before switching to para-cycling ahead of Beijing last year, where she won two gold medals on the track, Storey - under her maiden name of Bailey - accumulated a total of 16 medals in swimming events at Barcelona, Atlanta, Sydney and Athens, five of them gold, eight silver, and three bronze.

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