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Para-cycling: Fachie and MacLean reunited in pursuit of gold

S ITTING side by side at the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome in Glasgow, Neil Fachie and Craig MacLean exhibit the kind of easy companionship which can only come from regularly hurtling around a banked track at high speed together on a tandem.

Craig MacLean, left, and Neil Fachie are pretty well synced now   Photograph: Colin Mearns
Craig MacLean, left, and Neil Fachie are pretty well synced now Photograph: Colin Mearns

The pair will represent Team Scotland in the para-cycling sprint and 1000m time-trial events at the Commonwealth Games just under a fortnight from now and are realistic medal hopes for the host nation.

Paralympic and five-time world champion Fachie and his pilot MacLean first struck gold together in the tandem sprint and kilo at the 2011 Para-Cycling Track World Championships, setting a world record in the process.

Fachie, 30, from Aberdeen suffers from the congenital eye condition retinitis pigmentosa. He began his sporting career in athletics and competed at the 2008 Beijing Paralympics in the 100m and 200m. After failing to make the podium, he turned his attention to track cycling.

MacLean, 42, is an Olympic silver medallist and won the 2006 Commonwealth Games team sprint in Melbourne alongside Sir Chris Hoy and Ross Edgar. This is a fourth Commonwealth Games for the Grantown-on-Spey rider, while Fachie will make his debut.

Having had different team-mates in the Team GB set-up at London 2012 - Fachie was paired with Barney Storey and MacLean with the now-retired Anthony Kappes - the duo said it was great to be back riding together for Scotland.

They first met when Fachie went to the Manchester Velodrome for a track cycling taster session in 2008. "I didn't tell them that I can't see very well," he said. "I went round on a solo bike and made sure I stayed away from everyone. When I was there I happened to bump into Craig, funnily enough, and he was warming up for a GB session.

"He saw I had a bag from the Paralympic Games, we got chatting and it turned out he needed someone to ride on the back of a tandem. It just went from there and I haven't looked back since. I love the feeling of going fast and there are not many sports where you get to go this quick."

While MacLean insists his role "feels more like a job" and that he's "not glory hunting in any way", the thirst for success that has taken him to two Olympics and seven world championships, hasn't waned one jot.

"You always give it 100%, irrespective of what you're doing," he says. "In terms of the actual effort you put in, it doesn't really change things. It's obviously different for me because I'm there on behalf of Neil and, of course, I'm there by some sort of merit, but I'm doing it for Neil's sake as much as my own."

Mutual respect, they say, is an important cornerstone in their relationship. "I'm trusting Craig to get me around the track without dying - so far, so good," smiles Fachie. "There has to be a lot of faith in each other. You've got to be completely committed to racing. I think Craig and I will be pretty well synced by the time the Games come around."

Although that doesn't mean there haven't been a few bumps in the road - or rather around the Siberian pine boards. "In my first race Craig shouted 'slow' and I thought he meant 'go', so I started pushing really hard," says Fachie. "He was back-pedalling, trying to slow us down. We've kind of progressed a bit from there."

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