Belgium world cupOwen Daniels
Its May and its time for the first and only world cup of the 2021 race calender hosted by Ostend Belgium May 9-11. Covid still leaves its mark on 2021’s handcycle race schedule by getting the world cup in Italy canceled so luckily Ostend Belgium was able to push through and host this event. Before entering the country all participants were asked that they complete a pre travel covid test to ensure safety when entering the country. Once in Belgium all those attending the event were asked to qaurantine for 7 days before being aloud to move in Belgium freely. I was blessed with a great hotel room with plenty of space provided by Team Possabilities so the 7 day qaurantine wasn’t as bad as it sounds. Also being able to still train while in qaurantine made those 7 days fly by. On the 7th day of qaurantine all competitors were asked to take a covid test and all came back negative thankfully. Now that those 7 days were past us it was time to focus on racing.
After performing so well in April at the US Paracycling Open I was eager to try my skills against the worlds best handcyclists at this event. My original motivation for attending this world cup event was to be seen by a classification panel in hopes that with my medical documentation I would make the transition from the mens H4 class down to the mens H3 class. In all of paracycling classes are determined by injury and how that injury has or has not affected the rider. Unfortunately due to covid precautions my chance to see classifiers at this event was cancelled right before I was set to travel to Ostend. So now my new motivation was to just go give it my all and race hard to see where I stack up against some of the fastest paracyclists in the world.
The Ostend world cup would consist of 2 races for me, a 20 kilometer time trial on May 9th and a 70 kilometer road race on May 11th. The time trial was a 10 kilometer circuit in which competitors would complete 2 laps. The course was relatively flat with a few technical turns but the rain and wind on this course would prove to be the real challenge. Ostend is located on the Belgium coast so the wind was expected but I could have definitely done without the rain. The time trial went really well for me considering the weather and I was able to cross the finish line with a time of 31:33 for the 20 kilometer race placing me in 11th spot out of 30 riders. My goal for this race was to place top 10 so placing 11th still had me thrilled at my results. This 11th place finish gave me confidence going into the road race. Bike handling is one of my strengths on the bike so my plan for the road race was to push the pace through the technical corners and sit in the pack for the flat sections. My goal was to try and stay with the front group for the race but the road race didn’t quite go as planned. It was amazing to see just how fast the mens H4 class was and after every turn there were massive accelerations that made me feel like my arms were just going to explode. Eventually it was just too much for me and I dropped off the lead group. Luckily for me another group consisting of 5 racers formed and we worked together for the remainder of the road race. The last lap was full of head games while the 5 of us fought for the best positioning for the final sprint. With 150 meters left in the road race I made my move and sprinted like my life depended on it. Unfortunately I was pushed into an opposite lane by another rider which crushed my chances at another 11th place finish. I sprinted across the finish line in 13th place which was not exactly what I wanted but it was a great learning experience for me.
For my first world cup experience I had so much fun. Im excited to keep building on these results and do even better next time. Hopefully when I attend my next world cup I can get on the classification panel schedule and have my chance to be classified by uci classifiers. Only time will tell. As always id like to thank my sponsors Team Possabilities for making this all possible. Without their support none of this would be possible for me. A special thanks goes out to my travel buddy and team manager Cotie Williams for attending this event with me and cheering for me on every lap. The race support she provided took so much pressure off of me and really made this experience that much better. For every picture and cheer yelling “Go Owen Go” made me push even harder and I thank you so much for the extra motivation.
Now its time to get back home and continue training for the selection event for the Tokyo Paralympic games in Minneapolis Minnesota. However those plans have changed just a bit because I put in an application for the World Championships in Portugal with Team USA and to my surprise I was selected for the team. So stay tuned for the next blog to see how my first World championships went.