Para cycling a hit at UCI World Championships

Canadian Paralympic Committee

August 10, 2023

Canadian riders revel in big crowds

Kate O'Brien

GLASGOW, Scotland – The Para sport movement is getting a big shot in the arm this week at the UCI Cycling World Championships.

During the first week of competition, fans have packed the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome every day as able-bodied and Para riders alternate events seamlessly throughout a busy schedule. And with many different classes, the Para cyclists are a big part of the show.

This is the first time the world championships have incorporated both Para and non-Para cyclists.

The Scottish fans don’t differentiate the loudness of their cheers whether the UK rider they are rooting for has a disability or not. They went just as wild and crazy for Ethon Vernon’s spectacular win in the men’s elite elimination race as they did for visually impaired rider Neil Fachie and his pilot Matthew Rotherham taking a thrilling victory in the men’s B (blind) sprint final.

“This crowd is showing right now that Para cycling is equally as interesting and just as amazingly good as able bodied,” said Kate O’Brien, a 2016 Olympian and 2020 Paralympian, who won silver this week in the women’s C4 500m time trial.

O’Brien was injured in 2017 when midway through a motorpacing effort during a track cycling demonstration, her rear tire blew out. She lost control and hit the back of the motorbike and suffered a major head injury.

“This is working far better than I thought it would,” she added about the integrated event. “They’ve set the team pits really well in the centre and put the medal presentations in a separate area to keep more room for us to warm down on the infield. It has been well organized.”

The velodrome seats about 2,000 fans, although it looks and sounds bigger with the wavy structure of the building. But in addition, there’s also millions of cycling fans around the world watching these Para riders on various platforms zip around the track built for the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

The UCI has organized a super cycling festival this year, one year before the Olympics and Paralympics. There’s road and track, BMX, mountain biking and other non-Olympic events, there’s also junior and U23 categories but perhaps most intriguing of all is this is an integrated event with the presence of the Para riders.

“There’s an education happening about the Para events,” said Mel Pemble of Victoria, a triple medallist this week on the track including gold in the women’s C3 Omnium. “Even being with the able-bodied counterparts and seeing them learn about what we do, seeing their reaction to what we can do is amazing.

“It’s going to grow the Paralympic Movement for sure.”

In the past, the Para track and Para road world championships were different events held annually at different times of the year. That format will return next season as the UCI will assess these massive championships which has attracted more than 8,000 riders overall.

For Pemble, 23, she has never experienced these conditions in competition.

“It takes a while to get used to,” she said. “You have to learn to get in that zone and shut it out. It’s nice to hear and dial it in to use that energy for the race.”


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