Following their successes in the recent UCI Para-cycling Road World Cup in Ostend (Belgium), we spoke to three winners about their experiences returning to major competition and their expectations for the UCI Para-cycling Road World Championships in Cascais (Portgual) in June – and beyond.
At 43, Spain’s Ricardo Ten Argiles is a hugely decorated international athlete, and in Ostend won the MC1 road race from Pierre Senska (GER) and Giancarlo Masini (ITA).
Belgium’s Tim Celen, 23, was victorious in the MT2 road race at his home UCI World Cup at the start of May, beating his more experienced rivals Figuerola Reinoso (ESP) and Matthew Rodriguez (USA).
43-year-old Tim de Vries from the Netherlands won the MH5 road race by more than a minute from his compatriot Mitch Valize and Loic Vergnaud (FRA), adding to his medals haul.
Here’s what they had to say:
Each rider’s success in Ostend indicates that they’re in good form, but were they sure of this coming into the World Cup?
Ricardo Ten Argiles: “We knew that we were training well, but there is always the concern of our rivals’ form.”
Tim Celen: “I had a good training period, I had a good feeling, but training is always different to competing. I was really looking forward to competing again. I was very happy with my performance at the World Cup in Ostend with my win in the road race and second place at the time trial.”
Tim de Vries: “There were no big concerns towards the World Cup races. I was quite curious to see how my fellow competitors would do – it has been a really uncertain time. I knew that my winter training had been really good. Together with my teammate Daniel Abraham I went to Namibia for altitude training to ensure I would have a big base condition towards Tokyo. My whole program is based on being my best in Tokyo, so the World Cup in Ostend was a nice win but I wasn’t on my sharpest in these races.”
The limited competition in 2020 was challenging, but were there also advantages?
RTA: “2020 was a difficult and atypical season. Not having short-term objectives made it difficult to train well, but I think that para-cyclists have gone through tough situations that have helped us to overcome this pandemic situation.”
TC: “It was unfortunate that there were almost no races. I immediately clicked and focused on 2021. I personally think that the strange year (2020) has made me even better on the bike.”
TdV: “Yes 2020 was challenging for us all. With almost no races it was important to have other goals: I did a 500km ride in two days to earn over €5000 for the Cruyff Foundation [of which Tim is an ambassador] to support playgrounds for kids and buy Paralympic cycles.”
How are you anticipating the UCI Para-cycling Road World Championships?
RTA: “We will prepare in the same way [as usual], with the only shortcoming being the lack of competitions, a fundamental part of preparation.”
TdV: “The real peak needs to be in Tokyo but the Worlds are really important as well; especially because I want to renew my 2019 World title. So the preparation is a bit different if you compare it with 2019. Surely my mid peak is at the Worlds.”
Which competitors do you respect most and who are your biggest challengers?
RTA: “Our efforts will be focused on the track. In the last World Championships there were rivals in constant progression, in addition to the direct rivals China, USA and Canada, in the Games there are always surprises!”
TC: “I have a lot of respect for all competitors. I’m looking forward to racing with everyone again – at a World Championships everyone will be at their best!”
TdV: “I respect all my competitors. Most of them live, just like me, for the sport and that makes it beautiful and challenging. At the World Cup in Ostend I have seen that the French rider Loic Vergnaud and my teammate Mitch Valize have made major progress these last years – my big compliments for them! Besides that I am looking forward to racing with Ernst van Dijk [from South Africa] again. It will be some nice racing the upcoming months in the H5.
“Unfortunately we have to miss our great rider Alex Zanardi who had a really bad crash last year. He survived but he is still fighting to have a decent life again. Really thinking of him and hoping that I will speak to him one day again. He is the biggest reason that made the H5 the greatest handcycle category.”
Across Handbike, Cycle, Tricycle and Tandem sport classes, the athletes are focussing on the major up-coming events. We’ll bring you more soon as we build up to the UCI Para-cycling Road World Championships in Cascais, 9-13 June.
Para-cycling sport classes
C – Cyclist: conventional bike with some minor adaptations
T – Tricycle: three-wheeled bike
B – Blind: tandem
H – Handbike
Each group includes racing for Men (M) and Women (W) and is divided into different sport classes depending on the severity of the disability.