Just over halfway through its 2012 season, the Paralyzed Veterans Racing team is pushing forward: taking on new challenges and expanding its reach.
The squad has competed in more than two dozen races since the start of the season in February, says Paralyzed Veterans’ adaptive cycling program consultant Jody Shiflett.
In March, the team’s top cyclists competed in the much anticipated Redlands Bicycle Classic, where Paralyzed Veterans Racing met success. The weekend-long racing event featured four races divided into four classes of adaptive cycling.
The team’s best racer, Carlos Moleda, claimed the top spot as the weekend’s overall winner. Another racer, Robert Tuckett, won the events in his class.
Tuckett is part of a group of three cyclists emerging as the future of Paralyzed Veterans Racing, according to Shiflett. With about three years of handcycling experience, Tuckett and his teammates Alfredo De Los Santos and Matthew Robinson are arduously training to achieve results—progress compounded by Tuckett’s success at the Redlands Classic.
“It takes a lot for people to really come into their own,” explains Shiflett, noting that three years is a short span of time considering the possibility of a 20-year career.
Since the beginning of the season, Paralyzed Veterans Racing has also grown to include 35 new members. The team now comprises 114 veterans, some of whom are amputees or live with other disabilities, but are not paralyzed.
“We’re trying to involve as many veterans as possible and we’re trying to involve different forms of cycling,” says Shiflett.
While some veterans on the team ride standard handcycles, others ride recumbent tricycles and some even ride traditional bicycles. This spirit of inclusiveness, coupled with Paralyzed Veterans’ handcycling clinics, is part of the team’s efforts to expand and encourage more veterans to get involved in adaptive cycling.
The team has even expanded its racing roadmap. Last May, the team headed out to Springfield, Ohio, for the first time to participate in Calvin’s challenge—a grueling 12-hour race.
Despite the team’s growth, Paralyzed Veterans Racing members will not join the U.S. Paralympics team in London this summer. Moleda, who finished in first place at the 2011 SA Cycling Paralympic Time Trial National Championships, didn’t achieve the same results at this year’s time trials.
He didn’t qualify for the Paralympic team, which only took on two cyclists, says Shiflett.
Paralyzed Veterans of America will still be represented at the Paralympics by Oscar Sanchez. Though not a member of Paralyzed Veterans’ racing squad, Sanchez is a member of Paralyzed Veterans’ Cal-Diego Chapter.
Paralyzed Veterans Racing will still be competing in races in the coming months. Shiflett says the team is particularly looking forward to races in Anderson, South Carolina on Labor Day weekend as well as the September 16 Pensacola Classic in Florida.
Learn more about Paralyzed Veterans of America's Adaptive Sports Program