U.S. Paralympics Cyc... Features A Summer Of Home Imp...

A Summer Of Home Improvement In The Books, Alicia Dana Is Turning Focus Toward Tokyo

By Joanne C. Gerstner | Oct. 12, 2020, 4 p.m. (ET)

Alicia Dana rides during the Women's Individual H 1-3 Road Race at the London 2012 Paralympic Games on Sept. 7, 2012 in Longfield, England. 

The home improvement tool stash of U.S Paralympics road cyclist Alicia Dana looks seriously stocked these days. She has a new circular saw, two Dremel tools and a power washer, all part of her pandemic-inspired home improvement kick.

This obviously was not her plan for the summer, to take on the repair projects that had been building up for the past few years. But Dana said the rescheduling of the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 and the cancelation of this year’s schedule has led to some interesting personal productivity.

“I’ve been putting off some of these projects, like redoing the porch, for like seven or eight years, so it was time for to use that time to dig into that,” said Dana, a two-time Paralympian who won silver in the Rio 2016 time trial. “Once I started into the house projects, it sucked me in. Then I started buying all of these tools. Next thing I know, we are deep into it.”

This is the first year since 2011 that has provided such copious free time for Dana. She is usually on the road, either training, traveling or competing in her life as a full-time athlete.

But that time this year went into transforming the house, and Dana’s porch looks good as new after redoing the boards, spindles, paint and wheelchair ramp. The inside of her house has changed too, as she is creating a home gym to help maintain her off-bike training during the pandemic.

This summer, if it had gone as planned, would have likely been Dana’s final races. She is 51 and has been thinking about winding down her career. Her training plans are now targeted toward competing in Tokyo next summer, with the 2021 Games likely being her third and last appearance for Team USA. She’s ready to move on to the next phase, and maybe go back to school to start a new career.

“This has been a challenge for me to reset, because I was seriously thinking this would be my last year, and right now, in the fall, I would be tapering down,” Dana, a native of Vermont, said. “I guess I am just going to turn next year into how I planned this year. I need to maintain my level. At my age, it’s use it or lose it. I am still pushing myself mentally and physically, this is my own personal decision to do this.”

I’m thinking that I maybe needed this year to kind of put things in perspective, reflect on my training and experiment with my training too. It’s not a bad thing.

She came into 2020 with a lot of confidence, after winning a world title in the time trial portion of the UCI Para-cycling Road World Championships in September 2019. It was her first title since 2014 in the time trial, and Dana was feeling like she was at her best.

“It definitely was a psychological boost, starting already at the top,” Dana said. “That can really help for your confidence levels. But now, being out of competition for a whole year practically, it’s almost like it didn’t happen. I am keeping a beginner’s mind and staying humble. I know I am strong, so I can stay strong.”

Dana has been doing her road training throughout the summer, and said she feels good in her levels. Many of the gyms around her have been closed due to COVID-19, leading her to start the home gym. She works out on the equipment spread throughout her house, from the resistance bands tied to her bed frame to the weight bench in her living room. The dream is to put a nice home gym in her barn, but she’s a ways from getting that done.

This time has allowed her to reexamine her training and life.

“I’m thinking that I maybe needed this year to kind of put things in perspective, reflect on my training and experiment with my training too,” she said. “It’s not a bad thing.”

Winter will soon be in Vermont, meaning Dana’s road cycling will turn into time spent on her stationary trainer in the garage. Her cold-weather training is quite harsh, as the unheated garage lacks a door, and she cycles with snow and wind swirling around her.

“I used to be a Nordic skier, so I just pretend I am doing that again,” she said. “I know it sounds crazy to be out there, but I really am used to it. It’s Vermont.”

Joanne C. Gerstner

Joanne C. Gerstner has covered two Olympic Games and writes regularly for The New York Times and other outlets about sports. She is a freelance contributor to USParaCycling.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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Alicia Dana