Valley of the Sun Stage Race 2023Owen Daniels
The 2023 race season is upon us and the first race of the season is a good one. Valley of the Sun stage race is the first race for me this season held in sunny Phoenix Arizona. I’m always very excited to do this race and it’s also a great way to gage how good fitness is this early in the season. It’s a great race to see if the training I’ve been doing is working or if there are some areas I need to work on. Valley of the Sun is a 3 day stage race consisting of a time trial, a road race, and a criterium. For the first time since I’ve been doing this race there will be an all new time trial course which will add some more excitement to an already thrilling race.
The time trail was the first of the 3 races starting on Friday. It was a fast and mostly flat course with only 3 turns and 110 ft of elevation gain. This type of course is a great course for handcycles. With little to no hills it should be a very fast course. It was windy this day with a direct head wind heading out from the start line. My strategy was to go as hard as I could into the wind for the first half of the course and then hang on for dear life on the way back. From the start I felt great. Power was high and speed was fast regardless of the head wind. Giving it everything I had I was able to finish with a time of 24:47 taking a first place in the men’s H3 category. I was really happy with this effort and it proved to be my third best time trial effort ever. The time trial was a factored race which basically means your time is factored against the national standard for your category. The national standard for the men’s H3 category is 1:35:00 per kilometer. The time trial was 16.1 kilometers and with a finish time of 24:47 it put me a just above 1:32:00 per kilometer which is about 97% of the h3 standard. This is important because US paracycling will be looking at this race and use this race as well as others from last year to select the US roster for the first two world cup races.
Saturday was the road race and it was an early start. It was a 30 mile road race with a 2 mile climb on each lap. A large field of 29 handcyclists made the start for this race. A race like this isn’t my strong suit as I do not like long climbs very much. Still I did my best crossing the finish line 6th overall and 1st in the men’s h3 category for the second day in a row. Sunday was the 3rd and final race which was a downtown criterium. Criterium racing is a ton of fun that gets the crowds hyped and very involved. It was a short circuit course a little less than a mile Long lasting a total of 30 minutes. Lap after lap the crowd watches you pass by drafting off of one another just inches from each other’s bumpers attached to the back of our handcycles. Criterium racing is some of my favorite kind of racing. The energy the crowd adds just gives you adrenaline and makes racing so exciting. It’s like Formula 1 racing for handcycles. I was able to finish in 1st place for the 3rd and final day in the men’s H3 category and 3rd overall just a minute behind teammate and fellow national team member Travis Gaertner. On the final turn myself and fellow racer Daniel Berling sprinted towards the finish with David just edging me out by half of a wheel. All in all this was another great start to my season and now I await a decision from US paracycling on if I made the world cup roster. Wish me luck and stay tuned for more racing action next month as I race the LA marathon for the 10 time.