Posted by Editoress on 05/2/11
BC Paracyclists Storm Montreal
The first big races on the Paracycling Calendar took place this past week in Montreal with two road races and a time trial. With the London Paralympic Games now only 16 months away Canadian Paracyclists are now focusing on accumulating the required UCI points to qualify Canada for the Games.
One of BC’s biggest hopefuls is Karen March of Victoria, BC. Karen is a cross over athlete having previously represented Canada at the Paralympic Games in the sport of Athletics in the 200m and 400m events in Athens 2004. Karen races in the H1 class (for quadriplegics). Also representing BC were Simon Harrington of Comox (H3 class), JP Austring of Vancouver (C2 class), Peter King of Fort St. John (C4 class), and Darren Smith of Victoria (C4 class).
All five were in Montreal from April 25, 2011 to May 1, 2011. The first event was a Road Race held in Blainville, Que on a Government of Canada test track. This 7km oval was a flat and fast test of pure power for these athletes. Athletes came from all over Canada and the United States and as far away as Columbia on their quest for London.
The day was a chilly and windy one which made the race even tougher. The first start was the men’s handcycle field with reigning Paralympic Champion from the United States Oscar Sanchez (H4 class) and Mark Ledo of Maple, Ontario (H3 class) driving the pace. In a battle to the finish Sanchez was able to come around Ledo in the last 25m for the win. BC’s Simon Harrington, at his first big international event, placed 8th 12:53 behind the winner. The women’s handcycle race saw athletes of all classes H1-3 as well as the tricycle athletes take the start. With such a wide range of classes in the start it was inevitable that most did the 34.5km race on their own. March finished first packing 15 points into her “London luggage”.
In the C classes (riding upright bikes) Peter King placed 5th in a bunch sprint. Peter had earlier attacked the pack building a maximum 15 second lead but being rolled up with 2 laps to go.
The second event was the Time Trial at Defi Sportif in Montreal on April 29. Also classed as a P1 event this race took place at the Circuit Gilles-Villenueve F1 racing track. The TT is a timed event with athletes each starting at one minute intervals and no drafting allowed. The so called “Race of Truth” tests not just physical ability but also mental toughness as the winner is the athlete that can control their effort and keep pushing at (or over) their threshold the longest. The handcyclists did three laps of the 4.2km circuit with Karen March tearing up the course finishing in 37:42 for an average speed of 21.01km/h. Simon Harrington placed second in the H3 class in a time of 23:16.4.
In the C classes JP Austring of Vancouver improved on his 2010 results taking a massive 4:35 seconds off going over the 17.6km course in a time of 30:45 for a third place finish. Peter King placed fourth in the C4 class with a time of 26:15 followed by Darren Smith(also C4) in 6th in a time of 26:53.
Bright and early the next morning the third and final event a Road Race also took the athletes around the Circuit Gilles-Villenueve. The sun was out and the winds were calmer and it was clear that in the men’s race Ledo was hunting for a bit of revenge after being pipped at the line by Sanchez on Wednesday. After the gun it was 11 laps to go and the pack was almost immediately shattered by the relentless attacks of Sanchez and Ledo. With 8 laps to go it was Sanchez and Ledo well ahead of the chase. Along the back straight Ledo reported hitting speeds around 58km/h as Sanchez tried to shake him. With one lap to go the two pulled alongside each other bumped fists and wished each other good luck. It was now down to a bit of strategy and a lot of raw power. With 200m to go the athletes were side by side driving hard at first it looked like Sanchez with his incredible power was edging ahead but then a massive surge by Ledo took him clear ahead. Ledo took the victory by half a bike length with a big smile and a cheering crowd that knew they were seeing a special battle. Harrington took second in the H3 class one lap down.
In the Women’s event March also pulled off a spectacular race where not only did she place first in her class grabbing those all important UCI points she went even faster in her last three laps than she did in the previous night’s TT. March was using a brand new special sip n’ puff shifting system assembled for her by the engineers at CanAssist at the University of Victoria. As a quadriplegic Karen doesn’t have the fine motor control needed in her hands and fingers to operate “normal” brakes and shifters so she tapped into the amazing resources at CanAssist (www.canassist.ca ) who came through with flying colours. When asked about the difference the system makes March said: “I also had pure confidence with my system of shifting and braking. My shifting system is truly miraculous”.
With five athletes from BC attending this high level event it is clear that Paracyling is on the move in BC. With athletes attending for the first time as well as athletes challenging for spots on the Paralympic Team it is an exciting time for Paracyling here in BC.
Courtesy Peter Lawless
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