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When The Cycling World Shut Down, Paralympian Tom Davis Invited It To His Indiana Hometown

By Joanne C. Gerstner | Jan. 20, 2021, 5:05 p.m. (ET)

 

 

Team USA Para-cyclist Tom Davis is ready to race. Like really, really itching and prepared to get to the start line of a road course and just floor it on his hand cycle.

He was ready in May. And in July. And September. And yes, right now. But everything from local races up to the U.S. Paralympic Team Trials were canceled due to the spreading COVID-19 pandemic. Big moments such as the Boston Marathon and the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 turned into highlight events for 2021.

So Davis, who competed in the Rio 2016 Games, is keeping his focus flexible and practical: when the races are staged, he will be there. And until then, just stay focused on his training.

“Once the Games were canceled, and worlds, I looked forward to the fall races,” Davis said. “And then Boston (Marathon) got canceled, and I realized whatever is on my agenda is probably not going to happen. That led me to choose not to even worry about what is coming next. I’m not in control of that. None of us are. The races will happen when they happen.”

Davis, who lives in Angola, a small town of 8,700 located near the Indiana-Michigan state line, trains on country roads. He had an inspired idea at the end of July, because the pandemic had yet to reach into his area: how about doing a weekend of cycling in Angola, with an eye on protocols to keep everybody safe? Maybe some friends from the hand cycling and cycling worlds would come, enjoy being outside and racing, and share their love of the sport.

He hustled to get everything together, and within three weeks the Angola Handcycling & Cycling Weekend came to town from Aug. 28-30. Local businesses donated prizes, from coffee shop gift cards to jerseys to some bottles of wine from a local winery.

Davis had the cooperation of the local sheriff, who closed down the roads on Friday evening for cyclists to be safe on the 10-mile time trial course. To be kind, Davis sent a letter to about 25 houses along the route to let them know about the event and the impending brief road closure.

“I wasn’t sure what people were going to think, or even know about what was going on, so I thought it would be good to say something to them,” Davis, 43 said. “I said in the letter, to come out and watch us. Little did I know that people would come out and were really cheering us, handing out water, you name it. It was incredible., from start to finish.

“I’ve been at races at nationals that didn’t have that many people out cheering — and we’re a small town! That was so awesome.”

Davis’ word-of-mouth event brought out 15 hand cyclists from around the country, as well as about 30 local able-bodied cyclists. In the end, the team and individual time trials, as well as the group rides, were all competed successfully and safely.

“I think we want to do it again, for sure, maybe next year after Tokyo,” Davis said, “and this time, I will take more than three weeks to plan it. We definitely can make it a bigger event. The interest is there.”

His priority now is preparing for the Tokyo Games and world cup races. Davis officially kicked off the training arc on Dec. 13. He is focusing on the topography of the Tokyo road course, trying to put his riding in sync with the hills. It’s not easy, as he lives in the flat farmland of the Upper Midwest.

And he wants to figure out the right ratio of strength/conditioning to weight to give him the most advantage.

Strength training, riding indoors during the winter with the Zwift app and being thoughtful about nutrition are Davis’ world right now. His first race of 2021 will likely be on April 17-18, at U.S Paralympics Cycling Open in Huntsville, Alabama. 

“I am in the best possible shape of my career right now, so finally, when we can get going to race, I am feeling confident about where things are for me,” said Davis. “I am looking forward to getting back to competing.”

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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Tom Davis