Clara Brown poses on the podium following the Time Trials event at the 2019 UCI Para-cycling Road World Championships.
Elite Para-cyclists like Clara Brown can make it look easy with the way they fly across the track.
The two-time world champ wants fans to know that a lot goes into making that happen.
Brown, a native of Falmouth, Maine, and Saint Cloud, Minnesota, native Noah Middlestaedt stopped in Minneapolis this month for a visit with Chris Balser, aka the Bicycle Fit Guru. In an insightful post, Brown gave her followers a peek behind the curtain of some of the steps elite Para-cyclists go through to be at their best.
As para athletes, @gimpcyclist and I both are working with some unique body mechanics. Noah likes to call them “hitches in our giddy up.” Due to the paralysis throughout my right side, we have modified my bikes so that I can operate them entirely with my left side. My left hand controls all braking and shifting functions. However, equally important to equipment modifications, is making sure we are getting the most out of our body’s capabilities. I’m so appreciative for @bicyclefitguru taking the time to understand our specific “hitches” and working through solutions to optimize our positions on the bike. Alterations made to my fit helps mitigate the dead spot in my pedal stroke, which now allows me to get more out of my right leg. Hopefully these changes take me closer to more 🌈 stripes in 2021 #paralympics #teamusa #usparacycling
“As Para athletes, (Middlestaedt) and I both are working with some unique body mechanics,” Brown posted to Instagram on Oct. 16. “Noah likes to call them ‘hitches in our giddy up.’”
Brown, who competes both on the track and the road and has six world championships medals to her name, sustained a spinal cord injury at age 12. She now has paralysis throughout her right side. As a result, she uses a modified bike that she can operate entirely with her left side.
“My left hand controls all braking and shifting functions,” she wrote.
But “equally important” she added, “is making sure we are getting the most out of our body’s capabilities.”
“I’m so appreciative for (Balser) taking the time to understand our specific ‘hitches’ and working through solutions to optimize our positions on the bike,” Brown continued. “Alterations made to my fit helps mitigate the dead spot in my pedal stroke, which now allows me to get more out of my right leg. Hopefully these changes take me closer to more 🌈 stripes in 2021.”
If all goes as planned, Brown might just find herself back in Minneapolis next summer for the U.S. Paralympic Team Trials. The trials were scheduled to be in the City of Lakes last summer before the Games were postponed. Plans have not yet been announced for a rescheduled 2021 trials event.
Clark Rachfal Talks National Disability Employment Awareness Month
October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, though improving access and working conditions for people with disabilities is an everyday priority for Clark Rachfal. A 2012 U.S. Paralympian, Rachfal is the director of advocacy and governmental affairs at the American Council of the Blind.
“It’s important to have National Disability Employment Awareness Month because people with disabilities are still severely underrepresented in the workforce,” Rachfal told TeamUSA.org, the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee’s website. “Some of that is implicit and unintentional bias and in other cases it’s employers placing low expectations upon what people with disabilities are capable of doing.”
In an in-depth look at disability employment, Rachfal, who has been with the American Council of the Blind since 2019, shares some insights and suggestions for addressing these challenges.
A Salute To Oksana Masters
Oksana Masters, a three-sport star and four-time Paralympian, was among the athletes featured in this year’s Women’s Sports Foundation Salute to Women in Sports earlier this month. Masters, who competed as a hand-cyclist in 2016 in Rio and finished top-5 in both of her events, joined fellow U.S. Paralympians Alana Nichols and Scout Bassett, as well as up-and-coming wheelchair tennis player Joanna Nieh in a segment promoting accessibility equality in sports.
“They’re not seeing us as rowers, they’re not seeing us as athletes, they’re seeing us as people who have no legs, as people who are in wheelchairs, as people who are just doing it for the feel good side of it,” Masters said. “And that wasn’t why I was doing sport. I wanted to compete, and race, and push myself.”
Masters has proven that by making the Paralympics as a cyclist, rower and Nordic skier, winning eight total medals. She’s long been a supporter of the WSF and its annual Salute, which raises money to support girls and women in sports.
Masters was also featured in two ESPN stories surrounding the event. On Oct. 15, she told her story in a first-person post on espnW, where she wrote about overcoming situations in her life that appeared impossible to overcome. Another ESPN story on Oct. 21 featured elite athletes talking about mental health and how to cope with unpredictable training environments during a pandemic.
“It’s really important to embrace change and adapt to the times we’re living in for your mental health,” she told ESPN. “I think this can bring out the best in us.”
Around the Cycling World
October was a big month for Freddie de los Santos. The 2016 Paralympian talked to TeamUSA.org about Hispanic Heritage Month, his birthday and what he calls Alive Day, the anniversary of the day when he was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade while serving for the U.S. Army in Afghanistan. “It’s a very beautiful month,” he said.
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Captain’s Log Stardate 10252020.223 🔥 He did it!!! 🔥 The tiny human rode 50 miles yesterday and he did it rocking his jeans! 👖 👖 We had so many people support this journey and we are grateful for each and every one of them!! Thanks to Brian and Mike for joining us on training days and for the entire 50 miles!! Also to Christian for riding with us during the week!! Thank you to all who donated to not only help Ryder reach his goal but to double it!! Thank you to Clif Bar and Team Twenty20 for fueling us in training and on the big day!! And a huge Thank you to all who came out to celebrate at the start, along the trail and at the finish line!! We loved seeing the Temple twins in the morning and starting out with them!! Thanks to my sister and nephew for also helping to send us off!! And thank you to all my dear friends and family who came to the finish!! The Van der Vijver’s , Debbie, Marybeth and family, The Meinz Family, my little sis Ashley and Marley, my big sis and nephew, my dad, his dad and cousin Josh and Kathy!! The day couldn’t have been more special for this tiny human!! Everyone has the potential to make a difference in our lifetime!! I’m glad this one is making the most of it!! Stay tuned for our next adventure . . . (You didn’t think this would be it did you? 😉🤷♀️) @clifbar @feltbicycles @teamtwenty20 @marybeththames @missyisskitzy . . . . . #cafcommunitychallenge #teamcaf #teamtwenty20 #ryderrides #morekidsonbikes #norcal #california #americanriverbiketrail #bethelight #50miles #jeans #lifeontwowheels #getoutdoorsmore #getoutdoors