We Are Going RacingOwen Daniels
I’m so happy to welcome back February because it means the race season has officially started and I’m thankful to say the first race is on the calendar. “TopView Swamp Classic” is always the first race of the season located in sunny Florida and this year will be held the weekend of February 6-7. Saturday will have two races with a 26 mile road race in the morning and a 15 kilometer time trial in the afternoon. Sundays race will be a criterium set on what looks like a go kart track with twist and turns which should make for an exciting and technical race. Since Most of the us don’t get to see each other very much we it was decided that having a training camp to go along with this race would be a great idea to make best of our time together. The training camp will include myself, my Team Possabilities teammate Ryan Pinney, my coach Tom Davis, and good friend Freddie Uteza. With all of these guys being apart of the national team for USA it should make for a fun but brutal training camp. The whole trip would be from February 3-11 arriving days early to get some training in before the race with the training camp following the days after the race.
Teammate Ryan Pinney and i decided it would be a good idea to travel together so we made travel plans to land in Orlando airport on Wednesday February 3rd around the same time. I was met at the airport curb by Ryan who arrived about an hour before me and was able to pick up the rental van for our weekend of racing. Luckily for us a fellow racer Brandon Lyons was a resident of Florida and he was gracious enough to open his home and let us stay with him for the first two days of our trip. It was about a 2 hour drive from the airport to Brandon’s house so we made the necessary stop at Starbucks to get some coffee and then we hit the road. We arrived at Brandon’s house where he already had a dinner prepared, he really was a great host. After dinner Ryan and I stayed up late to build our bikes and get ready for the next days ride. The next day we woke up still tired from not being used to the time change and set out on a 3 hour ride which was really fast and flat training ride. The 3 of us took turns leading the pack keeping a nice pace but for the most part the ride was pretty relaxed and easy. Friday February 5th the 3 of us set out to the location of the Swamp Classic to familiarize ourselves with the courses we would be racing on Saturday. The courses were out in a rural area full of trees and large properties of green pastures with beautiful horses roaming freely. The road race would consist of 2 laps of a 13 mile loop with small punchy hills and some very beat up narrow roads on the backside of the course. The 15 kilometer time trial was an out and back course with rolling hills and a fast finish.
Its Saturday February 6 which means we are going racing. All the handcycle racers lined up a few minutes early awaiting an 830 am start time. I was busy warming up and got to the start line later than i wanted to so i was lined up near the back of the pack. When the whistle blew it was full gas right from the get go. The race stayed together until the first turn then after that different groups began to form with the leaders group consisting of about 8 racers which included myself and teammate Ryan Pinney. This group of 8 stuck together for the first lap and half as we all took turns leading the group and making multiple attacks that none seemed to really stick until Ryan waited for just the right time to attack up a short steep hill that ended up breaking apart the lead group for the first time. Ryan Pinney and Brandon Lyons were able to separate themselves from the group but Ryan attacked again finally separating from Brandon cruising in for a solo break away win in the road race. I was Able to finish with the chase group grabbing 4th overall and second in the men’s h4 category after a sprint finish. Team Possabilities grabbed 2 podiums finishes with Ryan taking first in the men’s h3 category and myself grabbing second in the men’s h4 category. About 4 hours later we had a time trial to race so recovery was key between races. Myself and Ryan relaxed in the van awaiting the next race at 3:30 p.m. Ryan was again able to throw down a really fast time in the time taking the overall win again in the men’s h3 category with a time of 23:54. I was able to grab another second with a time of 25:24 a few minutes behind my coach tom Davis who just happens to be the fastest handcycle racer in USA. I was happy with my time but honestly my time was about 1 minute off of the pace I wanted to set however it is the beginning of the season and I’m far from my peak fitness which I hope to be in by may. Sundays crit course turned out to be quite a race. Rain from the night before made for a wet and wild race where those who could navigate the technical turns would be the ones who would set themselves up in the best position for the fast sprint finish. After every tight turn on this course there was an incredible sprint out of these turns to try and shed the riders following behind. Sprint after sprint lap after lap the pace grew faster and faster. On the last lap Ryan was again able to put in an attacked that separated himself from the group on his was to another solo win with the chase group shortly behind him. I was able to come out of the last turn in a great position sitting in the draft of anther racer making my move at the last minute to come around him and sprint to a 3rd place overall finish just a half of a wheel from grabbing second overall. With racing now done for the weekend I was able to finish 2nd in all 3 races and teammate Ryan was able to sweep the weekend with three 1st place finishes. What a great weekend of racing for the Possabilities Paralympic team.
With racing over, myself and Ryan headed out to meet up with my coach Tom Davis and friend Freddie Uteza to start our short training camp for the next few days located in Claremont Florida. Mondays was the first day of our training camp and the ride was a long one of over 3 and a half hours riding hill after hill after hill. For a state that is primarily so flat its funny we picked the place with the most hills in all of Florida to train at. Tuesday and Wednesdays was more of the same thing, 3 hour plus rides through what they call the “Alps of Florida”. The highlights of these rides was a little German bakery where we would stop to refuel at mid ride on coffee and pastries. This camp was definitely short but was the perfect set up for my push towards the selection event in Huntsville in April. After our last ride Wednesday we packed our bikes back up and prepared for our trip back home on Thursday. You know I will say its fun to travel and race but it is true what they say, there really is no place like home. I was happy to return home to see my family and get back to training, continuing to try and improve on my fitness for later in the year. Be sure to check back in for updates on training and racing through the year.