Clara Brown at the start gate at the U.S. Paralympics Cycling Open in Huntsville. (Photo: Casey Gibson)
U.S. cyclists Samantha Bosco and Kate Brim won each of their road world cup races this past season. Both could be among those racing at a historic world cup next May in Huntsville, Alabama.
For the first time ever, a U.S. venue was chosen to host a Para-cycling road world cup event. And in this case, it’s the 2023 world cup final, an event that will determine the season’s world cup champions.
The event will take place over Memorial Day weekend, running May 26-29 at Cummings Research Park in Huntsville, which is located in the northern portion of the state and is home of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center.
On Memorial Day, the final day of racing, Huntsville’s annual Cotton Row Run will start the morning. That day’s cycling races will begin later in the morning.
“I think there’s no better community to showcase what we can do here in the United States than in Huntsville,” said Ian Lawless, director of U.S. Paralympics Cycling, who was in Huntsville earlier this month for the announcement. “They’re just so prepared and they’re really organized and they’re really excited about the event. So, we’re thrilled to have the partnership.”
The bid to host a world cup event was shared between U.S. Paralympics Cycling and the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber, and Lawless is hoping the world cup bid will carve a path for the U.S. to host more international Para-cycling events.
“There’s a lot of potential, particularly with the job that they’re doing in Huntsville,” he said. “The type of events that they’ll put on will be such a high standard that I’d like to think that there will be future world cups based on the new precedent that they’re able to set in Huntsville.”
The U.S. hosted the 2014 road world championships in Greenville, South Carolina, and a combined road and track world championships in 1998 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. But never a road world cup.
Cummings Research Park in Huntsville has hosted the last two U.S. Paralympics Cycling Opens, in 2021 and 2022. The Open is an early-season domestic event.
“Really, it’s the ideal sequence of events in the sense that they have the experience to put on a high-level cycling event,” Lawless said. “The next evolution is to bring the international flavor to it. They’re ready for it.”
“We are incredibly honored UCI has selected Huntsville to host this premier series of races,” Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle said in a statement. “The Rocket City is definitely up to the challenge, and we look forward to hosting teams from all over the world.”
It’s also fitting that the event will be held on Memorial Day weekend. Twenty-five percent of U.S. Para-cyclists are veterans, Lawless noted.
The event is expected to draw more than 300 cyclists from up to 40 countries, Lawless said, including a large number of U.S. cyclists.
“Because it’s in our home country, we will be able to field more athletes in more classifications than we typically would,” Lawless said. “It also gives us a great opportunity to provide an international race experience for some of our newer athletes.”
Bosco, a 2016 Paralympian, won every world cup race she was in this year and added a pair of road world titles. Brim, a newcomer to the national team, won two races at the world cup finale, then won two titles at the world championships. Both are aiming for the upcoming Paralympic Games in Paris.
Oksana Masters, a 17-time Paralympic medalist, also won a pair of world titles, while Clara Brown, a 2020 Paralympian, added a world title to her resume as well.
The U.S. won 12 road world championships medals overall in 2022, and all those riders could be racing in Huntsville.