U.S. Cyclists Ready To Build Off World Cup Success At Cycling World Championships

by Joanne C. Gerstner

August in Quebec is the stuff idyllic summer vacations are made of.


This month is no holiday for the top U.S. Para cyclists, though.


Just days after wrapping up a successful road world cup stop in the Canadian province, the U.S. team is sticking around for the 2022 UCI Para-cycling Road World Championships.


The shift is from Quebec City, the site of last weekend’s road world cup, to the rugged shoreline terrain of Baie-Comeau, located 260 miles to the north. The world championships begin Thursday with two days of time trials, followed by road races on Saturday and Sunday.


The Quebec double-dip could work as a blessing for Team USA, said U.S. Paralympics Cycling director Ian Lawless.


“I think it’s going to be a good challenge for everybody, and I am really excited for where we are,” Lawless said. “It’s hilly, it’s technical and we’re going to work hard to have a strong plan for each rider to follow.


“I see last week in Quebec City as like a dress rehearsal for us. Our athletes went there and did well and we learned a lot. Our individual cyclists got great experience. It’s exciting to be at a world championship with our team. We have a nice mix of veterans, some really promising newcomers. We feel good, and we feel ready.”


Team USA comes into the world championships having won 10 medals at the Quebec City world cup. Six cyclists medaled, with three winning both their time trial and road race.


Sam Bosco, a two-time Paralympic medalist from 2016, continued her comeback from a serious injury that kept her out of last year’s Paralympic Games. In sweeping her races in Quebec City, she’s now won all six world cup races in the WC4 classification this season.


Clara Brown, a two-time track cycling world champ who made her Paralympic debut last year, also swept her races in the women’s WC3 class.


The surprise star in Quebec City might have been Kate Brim, though. The rookie handcyclist won both WH2 races in her first international racing.


“I was really impressed by Kate, she is a great addition to our team,” Lawless said about the 23-year-old Michigander. “She attacks everything full throttle, she is such a fighter. I am looking forward to seeing what she can do in the world championships. And Sam’s looking awesome right now, and Clara’s really strong too.”


That U.S. star power will be boosted in Baie-Comeau with the addition of Oksana Masters. The multi-sport Paralympic medalist returned to handcycling competition at last month’s U.S. championships in Tennessee. After winning her first two Paralympic summer gold medals as a cyclist last summer in Tokyo, Masters is now aiming to win her first summer sport world titles in the WH5 classification.


Lawless said Masters, Paralympic medalist Aaron Keith (MC1) and Dennis Connors (MT2) may have advantages in Baie-Comeau since they thrive on hilly courses.


“It’s going to be a test, but it’s a really great course for them. Aaron loves hilly,” Lawless said. “This is a lumpy and hilly course, and all the fields are stacked, so you have to be at your best. They have the ability to handle this.”


The U.S. roster also features the world championships return of Allison Jones (WC2), a cycling and alpine skiing Paralympian who has won eight medals in eight Paralympic Games and recently came out of retirement.


Newcomers, such as Elizabeth Mis and Kyle Pitman (both C5), are excited to be in their first world championships. However, they’re not putting much pressure on themselves to win. This time is about gaining experience against the world’s best and doing their top effort.


“I can’t say I won’t be nervous, because I know I probably will be,” said Mis, who was sixth in her time trial and seventh in her road race in Quebec City. “I am incredibly honored to be on Team USA and get to be part of something like this. It’s a great stepping-stone for me.”


Pitman, who took 12th in the Quebec City time trial, added, “I never go into any race not thinking that I have a chance to win, because I am super competitive, and I want to win. But I also know, being my first world championships, that the people out there with me are super-talented, experienced, and good. I am going to be tested and pushed, which I love. This is going to make me better in the long run.”


Weather conditions are forecasted to be cooler and rainier than Quebec City, which will be good for the cyclists. The 90-plus degree heat, with humidity, took a toll last week.


Lawless sees rebounds for veteran handcyclists Travis Gaertner (MH4) and Freddie de los Santos (MH5), who struggled in Quebec City. Santos took bronze in the time trial but didn’t finish the road race, while Gaertner was eighth in the road race[CM1] .


Gaertner has been working with the coaches to refine a few things, and de los Santos had issues with last week’s heat, Lawless said. But both have championship pedigree. Gaertner, a Paralympic champ in wheelchair basketball, won his first cycling world championships medal in 2019 when he took third in the road race. De Los Santos was on the bronze-medal-winning mixed relay at the Tokyo Paralympics.


“I think they’re both in a good place for some redemption,” Lawless said.


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 since 2009 as a freelance contributor on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.