U.S. Cyclists Excel On “Fast” Paris 2024 Track At World Championships
by Paul D. Bowker
Aaron Keith competes at the 2022 UCI Para-Cycling World Championships, where he won three medals. (Photo: Casey Gibson)
Aaron Keith, a 2020 Paralympic silver medalist, was thrilled to get a preview of the velodrome that will host the track cycling competition at the Paralympic Games Paris 2024.
And it’s easy to see why.
Keith won three silver medals at the UCI Para-cycling Track World Championships held Oct. 20-23 at Velodrome de Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines on the outskirts of Paris.
“It’s an amazing track. World class,” said Keith, who medaled in the individual time trial, scratch race and omnium MC1. “Hopefully, able to do the same thing in two years. It’s a beautiful place to be.”
After the competition finished, first-time world team member Bryan Larsen packed up his equipment for the final time and took a look at the venue that he hopes to revisit in 2024 in what would be his Paralympic debut.
“I was kind of looking around outside the track thinking, ‘Wow, this is where people will be waiting to go watch the Olympics or Paralympic Games.’ I think it’s a great venue,” Larsen said.
Keith’s three medals were among 12 podium finishes by U.S. cyclists. Samantha Bosco, a 2016 Paralympian, also won three silver medals in WC4 after winning two world titles in road cycling earlier this year. Clara Brown, a 2020 Paralympian, won three bronze medals in WC3.
Team USA won a combined eight medals in both track and road at last year’s Paralympic Games in Tokyo. The Americans did not get the benefit of a preview competition before competing there.
“This is everything,” said Brown, a track and road cyclist who did not win a medal in her Paralympic debut last year but won five world medals this year. “I think a lot of the talent in Tokyo was just unknown, not having the familiarity or expectations at all. Knowing how the track feels, just being able to visualize ahead of time is huge.”
When the Paris Games arrive, the track is certain to deliver fast times.
“It’s a really fast track,” said John Terrell, who won bronze medals in the scratch race and omnium MC4 in his track world championship debut. “It’s like really mellow through the turns.”
“This track, it holds speeds,” Larsen, who recorded personal bests in all of his events, said. “If you know, you can use that to your advantage. In LA, if you go too fast too early, you blow up.”
The differences between the Paris velodrome and the VELO Sports Center in Carson, California, a 250-meter indoor wooden track near Los Angeles that serves as the home training track for Team USA, varied among U.S. cyclists.
“The track is a lot faster and easier to ride than LA,” Larsen said.
“LA’s like really oblong,” Terrell said. “This one is more circular. The turns are super fast. And it rides well.”
The experience was different for Brown, who said there was a lot of talk about it among her teammates.
“For me, it rides similar to LA. It’s nice to at least know what we’re getting into,” she said.
In addition to the nine medals won by Keith, Bosco and Brown in Paris, and the two won by Terrell, two-time Paralympian Chris Murphy won a silver medal in the time trial MC4 for his eighth career world medal.
Five of the 11 U.S. riders, including Terrell, were making their track world debuts with an eye toward the Paralympic Games coming up in two years.
“It’s a fun track. It’s a really fun track,” Terrell said. “The environment itself, just having a strong international field here, along with all of the participants and spectators that show up. It’s pretty exciting.”
Paul D. Bowker has been writing about Olympic sports since 1996, when he was an assistant bureau chief in Atlanta. He is a freelance contributor to USParaCycling.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.