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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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