My trip to Italy for Worlds had it’s ups and there were some downs, but it was a good event. For me the competition was kicked off prior to ever sitting in a start gate, I was up for classification review.
Para-cycling was generally broken down between brain injuries and localized muscular disabilities/amputations until 2010, so at the 2009 World Champs I was racing in the CP4 category with a bunch of other guys with Cerebral Palsy, Stroke, or other brain injuries. I was initially classed into the new C5 category which is comprised mostly of arm injuries and upper limb amputations, but I was to be reviewed. I was reclassed as a C4 which is made up of a mix of below knee amputees and every other former CP4. It is probably a better fit in terms of classification and disability level.
The level of competition was improved markedly from the previous Track Worlds; in 2009 I lined up against 12 other competitors. There were a total of 25 this year and everyone is getting faster, it is a very exciting time for para-cycling.
This is the event I generally claim as my own and the one that gets the largest chunk of training focus. Training for the IP had been going pretty well so I had high hopes, but also a lot of nerves at the start. By the time I heard my split for lap 2, the first flying lap, I knew the track was slow and I was going to have to manage my effort to produce a decent ride. I rode across the line in 4:55.5, a personal best by 7 seconds but a fair bit slower than my coach and I had expected. Still it was a sound ride and it’s nice to be under 5 minutes. It was also good enough for 5th, so I just missed out on a ride for a medal. I didn’t quite have the endurance to ride out my early lap times and that will be something to work on ahead of next year. As for the new classification, I lead the charge of the old CP4s with the highest placed finish and a time better than the CP4 World Record. Small consolations, but still nice.
The Kilometer was my worst race of the event. I know what went wrong but I don’t know why it went that way. I started perfectly, I timed the gate just right and was on my way without a bobble. I went through the first lap in 20.9 seconds, a competition PR and close to my all time best lap. My race fell apart on lap 2, I never really got on top of the gear and felt like crap all the way through the end. I’m not sure if I sat on the seat wrong or if my legs just didn’t have the pop that day. Even though I set a PR, I wasn’t satisfied with how I rode the race. I finished 6th and less than .9 sec out of the medals so it was tough knowing proper execution could have placed me on the podium. On the bright side, this was only my 6th Kilo and there is room to improve.
This race was as near a perfect race as I rode all weekend. Because there were Paralympic Games qualification points available 15 teams raced as opposed to 6 at the previous World Champs. It was a huge field, but Team USA went in knowing we could make the final. Will started us off with a blistering first lap and a PR and all I had to do was wait for Sam to finish his lap before unleashing as much fury as I could turn out. I treat these effort a lot like I would treat sprinting from the front in a points race. It was a good mental strategy and I rode about .8 sec faster than I did for my lap in Manchester. We qualified 4th, just .2 out of 3rd, so we had a good chance to podium in the evening. My warm-up went well, but there were some shenanigans at the start of the race. We were paired against the Czechs for Bronze and it took them forever to get on their bikes. Team USA were on our bikes and in our pedals for about a minute before the Czechs were ready. Now, I have no idea what they were doing, but they need to get that mess straightened out. Putting the other team (that was prepared) on ice like that is bull. They finally got on their bikes and the clock counted down, we got started and were well into the turn when I heard the double gunshot. Something was wrong on the other side of the track so I hit the kill switch right away and had to yell at Will to shut it down. The story is that one of the Czechs pulled out of the pedal. Why it took the officials so long to shoot the gun is beyond me, we were several seconds into the race before it was stopped, it was far too long. The second attempt at the race went off cleanly and I poured everything into the pedals. We were faster in the final, but it wasn’t enough, we had to settle for 4th. We were beaten, and I do not think the issues in the first race attempt cost us a medal, but I do think both situations should have been handled more professionally. As for me, I was .1 faster than in the morning and very pleased with my effort.
I’m in danger of becoming a pretty fast bike racer in the future, and that is exciting! I set Para-cycling American Records and Personal Bests in each race with room to improve across the board. I’m excited to take some rest and start planning for the 2011 season. Because of my reclassification to C4 my race schedule may change so I will interested to see which direction my training will take.