The USA’s Para-Cycling delegation enters this month’s Parapan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico, safely in the driver’s seat.
It is coming off a first-place performance at the UCI Para-Cycling Road World Championships in September. Several of its team members have already qualified for the London 2012 Paralympic Games. And, because the Parapans are a regional event, many of the American athletes’ biggest rivals from other parts of the world will not be next to them at the starting line in Guadalajara.
“It sort of puts things at ease,” said Oz Sanchez, who is unbeaten in the handcycling Time Trial (H4) since the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games.
But that does not mean the Americans will take it easy in Guadalajara.
Instead, they will use it as the starting point for the next peak in their careers, according to Sanchez and teammate Monica Bascio.
That peak being London 2012.
“I’m super amped for the Games and looking forward to being a part of the Guadalajara event and checking it out and doing well,” Bascio said. “I’m looking forward to starting the next 10-month prep for Paralympic gold.”
The USA Para-Cycling contingent in Guadalajara from November 12–20 will consist of 16 athletes and two pilots, including nine riders who won medals at the Road World Championships in Denmark.
Both Bascio and Allison Jones won two gold medals apiece in Denmark — one in the Time Trial and one in the Road Race.
“Given all of the information that we’re receiving from our coaches, it’s like a mini (Paralympic) Games. It definitely looks like it’s on that caliber and in pretty large scale,” she said.
Bascio, a Paralympian in cross-country skiing, will use November’s competition as a kick-start to gain momentum heading into the final training stretch before her first Paralympic Summer Games. She is not participating in the Nordic Skiing World Cup this season so that she can devote all of her time to Para-Cycling.
She said the American Para-Cycling squad is already ramped up for next summer, and that it will potentially field the strongest women’s team ever.
“We’re definitely a strong contender and a strong force,” Bascio firmly stated. “We expect to be on the top. That’s definitely my agenda.”
Sanchez, from San Diego, Calif., will be pushing that same agenda on the men’s side.
Despite winning two golds in Denmark in September, he cannot plateau in Guadalajara, even without the presence of rivals Ernst Francois van Dyk of South Africa and Norbert Mosandl of Germany. The competition in London will be even stiffer, he said.
“The same performance that, say, would have won a race for me in the last year or the preceding years definitely wouldn’t have cut the mustard the succeeding years,” Sanchez said.
He clocks 100–200 miles per week on the bike. “There are individuals who believe that cycling alone is the best practice, but I incorporate a heavy amount of weightlifting, especially in the offseason, in order to make sure that I’m not reaching plateaus,” Sanchez said. He spends an hour a day, four times a week in the gym, in addition to swimming and stationary rowing.
For more information:
- Guadalajara Parapan American Games, please visit http://parapan.guadalajara2011.org.mx/en.