Handcycling is ridden on bikes were the riders us their hands to pedal. They can be recumbent, or riders can sit in them, depending on the categories, which run from H1-5. As with all Paralympic categories, the lower the number, the more the athlete’s disability affects their sport, so an H1 handcyclist may be a paraplegic, and have limited movement in their torso, while an H5 rider may half, for example, a missing leg, and sit in her handbike.
There are two combined-category Handcycling ITTs on Wednesday 14th September – H4-5 and H1-3, with 1 gold in each, while the road races are H1-4 and H5 on 15th – and the startlists and livetimings should be available via the racing schedule.
None of the Road races will be streamed live, so I’ll tell you a bit about some of the women riders. I haven’t managed to get to all of them, so if I’ve missed any facts, or your favourite riders, please let me know in the comments, or on twitter, and I’ll edit the information in. And after the riders, I’ll tell you a little bit more about the courses.
So who’s racing? I’ll start with the H4 and H5 handcyclists…
Laura de Vaan, H5, Netherlands
It’s her third Paralympics, and she’ll be looking to beat London, where she ended up with two medals – silver in the Road Race and bronze in the ITT. She has to be one of the big riders to beat as the current Time Trial World Champion. And if you want to find out about a handbiker, who better to ask questions than another handbiker? Check out this interview with her by Christiane Reppe:
I especially liked the part where she talks about combining training with studying for her PhD by listening to books on her headphones!
In 2004 because she was taking a lot of pain medication for her complex regional pain syndrome, which was giving her too many side effects, so she started handcycling for therapy, and found the endorphins from it were the best pain relief. She started racing in 20015, but she says in this pre-2012 interview that she can still have days where the pain is too much to race or train.
Jessica Enfot, H5, Sweden
At 49, she’s one of the older handcyclists, she’s racing her second Paralympics – in London she was 4th in the ITT and the Road Race, but she says she’s better than she was back then, and won gold at the Bilbao round of the 2016 Para-cycling World Cup to prove it
After the accident that resulted in her losing her leg, she changed her surname to Enfot, “One foot”, after a Native American tradition of naming themselves after things they’ve done or look like – she says more about that in this interview, which I really enjoyed, even via Google Translate!
Andrea Eskau, Germany, H5
She was an able-bodied cyclist who had a crash in 1998 that left her with spinal injuries, and she said she took up skiiing and handcycling so she could get out with her dogs, and played wheelchair basketball as part of her rehab, before finding out about the sports, and started to compete in skiiing, biathlon, wheelchair and handcycle racing. She says she was attracted by both the equipment used in para-sports and the opportunities to succeed. “I was fascinated from the start.”
She’s achieved a lot in her 45 years – becoming World Champion 6 times in skiing, twice in Biathlon, 7 Handcycling ITT and 5 times in the Road Race, with her most recent titles being in the 2015 H5 Road Race and 2014 ITT.
And then there are her Paralympic Golds, across the Winter and Summer Games: three Handcycling Golds, including the H4 Road Races in Beijing and London and the 2012 ITT; another gold in 5k sitting cross country skiiing in 2014, and silver in 2010, and gold in the sitting 6k biathlon in 2014 and bronze in 2010.
But it hasn’t all gone her way, as she had to pull out of the Sochi Games with breathing issues, which also hospitalised her in the Beijing Paralympics, so she couldn’t contest the ITT – here’s hoping that doesn’t impact Rio for her.
Off the bike, she works as a psychologist, and she’s also been the director of the Department of Sports for the Impaired at the Federal Institute of Sport Science in Cologne, Germany.
More about her on her website – and a video preview about her from before the 2014 Sochi Games
Sandra Graf, H4, Switzerland
The Swiss flag bearer at the 2016 Paralympic opening ceremony, she’s competing in three events here – the Handcycling ITT Road Race, and the T52/53/54 Marathon in the wheelchair categories. She’s done this before – in London she took Gold in the H3 Road Race and Bronze in the Marathon, but while she has handfuls of medals from the Para-Cycling and Para-athletics World Championships, in various distance races, she’s never been World Champion.
There’s lots more about her on her website, and in these interviews, by Christiane Reppe, and the Swiss Paralympics:
Jennette Jansen, H5, the Netherlands
Her sixth Paralympic Games – she talks about her Paralympic career in this little video in English
Her first Games were Seoul, in the Para-athletics wheelchair racing, and in Barcelona 1992, where she won two silvers in 5000 m and marathon and bronze in the 1,500m. She moved to wheelchair basketball for the Atlanta 1996 Games, where she was part of the Dutch team won the silver medal – and she competed again in 2000 and 2004. She took some time off sports, but in 2012 turned to Handcycling, winning Bronze in the road race in the 2013 Road World Championships, and she’s hoping to add another medal to her collection.
Oksana Masters, H5, USA
Born in the Ukraine, with birth defects that are suspected as caused by the fallout from the Cernobyl nuclear disaster while she was in the womb, she was adopted into the USA, and started off as a para-rower, winning the first ever USA medal in trunk and arms mixed double sculls in London 2012. Back injuries forced her to give up rowing, and she moved to handcycling, where she won bronze in the H5 Road Race last year
She also competes in biathlon and cross country skiing , and won skiing silver and bronze in the Sochi 2014 Paalympics, and has just got better, winning the 2015/6 overall para-skiing World Cup title after an undefeated season.
She’d been abandoned at an orphanage as a baby, and grew up for the first years of her life in harsh, abusive conditions, but was adopted by Gay Masters at age seven and brought to the USA. Last year she returned to Ukraine for the first time last year. She said
“It was like being in a time capsule. Instantly I was back. Truthfully I don’t know if I’d even be alive if I hadn’t left Ukraine. I nearly starved to death. A lot of people were surprised I would even want to go back. My friends, my mother, were worried, but I really connected with the people, the culture, the food. It was awesome.”
There’s a video from her trip here
Christiane Reppe, H4, Germany
You’ve already seen that she interviews her Handcycling heroes, and there are a lot more of those on out her YouTube, including her interviewing other handcyclists, adventures in her life including paragliding and diving, an interview with her coach, Dr Ralph Lindschulten, who coaches a lot of the handcyclists and showing us some of her strength training routine – and I always have a soft spot for the Para-cyclists who make their own media to promote the sport and other riders, so I’m a huge fan.
Reppe had been a paraswimmer, winning 2 bronzes in the 2004 Paralympics, and a bronze in the 2006 World Champinships, and has competed in para-alpine skiing and won a bronze medal at the 2002 World Championships, but she only started handcycling in 2013, immediately making an impact, becoming H4 Road Race World Champion in 2014 and 2015, with a bronze and a silver in the Time Trials. It’ll be harder for her in the Time Trial, racing with the H5 riders, but that gives her an advantage in the H1-4 Road Race!
Sandra Stoeckli, H5, Switzerland
Dorothee Vieth, H5, Germany
In London 2010 she won Paralympic silver in the H4 ITT and bronze in the Road Race bronze medallist, London, adding to her Road Race bronze from Beijing in 2008, and while she’s won 8 World championships medals, she’s only been World Champion once, back in the 2011 Road Race – and she says this is her last Paralympic Games.
Off the bike, she’s a violinist and violin teacher. There’s a little profile of her here, and you can check out her handbike:
About the Rio Handcycling
The Handcycling women will be racing 1okm Time Trials on Wednesday 14th September on the P1A course, and 15k road races on the P2 course.
Hopefully there will be livetiming for each race via the Schedule here.
I’ve written a guide on to how to follow the Paralympic Road Racing , and you can follow the Paralmypian Cyclists on twitter with this list –and the other parts of this mini-series:
Catch up with all the Rio Track Cycling action in my collection of videos and media.
I’m funded to do my women’s cycling work by my wonderful Patreon supporters – thank you so much!