For The Upcoming 2023 Para-Cycling Season, It’s All About Finding Personal Goals For U.S. National Team Members
by Joanne C. Gerstner
John Terrell trains in Maniago, Italy, prior to the season-opening world cup. (Photo: Casey Gibson)
With a new season on the horizon, it’s all about calibration of expectations and looking at the big picture for the U.S. Para-cycling national team.
The 2023 world cup season kicks off April 20, with the opening Para-cycling road race in Maniago, Italy.
For some national team members, it’s the start of their international careers. For the veterans, it’s the renewal of the chase to win medals and help their country’s qualification points toward the Paralympic Games Paris 2024.
No matter the approach, U.S. associate high-performance director Sarah Hammer-Kroening wants each of the American cyclists to find success on their own terms.
“I’m really excited for this world cup season, because we have a great team that reflects how the world of Para-cycling is getting stronger every year,” Hammer-Kroening said. “This year is a big one, because we’re looking toward Paris, we’re looking toward Glasgow (for the 2023 world championships) and seeing where we are along the way.
“Everybody is coming into this in a little different spot — the veterans who were injured and coming back, the rookies, the ones who did well last year and are taking the next step up. We have a great mix of veterans and newcomers, so I think everybody will push each other and help each other.”
Hammer-Kroening, who is 36-weeks pregnant with her son, is staying home to monitor the races online. She was able to participate in the team’s road and track training camps, which were held earlier in the year.
She said she is particularly interested to see how rising stars Kate Brim and John Terrell will fare. Both had breakout seasons in 2022. Brim won two road world championships, while Terrell won two bronze medals in track in his first season on the international stage.
Both have improved, according to Hammer-Kroening, and are primed for even bigger things.
“They’re both incredibly exciting riders with so much potential — they just keep getting better and better all the time,” she said.
Hammer-Kroening said Terrell, a 29-year-old from Converse, Texas, has been hard at work on his track strength, something she saw first-hand at their training camp.
“He wants to medal, like in every race he is in, and that shows in his hard work,” she said. “He can suffer like anything out there. He’s been really working on the longer stuff over the winter and that will for sure help him on the road. I think he has a lot to show because of all the training he has been doing.”
Brim, a native of Lowell, Michigan, burst out on the scene in handcycling, overcoming a new diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes during last season.
“I am really ready for Kate do some impressive things,” Hammer-Kroening said. “She keeps surprising us with how strong she is.”
Tandem cyclist Hannah Chadwick has switched to a new partner, and tricyclist Dennis Connors is gaining international experience. Hammer-Kroening wants them to learn as many lessons as possible while competing.
The veterans returning from injury include 2020 Paralympians Clara Brown and Ryan Pinney. The expectations for their early races are more calibrated. It’s a check on where they are mentally and physically, more than podium placement.
Brown shut things down near the end of last year to tend to lingering injuries, while Pinney is coming back from an accident. Brown is adding an able-bodied race to her summer calendar, something Hammer-Kroening encourages.
“For sure, I think their goals will be more long-range, wanting to be at their best for Glasgow. But we still love to have them in there because we know what they are capable of, they can help us build up those points,” Hammer-Kroening said. “Clara racing able-bodied is wonderful, because it will push her but also show the outside world how strong she is. It’s a win-win.”
Paralympic medalists Sam Bosco and Aaron Keith come with similar big expectations, looking toward Glasgow and Paris while helping the U.S. pile up as many top-10 placements as possible for qualification points.
Hammer-Kroening stresses that the season is long, and a lot will happen that cannot be predicted. The international field continues to grow in size and strength, meaning we’re seeing faster times as well.
“Everything is definitely on an upward arc, and we are always looking to be at the top of that arc with our athletes,” Hammer-Kroening said. “This is the fun part, when you’re waiting to get things going. I’m looking forward to seeing how they all ride.”