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Tribute to Tandem Partners






Garth Blackburn
Eric DeGolier
Karen Dunne
Mark Guerin
Kirk Whiteman

As much as I wish to demonstrate that there isnít any reason to think of a blind cyclist as just another cyclist, especially when it comes to winning and losing races, there is one important difference Ė the absolute need for a partner (captain). It is hard to express the appreciation I have for the many people, some of whom are listed on the left, who have shared their talents with me, giving me the opportunity to race and train.

Unlike most people who love to ride bikes, I canít just hop on my bike and head out for a ride in the great outdoors. I spend countless hours training alone on stationary indoor trainers. As much as that helps build my fitness, there is no way that anyone could become an elite level competitor without hours and hours spent on a real bike, on the track and on the road, pumping through exercises and competing.

I got my first tandem when I was in college. At that time, as a recreational cyclist, I would harass nearly everyone I knew into going on a ride with me. Anyone who made it passed the neighboring dorm without too many mishaps was constantly invited back. In retrospect, I am almost amazed at some of the risks that I took. Especially when I think about how hard I would work to try to get the bike going faster and faster. It is probably a good thing that South Bend, Indiana is in a relatively flat part of the country.

Now, to be competitive nationally and internationally, and, as my coaches sometimes have to remind me, to be safe, I have to be a lot more selective. It is not easy to do a good job of piloting a racing tandem at high speeds in tight situations with 190 pounds of stoker on the rear. But, my partners can do it.

Finding the best possible partner, or finding a prom date as my wife calls it, is not easy. The right person must, of course, be topnotch in the appropriate discipline (sprinting) as a single rider. This narrows the field considerably. Then, that rider must also be confident enough, or gutsy enough, or stupid enough, to get on a tandem, trimming the field still more. Then too, he or she needs to have the necessary time flexibility, given all other racing commitments, to be able to devote significant training time to the tandem. That often dictates one being willing to make significant personal sacrifices. Now, from this small group of people, we hope to find someone who will mesh with me as a real teammate, both on and off the bike.

After finding someone who meets all those conditions, I may have found a great training partner or someone with whom I can race domestically. Unfortunately though, I still may not have the right partner for international Paralympic competition. The International Paralympic Cycling Technical Committee places additional restrictions: the tandem captain may not have represented his or her country in international competition as a single rider in the thirty-six months previous to the Paralympic event, and he or she may not be a full-time professional cyclist.

So, whether it is just for training, or for international competition, my partners are a select group. They are special people. They are for me, enablers. They are my eyes to a great part of this world. They are the greatest!



Team King
Telephone: 719.339.1557

updated 09/18/2004
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US Paralympics

US Paralympics