RIO DE JANEIRO – The U.S. Paralympic Cycling Team returned to action today for the second day of the road cycling program and added one more gold medal to its tally in one of the more exciting races on the road today. Picking up the victory for the Americans was four-time Paralympian and Navy veteran Will Groulx (Portland, Oregon), who won gold in the H2 road race in a time of 1:15.23.
Groulx, who admittedly changed race plans several times throughout the event, made certain he was in a position to win coming down the final stretch but still found himself side-by-side with Italy’s Luca Mazzone in an all-out sprint in the last 100 meters before breaking away just before the finish line.
“You try to conserve as much energy as you can for the end because he (Mazzone) is such a strong rider,” commented Groulx. “I played out two to three different scenarios in my head during the race and it worked out really well - I had just a little bit more in the tank than he did at the end.”
Groulx added that another tactic he used during the final sprint was to block out everything around him and just focus on the finish.
“It was so close that I wasn’t even looking, I just went straight to the line,” said Groulx with a smile.
Groulx has now gone two-for-two in these Games after claiming a silver medal in yesterday’s H2 time trial event. Today’s gold marks the fifth Paralympic medal of his career, as he has three medals (one gold, two bronze) from his time as a member of the U.S. wheelchair rugby team in the three previous Paralympic Games.
As he did yesterday, Groulx attributed his incredible success in Rio thus far to those around him who have helped get him to this point. Most notably is Amy, his wife, who has been able to join him in Rio along with his twins, Grace and Will.
“The person I have to give the most credit to is my wife. There is no question she is my biggest fan, best supporter and she is the glue that keeps everything together - I wouldn’t be able to do any of this without her.”
Even though the Americans only found the podium once today, the team certainly had its fair share of close calls as three riders finished fourth in their respective races.
The first of the day was Marine Corps veteran Oz Sanchez (San Diego, California) who took fourth in the H5 road race. Sanchez, who won bronze in yesterday’s H5 time trial, finished today’s race with a time of 1:37.51, in another race that came down to a final sprint. Next was Alicia Dana (Putney, Vermont) who won silver in the H1-2-3 time trial yesterday and fourth in today’s H1-4 road race, with a time of 1:16.01.
Finally, three-time Paralympic medalist Oksana Masters (Louisville, Kentucky), who is making her cycling debut in Rio, finished fourth in the H5 road race. Masters, who has now competed in the last three Paralympic Games in three different sports (rowing, Nordic skiing, cycling), was disappointed to not win a medal in Rio, but was grateful for the experience and to once again represent Team USA.
“I’m bummed I finished fourth today and came up a little short, but I’m super happy because I feel like I’ve learned so much from this race alone,” said Masters. “I am just so shocked that I am even here competing in my third Paralympic Games in a row.”
Other Americans competing today were, Brian Sheridan (Bay City, Michigan) Freddie de los Santos (Hopewell Junction, New York), Army veteran Tom Davis (Fremont, Indiana) and Will Lachenauer (Reno, Nevada). Sheridan joined Groulx in the H2 road race, finishing sixth after a crash moved him out of the third spot he had been holding for most of the race. Santos joined Sanchez in the H5 road race, finishing sixth overall while Davis took sixth in the H4 road race. Lachenauer was 12th in the H3 road race.
The American squad will be in action again tomorrow competing in four more road races as well as the H2-5 mixed team relay.
Visit USParalympics.org/Rio2016 for more information on Team USA at the Paralympic Games, including athlete bios, team history and links to competition schedules. Follow the U.S. Paralympic team on social media on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.