Thursday, January 28, 2010

January Camp

Today marks the final day of the US Paralympic Cycling Team's January training camp, based in Alpine, CA. After 6 days of epic rides, we (the tandem!) emerged at the top climbers in the group.

Every cyclist knows that tandem bicycles go downhill like a rocket, but rarely do they go uphill. One of the things I enjoy about riding with Clark is that we climb better than most single bikes - something that nobody expects. So hammering up the climbs at this camp has been lots of fun. And putting the hurt on climber-type teammates who talk smack.

As a sort of grand finale, today was supposed to be a 4+ hour ride with a long hard climb on a gated road that's closed to traffic. However, when we hit the snow line, groupthink took over and we "decided" to continue until the top. After 3 miles of pushing bikes through calf-deep snow, in cycling shoes, we emerged at the top to the surprised stares of a group of sledders.

Clark and I will be doing some European racing this year, and hopefully defend our World Championship in the 4km pursuit, to be held in Cali, Colombia in August. The first step of our title defense has begun - bring on the next camp!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Beginning

I am a sighted tandem pilot for a blind cyclist named Clark Rachfal from Annapolis, MD. After several years of delusions, I have finally accepted my role in this partnership ... I am equipment.

It's important that, on race day, I am prepared just as the bicycle is. I must be properly tuned, well adjusted, clean, and ready to race. I must not break down at inopportune times, nor malfunction in any way. And I am reminded of this periodically.

Clark and I have been racing since the summer of 2007, and we've been improving steadily as a team ever since. We have recently recently reached the peak of our part of the cycling world - we were crowned world champions in the 4km pursuit at the 2009 UCI Para-cycling Track World Championships. This is an honor I never dreamed of achieving when I started racing bikes, and I'm still coming to terms with what it means to me.

I started this blog to share what I've experienced and learned as a para-cycling pilot while telling my perspective on our journey to an internet full of disinterested spectators who probably won't read it. And it's part of my 12-step program as I come to terms with the fact I'm not just a piece of meat - I'm a piece of equipment!