Dana, Gaertner And Lyons Find Redemption In Opening U.S. Paralympics Cycling Open With Relay Win
by Chrös McDougall
Travis Gaertner competes at the U.S. Paralympics Cycling Open in Huntsville. (Photo: Casey Gibson)
June, Jasper and Ezra Gaertner picked a good time to watch their dad race for the first time.
Competing on a chilly spring night in Huntsville, Alabama, Travis Gaertner (Burien, Wash.) teamed with Alicia Dana (Putney, Vt.) and Brandon Lyons (Mechanicsburg, Pa.) to claim first place in the handcycle relay to kick off three days of racing at the U.S. Paralympics Cycling Open, presented by Toyota.
After placing second in their last relay together back at the 2019 U.S. championships in Knoxville, Tennessee, the trio came together again this weekend with eyes on redemption. And the team aptly named Rocket Power did just that on the streets of Rocket City, winning in 30 minutes, 6.4 seconds.
They held off the HandBikers team consisting of Freddie De Los Santos (Hopewell Junction, N.Y.), Ryan Pinney (Phoenix, Ariz.) and Jenna Rollman (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.), who crossed the line second in 30:13.6. Six teams took part in the opening race.
“This is a redemption tour for Knoxville,” Lyons said.
The relay was particularly memorable for Gaertner. After winning Paralympic gold medals in wheelchair basketball for his native Canada in 2000 and 2004, Gaertner picked up handcycling in 2017 and has been racing for the U.S. at an elite level since 2018. Despite dad being at a level to have raced at two world championships, the kids had never seen him race, he said.
“So it was great to have them right at the start line, see them, hear them right before we started,” Gaertner said. “They made some signs, which I wasn’t allowed to see until we got here today. They were all super excited, and it was just a great time out here.”
The U.S. Paralympics Cycling Open, an important early-season competition, returned to Huntsville for a second year in a row, with nearly 70 cyclists expected to take part. After opening with the relay at Big Spring Park on Friday, the competition moves to Cummings Research Park for time trials on Saturday and road races on Sunday. This year’s competition also serves as a selection event for upcoming world cups in Europe.
Without the pandemic restrictions of 2021, an energetic crowd braved temperatures in the 40s to watch the relay, which featured three members of the 2020 U.S. Paralympic Team in Dana, Pinney and de los Santos. In fact, those three made up the U.S. mixed team that won a bronze medal in the road relay in Tokyo, while Dana added an individual bronze in the road race.
“It was freezing cold, but the excitement keeps you going,” Dana said. “Once you’re warmed up, you’re all good.”
“We’re always super excited to come back to Huntsville, just to see the momentum going up to the event, when we get here people are cheering us on and coming out despite the cold. Fantastic roads, fast course, great long, big, wide turns, I don’t think we could have had any more fun than we could.”
“We’ve had so many domestic races, and the one special part about Huntsville coming from last year and this year is the community coming out and actually supporting this event. Around the entire course. We don’t really get a lot of support throughout the entire year. So that whole entire backside was filled. That second half of the race, which was fantastic.”
“This is honestly a great event to start the entire weekend. It’s a unique event, you get to see a lot of different disciplines and a lot of different bikes that a lot of people had not had the experience to see yet, so great awareness, great way to kick off the entire weekend of events.”
FULL RESULTS AND LIVE STREAM
Please contact Olivia Truby at Olivia.Truby@usopc.org for photo and interview requests.