World Championships Cyclists Speed Up Their Game In Camp At Carson Velodrome
by Paul D. Bowker
Bryan Larsen competes at USA Cycling Para-cycling Track National Championships in Carson.
Finally, the members of the U.S. Para track cycling world team were home.
It had been nearly three years.
Eleven cyclists who’ll compete in the 2022 UCI Para-cycling Track World Championships on Oct. 20-23 in France prepared for the competition with a camp at the 250-meter velodrome at the VELO Sports Center in Carson, California.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the cancellation of the 2021 world championships and a year’s delay of the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020, a preparation camp had not been held for national team members in Carson since January 2020, said Ian Lawless, director of U.S. Paralympics Cycling.
“Everyone was just really excited to be back on the track, to be back together training and ultimately racing at worlds,” Lawless said. “Very positive environment, a lot of team cohesion just because I think everyone is so excited to be back together and be back doing this again on an international level.”
The cyclists concurred.
“It was a very welcome camp,” said Clara Brown, a 2020 Paralympian and a defending track world champion in the women’s time trial and omnium. “We haven’t had one in Carson for a long time.”
Members of the national team have trained at the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, but the indoor track in Carson is the only 250-meter wood track in the country. It is the home track for USA Cycling national teams.
“There is such a difference being on the wood 250 versus Colorado Springs concrete,” Brown said. “It’s just nice to be on the competition link and have a better idea of times and gearing and all that.”
Among the scenes in Carson: four-time Olympic medalist Sarah Hammer-Kroening pacing the riders faster around the track while riding her motorized scooter.
“I may or may not have thrown up a couple times after some of those efforts,” Bryan Larsen, a rookie member of the world team from Windsor, California, laughed.
Joining Hammer-Kroening in the coaching was Jennie Reed, a three-time Olympian and a former teammate of Hammer-Kroening, and Rory O’Reilly, a 1984 Olympian and former world record-holder.
“I think, from a performance standpoint, the goals were to prepare athletes with track-specific training for their individual events in which they’ll compete at worlds,” Lawless said. “All of the athletes have had only a limited amount of time over the last two and a half years on a 250-meter track because of the pandemic and the availability of all those things.”
The track world championships will be held at the National Velodrome in Montigny-le-Bretonneux, the home of the French Cycling Federation and host to the track cycling competition for the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Among the American cyclists who are heading there to make their world championship debuts are Katie Walker, Larsen, John Terrell, and tandem riders Hannah Chadwick and Mary-Kate Wintz.
The newcomers on the team also received the benefit of working alongside Chris Murphy, a two-time Paralympian and seven-time world medalist, and Shawn Morelli, a four-time Paralympic medalist and 12-time world champion who won the only U.S. track medal (a gold) at last year’s Paralympics in Tokyo.
“We took the opportunity to do some really good team bonding,” Lawless said. “Mentoring was going on, as well, where we had some of our longtime athletes providing mentoring for our brand-new athletes. It’s a great group. It’s a really solid, positive group of athletes going to the world championships, and we expect they’ll do very well.”
Others at the camp included Samantha Bosco, a 2016 Paralympian and two-time road world champion this year; Aaron Keith, a 2020 Paralympic silver medalist and seven-time world medalist; and Justin Widhalm, a six-time world team member.
The mentoring environment worked wonders for the veteran riders, as well.
“I still feel like I’m being mentored, which is funny,” said Brown, who won gold and silver medals at the world road championships. “Even though this is my third track worlds, I am technically one of the most experienced, but I still look up to the more veteran riders. I try to offer advice when I can for the newer riders, but I definitely feel like I’m still seeking guidance.”