You’ve heard the famous “Let’s get ready to rumble” from the WWF Announcer. Well April 28, 2012, one of Rome, Georgia’s city commissioners made a play on that tagline when he announced the third stage in the four stage Clocktower classic handcycle race.
There was a large crowd on hand to cheer on the more than 25 athletes from across the nation. Paralyzed Veterans of America's Racing Team had 12 members from as far away as New Mexico and California looking for a win.
The Clock Tower Classic began on Thursday, April 26th with a first ever prologue race in nearby Cedartown, Georgia, where team member David Randall took second in what would be the closest matchup of the weekend in the men’s H2 Class between he and US Paralympic team member Matt Updike. In the men’s H3 class, Carlos Moleda came in 16 seconds ahead of Michael Postell. Later that evening, the team linked up for a dinner meeting back in Rome where team coordinator Jody Shiflett unveiled the team’s new guideon.
Friday morning started off with the first stage a 35.5 mile road race. Fortunately the racers had generally overcast skies to keep the temperatures from being a big factor. Team member Robert Puckett had a very strong day in the men’s H4 class finishing second with a strong sprint at the finish to get by David Huggins. Carlos Moleda again came in first in his class and second overall just ahead of Updike in a sprint at the finish. Josh Sharpe and Geoff Hopkins worked together for much of the race in the men’s H2 class, but Sharpe put 10 minutes on Hopkins on the second lap to finish 4th in men’s H2.
Saturday had two races lined up. The first race was the much dreaded hill climb up Lavender Mountain. For many of the racers this was their first experience at a hill climb. The course proved to be a challenge, and a true sense of accomplishment was expressed by many who were just glad to finish the shortest yet for most the hardest stage.
Geoff Hopkins had a very good race getting up the climb in 20:30 for a solid 4th in his class. Saturday evening brought on the highlight of the series, the criterium in downtown Rome. There was a large crowd on hand to cheer on the racers. Temperatures climbed into the 90s by the race start. Criterium races are very much similar to a NASCAR race, racers go around a short course with a mass start and it can get dicey. The race was going at a very fast pace when in turn three, US Paralympic team member Dane Pilon while attempting to avoid hitting Carlos Moleda, crashed ending his race day early. The wreck opened the door for team member Bobby Puckett to claim the overall lead.
Newcomer Keith Winchell also crashed on turn four and was promptly taken to the local hospital for some stitches. Winchell’s Bike was damaged beyond repair. Most importantly Keith was just fine and he will be back in his handcycle as soon as it is repaired. In fact, he has already registered for the next big race in Greenville,South Carolina, on Memorial day weekend.
Sunday came early for the fourth and final stage, the 10K individual time trial. Racers are staged based on their overall standing in the stage race and start in 30-second intervals. Drafting during the time trial is forbidden, and it is a race against the clock.
Geoff Hopkins again had a very strong finish coming in third for the race with a very fast time of 17:23. Carlos Moleda continued to dominate the H3 class with a time of 16:01. Best fininshers for the series were: Carlos Moleda - first place men’s H3, Bobby Puckett - first place men’s H4, Josh Sharpe - fourth men’s H2, Geoff Hopkins - fifth men’s H2, Jeff Snover - fourth men’s H3, Michael Murphy - fifth place men’s H3.
Learn more about Paralyzed Veterans' adaptive sports programs
Story by Jeff Snover. Photos courtesy of Kanako Sweet.