Hand-cycling camp features elites and beginners | SummitDaily.com

Hand-cycling camp features elites and beginners

FRISCO – The sport of hand-cycling is on full display this week in Summit County.

A pack of hand-cyclists, mostly disabled athletes, have worked the Frisco-to-Copper bike path as part of an instructional camp hosted by Adaptive Adventures – an Evergreen-based organization that seeks to build disabled independence through sports and recreation.

The three-day camp will culminate with a time trial on Tiger Road Friday. That race, a first this year, is the beginning of the Colorado Omnium, a three-race series in Breck, Golden and Denver that is part of the competitive hand-cycling circuit. The Breck race is just for hand-cyclists, while the other two are part of larger cycling events.

Adaptive Adventures has attracted riders of all levels for the camp. There is Floridian Scott McNeice, a former world champion and current national champion; Matt Updike of Golden, a national hand-cycling team member; and Evergreen’s Monica Bascio, the reigning women’s world champion.

There are also up-and-comers like Warren Strickland and Seth Arseneau, who are working their way into the national spotlight.

“It’s not as competitive as maybe some able-bodied sports, where people aren’t as willing to share their secrets and help people get better,” explained Adaptive Adventures co-founder Joel Berman. “So you’ll see a lot of the guys who are successful coming to camps like this to encourage other people.”

On Wednesday, the second day of the camp, the 15 participants rode from Breckenridge to Copper. For several of the athletes, it was their first experience with cycling the mountains of Colorado.

“It’s just so beautiful up here,” said Strickland, a Grayson, La., athlete who was born without legs. “The altitude hasn’t really got to me yet. Hopefully it won’t.

“It helps being around the stronger racers,” he added, “because you’re constantly trying to chase them down. So it automatically makes you faster. That’s why I like coming and riding with the elite guys. I’m in the middle of the pack right now, but I’m catching up.”

Hand-cycling seems to be in the beginning of a growth spurt. Camps like Adaptive Adventures are cropping up around the country, and the sport recently gained Paralympic status and will be included in the Games for the first time in 2004.

The fledgling hand-cycling community exists mostly on the Internet now, a group of riders from around the country who meet up at different events and races around the country. Meanwhile, the bikes are morphing as more knowledge and technology is applied to them.

“It’s cool to be in it while it’s in its infancy,” said Arseneau, a Michigan resident who was partially paralyzed in 2001 in a motorcycle accident. “I’m kind of part of the development of the sport. I think over the next few years it’s going to grow exponentially.”

Arseneau, a traditional bike rider before his injury, is hoping to make the 2004 paralympic team. The camp and upcoming Omnium races are part of the process. But they are also about helping the hand-cycling community, right down to the neophytes.

“It’s really about group riding and training and people interacting,” Berman said of his camp. “It’s a social thing as much as it is a training thing, because not all the riders are looking to be world-class athletes. They want to come to meet some people, see some things and really just have the camaraderie of other hand-cyclists.”

Jason Starr can be reached at (970) 668-3998 Ext. 231 or at jstarr@summitdaily.com.

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