Ryan Boyle competes at the Paralympic Games Rio 2016 in Rio de Janeiro.
U.S. Para-cyclist Ryan Boyle has a tattoo on his arm that reads: “I have no idols. I admire work, dedication and competition.”
The quote from Ayrton Senna, one of the greatest Formula One drivers of all time, is a constant reminder for Boyle to commit himself wholeheartedly to his sport.
“(Senna) had a mindset of stop at nothing and give it your all,” said Boyle, who also fancies the need for speed. “That’s what breeds champions.”
Boyle is a member of the 27-strong U.S. team heading to the UCI Para-cycling Road World Championships this week, which run from Aug. 2-5 in Mangiano, Italy.
Already a Paralympic silver medalist, the 24-year-old is ranked third in the world in the T2 class following podium performances at the first two world cup races this season and is now eyeing his first world title.
“Silver is phenomenal, but it also means you can always do better,” Boyle said. “I’m setting out to be the best in the world, and once my mind’s set on something, I won’t stop. Even once I’m on top, I’ll never stop.”
Boyle took silver in the time trial in both his Paralympic debut at the Paralympic Games Rio 2016 and at the 2017 world championships. This season, he’s finished second in the time trial at two world cup events and first and fourth in the road race. He’ll compete in both events in Italy.
“This season has been better than I could even believe,” Boyle said. “But I just have the mindset that I need another medal, especially in the road race.
“I want to be a multi-time world champion. And once I get on top, the work only begins from there to stay on top.”
With his lofty goals, Boyle may come across as confident and brazen, but it’s a persona he’s had to work hard to craft after just fighting for his survival.
Boyle grew up in Connecticut with a passion for cycling, always mountain biking with his brother and eventually taking up BMX racing. But on Columbus Day in 2003, at age 9, he suffered a traumatic brain injury. While riding a big wheel at a friend’s birthday party, he was hit and dragged nearly 55 feet by a pick-up truck.
Emergency brain surgery was performed to save Boyle’s life, but he lost a portion of the back of his brain and was in a coma for two months.
At the age of 10, he had to learn to how to breathe, swallow, talk, eat, stand, sit, walk —everything — all over again.
Part of his therapy included swimming every day, and after joining a local swim team he eventually met a coach who got him back into cycling, his first passion.
“Since that’s where my heart always was, that’s what I thought I needed to pursue,” Boyle said. “I just love the freedom of going as fast as you can on the bike, being outdoors and having time to think and the option to explore new territory.”
When he became a freshman in high school, Boyle wrote his own book entitled, “When the Lights Go Out: A Boy Given a Second Chance,” in hopes of inspiring others to bounce back from their own challenges in life.
He now trains full-time at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where the gym is a short walk away and the food is already prepared for him.
“It’s a great atmosphere that allows me to just focus on training,” he said.
While Boyle’s goal is to become a “consistent medalist” — he despises fourth place — he still manages to find time for his other passions off the bike, avidly attending rock concerts and car shows, and regularly playing racing games and watching Formula One races.
He’s also known for having sported a mohawk at the Rio 2016 Games, something he reserves only for the Paralympic Games and that he plans to bring back in 2020 for Tokyo.
“It’s a lot of maintenance,” he joked.
But so is staying on top of the world rankings.
Boyle hopes to make that jump to the top of the rankings this week — and stay there.
Stuart Lieberman covered Paralympic sports for three years at the International Paralympic Committee, including at the London 2012 and Sochi 2014 Games. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.