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Cyclists Roll Out at 2015 Warrior Games

By Karen Parrish and Shannon Collins DoD News, Defense Media Activity

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WASHINGTON, June 21, 2015 — Cycling was the main event today in the 2015 Department of Defense Warrior Games underway at Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia.

The first heats began around 8:10 a.m., with men’s recumbent bikes, handcycles and tandem recumbents. Lined up behind a “pace-car” motorcycle, the athletes took their focus in the minutes before the race, as the sounds of bells, horns and cheers issued from the crowd and ramped up the tension.

Racing on Wheels

Today’s competitions featured various forms of bicycle, from standard upright bikes to recumbents. Some tandem [two-person] bikes were in the mix, designated by competition rules for sight-impaired athletes, who ride with a guide.

The leadoff men’s heat somehow managed to give the appearance of a motorcycle club -- beards, shades and intent looks were prominent. Women’s recumbent riders started their race a few minutes later, with fewer competitors and what looked to be a tighter grouping at the starting line.

Cycling competition includes hand, recumbent, upright, and tandem -- recumbent and upright -- bicycles.

According to information provided by Games officials, most handcycles are tricycle in form, with two coasting rear wheels and one steerable, powered front wheel. Handcycles come in several styles, making them accessible to people with a range of impairments. A recumbent bicycle is a bicycle that places the rider in a backward-leaning, reclining position.

Recumbents can be categorized depending on wheelbase, wheel sizes, steering system, fairing and front-wheel or rear-wheel drive.

Under the Games’ guidelines, handcyclists, tandem recumbent cyclists and women’s recumbent cyclists race a distance of 10 kilometers, men’s recumbent cyclists and women’s upright cyclists race a distance of 20 kilometers, and men’s upright cyclists and tandem upright cyclists race a distance of 30 kilometers.

Medals Ceremony

Some medal recipients spoke to DoD News reporter Shannon Collins, who reported from Quantico.

Army Sgt. 1st Class Sam Goldenstein, a reservist with the 325th Combat Support Hospital in Independence, Missouri, took gold in the women’s upright open.

“It felt amazing,” she said of the race. “There was a lot of good competition out there. I had a really good time. The course was fun. It was different but it worked out really well. The rain doesn’t bother me. I figured it would be pretty warm enough and dry up today.”

Air Force Capt. Cal Gentry, a contracting officer from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, and the men’s upright open silver medal winner, said, “It felt good, wish it would’ve been gold but it was a good race.”

Gentry said the course was “pretty flat; there was a little headwind coming back toward the south, that made it interesting -- couple crashes out there in the tight corners, almost went down in the second lap, had to break out.”

A number of U.S. Special Operations Command paratroops participated in the medals ceremony, jumping in with flags attached to their chutes:

-- DoD civilian Chip Bowlin, carrying U.S. and U.K. flags;

-- Army Lt. Col. Ken Aets with the Army flag;

-- Marine Corps Lt. Col. Will Wando with the Corps flag;

-- Navy Lt. Commander Lauro Luna flying the Navy Flag;

-- Civilian Andy Serrano with the Air Force flag; and,

-- Civilian Keith Walters with the Socom flag.

The lead jumper handed the first set of medals to Vice Admiral Michelle Howard, vice chief of Navy operations.

2015 DoD Warrior Games Events

The Games feature eight adaptive sports: archery, cycling, field, shooting, sitting volleyball, swimming, track, and wheelchair basketball. Each service will also nominate competitors for the Ultimate Champion, a multi-sport event in which service members and veterans compete against each other in a variety of disciplines.

Wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans qualified for this year’s Games by participating in structured camps, clinics, trials and daily adaptive sports activities nationwide with support from DoD’s Office of Warrior Care Policy “MASP,” or Military Adaptive Sports Program.

Since its inception in 2011, the department’s Military Adaptive Sports Program has helped wounded, ill and injured service members recover and rehabilitate for transition back into their military units or into civilian society.

Celebrating Service

Task Force Warrior Games commander, Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Juan G. Ayala, wrote in a welcome letter to participants that he congratulates “the more than 240 … participants for their outstanding dedication and achievement in earning their places at the 2015 Games.”

The athletes, Ayala wrote, “represent the courage, strength and skill that exemplify the best of our military services. I also thank the caregivers, families, and the support organizations that have helped these athletes along the way.”

(Follow Karen Parrish on Twitter: @parrishDoDNews)