Life on 2 Wheels: Bill Ramsay’s wild tandem ride to the 2000 Paralympic Games in Sydney
September 9, 2016
Editor's note: For countless Summit County residents, a bicycle is more than a machine — it's a lifestyle. Every week during the summer, we'll ask our most adventurous residents, "Where has your bike taken you?"
If ever you've felt that you were lagging a bit in the saddle as you pedaled up a steep pitch, or maybe slogged to the top of Loveland Pass, consider the challenges — and perhaps the additional horsepower — of doing so with another rider on the seat behind you, one who relies on you (and you alone) for vision.
Summit Cove's Bill Ramsay, 55, is a former professional cyclist and coach who spent several years as part of a Paralympic racing team. There, he took the front seat on a tandem race bike as the "pilot" to an equally athletic (but visually impaired) "stoker" in the back.
Ramsay and his racing partner, Randy Hampton, competed in 2000 at the Sydney Olympics Games and were also top finishers at the Para-cycling World Championships in 2002.
Nowadays, you'll find Ramsay working as Keystone's competition services manager, handling all the on-snow racing events in the winter and a growing range of biking events in the summer. His wife, Leslie, is also a major figure in the local biking community, working as an official with a variety of local race series.
"I still ride as often as I can, either commuting or just riding my cross bike for fun," Bill Ramsay says. "I still like going out and getting lost."
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Red Zinger and Casper Classic
Ramsay's cycling career began like many others — "I had a beautiful Stingray with a banana seat," he says — and while growing up in Colorado Springs, he started taking bike tours with his father on a 10-speed. His interest blossomed until, as a young rider, he got involved with the biking world in the wild west days of the early '80s, riding in events like the Red Zinger and the Casper Classic.
"There really weren't enough professionals back in those days, so it was just a mix of pros and Category 1 amateurs, basically racing pro-am," Ramsay says. "I retired from individual racing in 1995, but I did a couple years of master's racing with all the old guys who still want to race."
Ramsay's racing accolades include six U.S. national championship titles, a PanAmerican championship and an impressive 54 state championship titles.
To the Paralympics
In a life-changing opportunity, Ramsay was contacted by the Paralympic organization after individual racing and, for a four-year period, served as pilot and teammate to Hampton, an accomplished Colorado Springs athlete whose eyesight was gradually fading due to a degenerative nerve condition.
"It was a lot of fun to ride with Randy, but the physical commitment in Paralympic training is as much or even more than able-bodied Olympic training," Ramsay remembers. "We rode six or seven days a week, with coaching, weights and continuous work."
Ramsay and Hampton secured a spot at the Sydney Games and landed a seventh-place overall finish at the World Championships in Altenstadt, Germany.
"I had been to a lot of Olympic trials and not made it on my own, so for people like me, allowed to get into the Olympics in a different way, it was a really great experience," he says. "I still remain heavily involved in the U.S. Association of Blind Athletes — that's really become my passion."
Off the saddle
From 2004 to 2009, Ramsay managed the UCI's professional track trade teams, traveling the world and hitting World Cup events (track events were a part of his pro riding career). He and his family decided to relocate to Summit County about five years ago. Since then, everyone has been active in both winter and summer athletics.
Ramsay's 18-year-old twins graduated from Summit High School last year and recently left for college, both with athletics as a big part of their schooling: daughter McKenna is at Montana State University, where she's running on the school's cross-country and track teams, and son Logan is going to Western State, where he's riding on the mountain bike team.
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