Meet the Paralympian

Lora Fachie is a visually impaired para-cyclist who competes for Great Britain in the tandem road race and time trial events. Her palmares is impressive including gold at the 2016 Paralympics in Rio and two UCI world titles. The British athlete is also married to fellow Paralympian Neil Fachie. Here, we catch up with Lora to talk tandem, training and her guide dog, Tai…

Who’s your tandem partner?

Corrine Hall has been my pilot since 2013. We both live in Manchester [Great Britain] so train together regularly. Currently we manage one to two tandem sessions a week. The rest of my training is done in the gym and on a turbo trainer. I use Zwift a lot, which has revolutionised my cycling.

Talk us through your season so far.

This year started on the track. I was a bit disappointed to lose my world title in the 3km pursuit to the New Zealand bike, but they rolled out an impressive performance. We were pleased with how we dealt with disappointment and came back to win bronze in the medal ride. Our training towards the back of last year wasn’t great as Corrine had been struggling with injury.

Fortunately, though, since the UCI Track Cycling World Championships things have picked up and we’ve put together a consistent block of training. We raced the UCI World Cup in Belgium, in May, where we won bronze in the time trial and possibly the highlight of my season so far – silver in the road race. Since then we’ve raced a couple of local events in Great Britain and become national time trial champions. I’m looking forward to racing the next UCI World Cup in Canada, and then the UCI Road Para-cycling World Championships in the Netherlands followed by the road race in Yorkshire in September.

How do you manage pacing being visually impaired?

Frustratingly I’m yet to discover a method of receiving audible accurate power feedback when I’m on the tandem. I do receive heart-rate feedback in training but, when it comes to racing, it’s off feel with a little bit of feedback from Corrine.

Are you professional?

I’m a full-time cyclist funded by our National Lottery. We’re lucky to enjoy the support we do to enable us to focus on training. I also have a degree in physiotherapy.

Can you talk us through a typical training week?

It consists of 15-20 training hours, with a mix of tandem riding, solo turbo sessions, and strength and conditioning sessions in the gym. Currently, the schedule goes something like this…

Monday: tandem ride in the morning with short intervals and then an hour ride on my solo bike on the turbo in the afternoon. I then do pilates in the evening.

Tuesday: 1.5-hour turbo ride in the morning and then a gym session over at the National Cycling Centre velodrome in Manchester in the afternoon.

Wednesday: 2-hour turbo ride again but to include longer time trial efforts.

Thursday: an easier day that consists of an hour’s light spin on the turbo.

Friday: the same as Tuesday although my gym session will include different exercises.

Saturday: another tandem ride that includes efforts.

Your husband, Neil, is a successful para-cyclist himself. Does it ever become stressful having two very competitive people in the same house?

It can be difficult living with someone who’s as competitive as myself! It means we can’t play any kind of games as neither of us are very good at losing. Most of the time, though, it’s good as we can support each other and understand the level of commitment that’s required to be successful.

Have you always been into cycling and sport in general?

Yes. I come from an incredibly sporty family. My mum was a runner and my dad will play any sport including swimming, cricket and athletics. Currently I represent GB at para-cycling; my brother, Roy, represents England in blind football; and my other brother, Mark, represents England at blind cricket.

I started out running but fell out of love with athletics as a teenager. At around 20 I tried tandem riding… and I’ve never looked back.

Next year is the Tokyo Paralympics. What are your ambitions?

All our training’s gearing up to Tokyo already. Qualification is based on selection criteria that British Cycling lay out. As a nation, we score points every time we race and these points are totalled up at the end of the qualification period, which is after the UCI World Championships in May next year. The total number of points the nation has equates to how many places the nation receives and then it’s up to the nation to fill those places. If I continue to podium in my races, I’m in a strong position to be selected.

If I make it, I’m aiming for three events – 3km pursuit on the track, the time-trial and the road race. Personally, my favourite event is the time trial.

Talking Paralympics, what are your recollections of 2016 and your gold-winning performance?

Winning gold in Rio 2016 was a dream come true. I didn’t expect to win the 3km pursuit. I was so grateful that my family were there to see it and celebrate with me. They’ve been a massive support to me.

How do you relax away from para-cycling?

Firstly, I love cooking. I’m always trying out new healthy recipes and that’s why I’ve set up my own food blog called Blindingly Good Food. I post many recipes on there and also blog about how someone without sight manages in the kitchen.

I love everything about food so regularly eat out at restaurants. I also love music and enjoy live bands, as well as playing with my guide dog, Tai. I love it when I can travel with her and bring her to races. Sadly, though, she won’t come to Canada or Tokyo but will come to the Netherlands and Belgium next year, hopefully.

Finally, do you have a para-cycling hero?

The hand-cyclist-turned-rower Rachel Morris. When I joined the GB para-cycling squad back in 2009 she helped me so much. She’s had to deal with so much, both on and off the bike, but has never let it beat her. I’ve learned so much from her, especially in the way she always approaches everything with such positivity and a smile on her face.