BEIJING, China - The U.S. road cycling team ended on a high note in its final day of competition, earning two silvers and one bronze.
"Pleased would be an understatement," said a very happy Head Coach Craig Griffin (Colorado Springs, Colo.) referring to the team's overall performance. "You come here and you hope for the best but realistically, you think some things may go wrong. But, it all came together as we had hoped."
Alejandro Albor (HCC/Elk Grove, Calif.) and Oz Sanchez (HCC/San Diego, Calif.) began the day for the U.S., competing in the Men's HC C Individual Road Race. In the Time Trials on Friday, Sanchez won gold and Albor finished with a bronze and both were hoping for a medal once more.
After the second lap in the race, both only trailed Ernst Van Dyk (South Africa) and were neck-in-neck with Jose Arzo of Spain. By the third lap, Van Dyk still led, but was beginning to show signs of wearing down physically. The two Americans were close behind and Arzo was no longer in the pack.
"We let him work on his own for two laps and figured on the last leg we would catch him [Van Dyk]," said Sanchez, referring to their strategy of allowing Van Dyk to stay in the lead and run out of energy. "We are a team and are stronger as two than we are as one."
In the fourth and final lap Albor, Sanchez, and Van Dyk were all even as they flew by, but it looked like Albor and Sanchez were taking the lead. Unable to see the final turn, the crowd patiently waited to see who emerged down the final sprint. Van Dyk managed to cross the finish line first with a time of 1:21:40, followed immediately by Albor (1:21:41) and Sanchez (1:21:41).
"Overall it was a good race," said a pleased Albor. "We [Van Dyk] bumped wheels at the final turn and I wasn't able to recuperate. I felt like I was closing in, but ran out of room and that was that. But once again, it was a terrific race."
When Albor and Van Dyk bumped wheels, it caused Van Dyk to jerk his bike, which in turn affected Sanchez and he had to jerk his bike as well. "I lost my chain at the turn when that happened," said Sanchez. "It was a good race, just frustrating when I lost my chain."
Also racing in the morning were Matthew Updike (HCB/Denver, Colo.) and David Lee (HCB/Cardiff-by-the-Sea, Calif.) competing in the Men's HC B Individual Road Race. Updike finished in tenth place with a time of 1:32:17 and Lee finished in fourteenth place with his time of 1:38:09.
The final race of the day for the U.S. featured the tandem team of Karissa Whitsell (B/VI/Eugene, Ore.) and Mackenzie Woodring (Pilot for Whitsell/Grand Rapids, Mich.). The pair had already snagged a bronze and gold medal for their efforts earlier in the week in the Track 3k Individual Pursuit (B&VI) and the Road Women's Time Trial (B&VI), respectively.
By the third lap of the race, the Belarus team of Fiadotava and Drazdova had broken away, followed by the U.S. and the rest were behind in a pack. That was the way the race would remain and Whitsell and Woodring had to settle for the silver with a final time of 1:58:35.
"We just didn't have the legs," said Whitsell. "But, we are absolutely satisfied with the silver. We had an awesome time trial earlier in the week and that is what I am really excited about."
Today's races conclude the cycling portion of the Paralympics. The U.S. team had a goal of two gold medals and ten medals total. They surpassed their goal, finishing with an amazing five gold, five silver and four bronze.