Road World Cups In Europe Mark A Key Milestone For Sam Bosco, Other U.S. Cyclists
by Bob Reinert
Sam Bosco competes in the road race at the 2022 U.S. Paralympics Cycling Open in Huntsville. (Photo: Casey Gibson)
For Sam Bosco, the start of this season’s Para-cycling road world cup season will be something of a family affair, with her husband Andrew and brother Jason both accompanying her to this week’s opener in Ostend, Belgium.
The 35-year-old from Claremont, California, is one of 13 cyclists representing Team USA in Ostend this weekend and then May 12-15 in Elzach, Germany. Several more will be competing as independents.
For the two-time Paralympic medalist Bosco, though, this week marks not just the start of a new international cycling season, but also the next step in her recovery from a cycling accident last summer that left her with serious injuries that included a fractured skull.
“So, it’ll be nice to kind of get back into the cycling race scene and to have their support at the same time and have them there knowing that all of the people that have supported me and have really, really stepped up and been there for me during a difficult time will be supporting and cheering for me at home,” she said.
The journey to get here was a long one. Before her injuries, Bosco had been named to the U.S. Paralympic Team set to compete in Tokyo. She ended up not being able to go to Japan, where she was looking to build upon the two bronze medals she won in Rio. Now, she’s working to put the last year behind her and focus on the future.
“I felt strong last year, and I was disappointed that I couldn’t go to the (Paralympic) Games because of my injury,” Bosco said. “And working really hard to get back to where I am now, I feel stronger than I did last year. And I’m really focused on the races this season, in general. The world cups will be exciting for me.”
Bosco’s return to competition took place at last month’s U.S. Paralympics Cycling Open, presented by Toyota, in Huntsville, Alabama, where she won the WC4 time trial and road race, which earned her one of U.S. roster spots for the first two world cups.
She joins a strong U.S. team that includes 2020 Paralympic medalists Alicia Dana, Ryan Pinney, Jill Walsh and Freddie de los Santos.
“I’m feeling very strong and looking forward to racing the first world cup in Belgium,” Bosco said. “I have raced back-to-back weekends for a number of years and am pretty versed in being able to do so. So, for me, the focus is both of them. I’ve been to Belgium before, and I love the venue and I love just the atmosphere of that world cup. So, I’m excited for that one.
“And Germany is a new location for me. It’s the first time that I get to travel to Germany and race, so I’m also excited about that one. So, I think there’s excitement and motivation in different ways for both world cups that will help keep that wave of power and strength going into both races.”
Though a bit less dramatic, Travis Gaertner is making his own comeback of sorts. Gaertner missed making last year’s Paralympic team. In Huntsville, he was part of the winning handcycle relay team and placed first in the men’s H4 individual time trial and road race.
Gaertner is looking for continued success in Europe.
“I feel like I should be a podium contender for each of those two events,” Gaertner said. “I’m looking at them more as steppingstones to the world championships.”
Gaertner, a former wheelchair basketball gold medalist for Canada and 42-year-old father of three, only began Para-cycling in 2017 and is still getting comfortable in the sport.
“Belgium is an opportunity to compete,” Gaertner said. “So, every time I hit the line, I’m taking in a lot. I make mistakes, and I’ve got to say that’s OK.
“I would say that my biggest focus is going to be in Germany — Elzach — just given the (time trial) course profile there.”
The U.S. world cup roster also includes 2020 Paralympians Clara Brown and Jamie Whitmore, as well as Brandon Lyons, Noah Middlestaedt, Ryan Boyle, Dennis Connors and John Terrell. Eight-time Paralympian Allison Jones came out of retirement and had a strong showing in Huntsville to make the team, but will not travel to Europe.
This month’s events are being looked at as a crucial steppingstone to the world championships in August.
“This group of athletes rose to the top of the field in Huntsville, impressing our team coaches and staff with their finish times and technique,” Ian Lawless, director of U.S. Paralympics Cycling, said in a press release. “The event in Huntsville is always a crucial time for us to measure the progress of our athletes, and we are excited by what we saw from a very experienced group of athletes.”
Bob Reinert spent 17 years writing sports for The Boston Globe. He also served as a sports information director at Saint Anselm College and Phillips Exeter Academy. He is a contributor to USParaCycling.org on behalf ofRed Line Editorial, Inc.