Kyle Pitman Has A Friend In Sesame Street’s Grover
by Joanne C. Gerstner
Kyle Pitman trains for the UCI Para-cycling Road World Cup in Quebec City, Canada. (Photo: Casey Gibson)
Kyle Pitman has developed a process to say goodbye to his 3½-year-old twins before leaving their Colorado home for a competition. The little ones used to be upset when daddy left, but they’re older now and understand it is OK if he goes away for a little bit.
Pitman, a member of the U.S. Paralympics Cycling National Team, has been away a lot this summer, traveling to Europe for world cups and across the U.S. for races. Next up is a trip to Quebec for a road world cup, which began this week, and his first world championships, which follow a few days later.
Before he goes, Pitman sits daughter Greer and son Jack down, and tells them he needs to go ride his bike and will definitely come back home to them. The kids understand and say, “Go Bike Go!” That’s a spin on the children’s book about cycling.
Greer has decided she needs to help her dad better prepare for his trips. She says, “Daddy needs a friend,” runs to her toy area and picks out a stuffed animal to be Kyle’s friend.
The chosen friend for Quebec is Grover of Sesame Street fame.
“It helps a lot to have a friend like this for the world cup and world championships, Greer is right,” Kyle Pitman, 46, said with a laugh. “But, really, how can I go wrong when I have support like this from home? All I have to do is go out and compete. I’ve got a great family, a great team around me, so this is a wonderful situation to be in.”
After winning a national championship in July in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Pitman was among 17 U.S. cyclists named to compete in the 2022 UCI Para-Cycling Road World Championships, which take place Aug. 11-14 in Baie-Comeau, Quebec. First, though, he experienced some tough luck in the last UCI world cup of the season, Aug. 4-7 in Quebec City. Pitman crashed in the time trial race to open the weekend, but still managed to finish the race, taking 12th. He skipped the road race to focus on getting healthy for world championships.
Pitman is eying the Paralympic Games Paris 2024 as his end goal, a decision he made last year with his wife, Abby. He hoped to make his Paralympics debut last year in Tokyo but didn’t have a great U.S. trials and failed to make the final Paralympic roster.
That led to some discussions at home with the couple wondering if their full-time careers, plus raising young twins, could allow room for more serious training and competitions to reach a Paralympic Games. Abby said yes, prompting Kyle to go for it.
“And that’s how we are here now, we talked about this commitment and if I could do this in a way that I wanted to,” said Pitman, who was honorably discharged from Marines in 2011. “I feel like I am just getting my foot in the door at this level of cycling. Abby said that if I was in for three more years, she was, too.
“We know this won’t be easy. I’m doing it because I have their support.”
Pitman, who sustained multiple injuries during his military deployments to war zones, competes in the C5 class, using a regular bicycle. He has had both hips replaced and has degeneration in his back, meaning developing the necessary leg power for cycling can be a challenge. He is overcoming having less force from his quads and reduced flexibility because of the hips.
“It’s a process I am trying to always handle with grace, giving myself the space to learn and grow while at the same time pushing myself hard and wanting to win,” he said.
Cycling brings him joy, from seeing the international competitors and their high skill levels to being able to challenge himself on tough courses. The rush of competing, such as the upcoming courses in Quebec that have a lot of turns combined with some hilly terrain, provides moments of fulfillment.
“I can’t say I am new to racing, as I have raced plenty being older, but I am getting used to this stage, getting to know folks, the competitions,” Pitman said. “The having a level of experience in international Para competitions helps me to be able to focus on my individual effort and not get caught up in all the cool people around me.
“Going around the world to do this is so special,” he added. “I think all of this is helping build me into being better and stronger. I am keeping my focus on what I need to do, but also knowing I need to grow more, too. That’s what this is about right now.”
Joanne C. Gerstner has covered two Olympic Games and writes about sports regularly for the New York Times and other outlets. She has written for TeamUSA.org since 2009 as a freelance contributor on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.