Ed Veal extends high performance career as Para cyclist pilot

Canadian Paralympic Committee

August 11, 2023

Forms strong tandem with Lowell Taylor

Lowell and Ed

(Photo: Ed Sykes)

DUMFRIES, Scotland – Ed Veal knew that his days as a national team and professional cyclist were winding down in the late 2010s. But his thirst for competition and for high performance were still at maximum throttle.

A member of both the 2014 Commonwealth Games and 2015 Pan Am Games teams, Veal tapped into a previous experience to become the pilot for visually impaired cyclist Lowell Taylor. Their partnership was formed in November 2019 and since then, they have climbed the world rankings in the very deep and competitive men’s tandem events in international Para cycling.

It was actually in 2010 that Veal got this first taste of piloting a visually impaired rider, but it was short lived. Brian Cowie, a three-time Paralympian for Canada, was on the prowl for a pilot and it piqued Veal’s interest.

In their first race together at a national championships, the tandem won gold in track cycling. Veal’s performance was spotted by Cycling Canada, and he was recruited to the national track cycling team. One of his many highlights in that period was helping Canada to bronze in the team pursuit at the 2015 Pan Ams in Toronto.

‘’Then we had some up-and-comers in Canada and I became the old guy,’’ said Veal, now 47 and still in amazing physical condition. ‘’This opportunity came to go back to piloting with Lowell. I was about to extend my career and keep racing high performance.

‘’It’s been a blessing.’’

In tandem cycling, the pilot is mainly in charge of steering while the athlete provides the power. However, pilots must be able to match their athlete’s power and speed to ensure they don’t slow them down.

Veal is your prototypical professional athlete and he served notice to Taylor he was not going into the partnership as a favour.

‘’I did my due diligence, I told Lowell, I’m only wired one way,” said Veal, who broke the Guinness Book of World Records for the longest distance cycled in a 24-hour period for a virtual event in 2019. ‘’I’m not just parading around with someone on the back, if you want to do this, we’re going to go full gas.’’

It was clear to Veal after their initial meetings that Taylor was the ideal partner.

‘’The chemistry was immediate,” he said. ‘’Lowell is a great communicator, he is going places, he was courageous. I’m taking chances out there and although he trusts me, you need the right person.’’

Taylor, for his part, had already made his first impact in the sport earlier in 2019 earning two silver medals with his previous pilot at the Parapan American Games in Lima, Peru. In 2016, Taylor was the first blind contestant to be cast in the history of The Amazing Race franchise. He competed with his wife Julie on season four of The Amazing Race Canada.

Taylor, an equally fit 41-year-old, says for a visually impaired rider absolute trust in the pilot is essential.

‘’My life is literally the hands of my pilot,” said Taylor. ‘’He is not just steering for me. He is steering for my wife, family, and kids. He doesn’t take that responsibility for granted.’’

The pair raced in both the track and road events this week at the UCI Cycling World Championships. Taylor and Veal were 11th in the individual pursuit with an average speed of 55 kilometres an hour on the track and 13th in the time trial on the road averaging 48 km/h.

‘’We are racing corners, we are trying to win medals, but we are also trying to stay safe,” said Taylor. ‘’We train and work really hard to be the best in the world, and in order to do that we have to take calculated risks.’’

Both riders are also very chatty and one of their recent discussions was about the need for more pilots in Para cycling. Taylor is based in Lethbridge, Alta., and Veal in Hamilton, Ont. Therefore they can only train together at national team camps and major competitions.

“Lowell needs someone to train with but now at home he is on a Swift (stationary bike),” said Veal. ‘’For me this experience as a pilot has been extremely rewarding. Every chance I get, I show off the bike, put people on the back and take them for a ride.”

For now, Veal’s peers appear to be in other parts of the world.

‘’I love coming to an event like the world championships,” he said. ‘’We’ve got 26 to 30 tandems; it’s wonderful. The pilots have a brotherhood and sisterhood.

‘’I would like to see that back home as well.”

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