Shawn Morelli competes in the women's C4 3,000-meter individual pursuit track at the Paralympic Games Rio 2016 on Sept. 8, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
The wheels will be turning fast Saturday and Sunday at the VELO Sports Center in Carson, California, with two major Para-cycling events featuring some of the best riders from Team USA.
Joe Berenyi, a four-time Paralympic medalist and 15-time world medalist, will be there.
Shawn Morelli, a two-time Paralympic gold medalist, will join Berenyi and nearly 50 other world-class track cyclists for two days of competition in the U.S. Paralympics Track Cycling Cup and Los Angeles Para-cycling Track Open.
The UCI-sanctioned events are quota-points qualifiers for the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020. They are also the selection events for the U.S. team that will compete in next month’s UCI Para-Cycling Track World Championships in Milton, Ontario.
The top U.S. Para-cycling athletes, along with strong squads from Japan and Switzerland, have made this weekend’s event the largest in the history of the competition, said Ian Lawless, U.S. Paralympics cycling director. Forty-seven cyclists have entered the event.
“It’s a great opportunity for our athletes who are performing at their best to make the world team,” Lawless said. “I know we have a lot of athletes who have been training really hard for this event. We’re excited about it. I think it’ll be the most competitive event we’ve had in LA in a long time.”
Berenyi is seeking a sixth consecutive world title in the MC3 kilo time trial. He also won a silver medal in the scratch race and a bronze medal in the team sprint at the 2019 world championships and tacked on three more medals at the Parapan American Games Lima 2019.
The competition will mark the return of WC4 cyclist Morelli, who won gold medals in time trial and pursuit in the Paralympic Games Rio 2016 and has won 12 world championships since 2015.
“It’ll be great to see her back on the track, see how she does,” Lawless said. “We expect she would probably qualify for worlds."
Others seeking to lock down spots on the world team include Chris Murphy, a 2016 Paralympian in the MC5 class who won a pair of world titles in 2017; Paralympian Justin Widhalm, an Army veteran who served in Iraq and won his first world medal in 2019; and Clara Brown, a rising star in Para-cycling who began racing internationally last year and won three medals at the Parapan American Games.
In addition to determining spots on the U.S. world team, the competition will award UCI ranking points toward quota spots for the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020. A top-six finish by an athlete earns points for his or her country. The race for quota spots goes through June 2020, when the athletes for the Paralympic team will be determined at U.S. Paralympic Team Trials in Minneapolis.
Saturday’s competition features sprint events, followed by pursuit races and team events on Sunday.
The VELO Sports Center is located south of Los Angeles in a complex that will be used in the Olympic and Paralympic Games Los Angeles 2028.
The world championships begin Jan. 30 at Mattamy National Cycling Centre in Milton, Ontario, which is located outside of Toronto and was the track cycling venue used for the 2015 Pan and Parapan American Games.
Paul D. Bowker has been writing about Olympic and Paralympic sports since 1996, when he was an assistant bureau chief in Atlanta. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.