Five medals lift Team USA on historic first day of world cup competition in Huntsville
by Kristen Gowdy
Alicia Dana and Jenna Rollman on the podium after going 1-2 in the WH3 time trial at the UCI Para-Cycling World Cup, Huntsville, presented by Toyota. (Photo: Casey Gibson)
HUNTSVILLE, ALABAMA – History was made on the first day of the UCI Para-Cycling World Cup in Huntsville, Alabama. The time trial competition that opened the 2023 road world cup finale marked not only the first-ever Para-cycling world cup on U.S. soil, but also the beginning of the biggest non-European Para-cycling road world cup in history.
Led by victories from Dennis Connors (Beaverton, Oregon) and Alicia Dana (Putney, Vermont), Team USA began competition on a high note, bringing home five medals on the day. Racing at Cummings Research Park in Huntsville, Alabama, Americans Jenna Rollman (Rancho Cucamonga, California), Cody Wills (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania) and Barry Wilcox (West Jordan, Utah) rounded out the medal haul with two silvers and a bronze, respectively.
Dana and Rollman set the tone with a 1-2 finish in the WH3 time trial race to kick off the session for Team USA. It was Dana’s second world cup medal and first win of the season, and for the three-time Paralympic medalist, the victory was made even more special by its setting.
“It’s a wonderful experience to have a world cup in the United States,” Dana said. “It’s a long time coming, and I couldn’t be happier to be here on familiar turf.”
More importantly, Dana said, this weekend is helping to expand the sport domestically.
“I think it sends a strong message about the importance and validity of Para-cycling in the United States,” she said. “Suddenly we’re one of the hubs on the elite international circuit, and that’s a huge development.”
Dana’s time of 24:14.02 topped the WH3 field, with Rollman finishing behind only her teammate in 25:01.34. The silver is Rollman’s third world cup medal and the best result of her career.
“I came through the finish line and felt like I gave it everything,” she said. “When they told me I got second, I was blown away. Time trial is a weak spot for me, so to medal and to get second in a time trial is an achievement. I hope I can continue that momentum into the road race.”
Connors, meanwhile, brought home his fourth world cup medal of the season, three of which have been gold. The former U.S. Marine dominated the MT2 time trial from start to finish, topping the rest of the field by nearly 50 seconds and finishing the course in 23:12.01.
As a veteran, Connors said competing at home over Memorial Day weekend is especially meaningful. He will look to continue his podium streak, which extends back to the season-opening world cup in Maniago, Italy, in the MT2 road race on Sunday.
“It means a lot to me to be here, I really wanted to win a gold medal on U.S. soil, especially this weekend,” he said. “It’s super special to me as a veteran. I love this course. It’s fast, it’s a great course for me. I’m a bigger rider so I can carry a lot of speed. I love ripping through these turns, and I’m really looking forward to the road race.”
Wills earned the first world cup podium of his young international cycling career in the MH2 competition, placing second with a time of 25:04.09.
This season is Wills’ first on the world cup circuit. The 32-year-old nearly reached the podium in both his time trial and road race in the world cup earlier this month in Ostend, Belgium, nabbing two fourth-place results.
To put it all together for silver in just his third career international race was surreal, Wills said.
“It’s a little unreal to me still,” he said. “It makes me excited for the future. I knew the course really well, I got a lot of laps in before the race and was here competing [at the U.S. Paralympics Cycling Open] last year. The whole thing has been amazing. Being on Team USA and getting to wear that jersey, plus racing here, everything about this has been awesome.”
Rounding out the first-day medals for Team USA was Wilcox, who snagged bronze in the MH1 competition. After winning the first world cup medal of his career – a bronze in the Ostend time trial – Wilcox followed it up with a stellar 32:53.89 time today, enough to put him on the podium for the second time in as many time trial races to close out his time trial world cup season.
Team USA received top-10 performances from nine additional athletes, including three-time Paralympic medalist Jill Walsh (Syracuse, New York), who placed fifth in the WT2 time trial.
Cyclists will return to competition Saturday morning for the second and final day of time trial racing, beginning at 9 a.m. CDT. Sunday and Monday’s road races will be streamed live on the U.S. Paralympics Cycling Facebook page and website. Follow U.S. Paralympics Cycling on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for updates and results from Huntsville.
For media requests and photo inquiries, please contact Kristen Gowdy at Kristen.Gowdy@usopc.org.
Dennis Connors – MT2
Alicia Dana – WH3
Jenna Rollman – WH3
Cody Wills – MH2
Barry Wilcox – MH1
Jill Walsh – 5th, WT2
Ellie Kennedy – 6th, WT2
Amanda Kloepper – 7th, WT2
Michael Davis – 8th, MT2
Danielle Watson – 9th, WH3
Joshua Roberts – 9th, MH2
Robert Zinny – 9th, MH1
Ryan Boyle – 10th, MT2
Gabrielle Platt – 10th, WH3
Ryen Reed – 10th, WH4
Matthew Rodriguez – 11th, MT2
Dianne Leigh Sumner – 13th, WH4