November 20, 2009 (Montreal, QC) – Louis Barbeau is a man who wears several hats; besides being the Director General of Quebec’s Cycling Federation (FQSC) he’s also the President of the UCI Paracycling Commission. With the recent news of the inaugural of three-stage Paracycling World Cup for 2010 – including one in Canada – we caught up with Barbeau to learn more about this new development.
You must be a busy man these days.
Louis Barbeau: Yes, I am the president of the UCI Paracycling Commission based in Switzerland and just accepted another four-year term through 2013. I am also the Director General of the FQSC, where paracycling is a discipline that’s delegated to my personnel. My position within the UCI also helps me to advance other disciplines within the FQSC.
Tell us how the Paracycling World cup with events in Corrèze, France (May 21-23), Segovia, Spain (June 11-13), and Baie-Comeau, Canada (July 2-4), came about?
LB: Discussions about holding such events began in 2007 as Paracycling came under the UCI’s umbrella that year. We saw world cups as a missing link between the world championships and the Paralympics. And these world cups will carry a lot of weight in determining the number of slots each nation will have at the London Paralympic Games in 2012.
What were the criteria for site selection and how did Baie Comeau get selected?
LB: Ideally the UCI would have preferred one world cup in Europe, one in the Americas, and another in Asia/Oceania, but unfortunately the Asia/Oceania bid did not come through.
Within North America, Quebec has a lot of expertise in staging UCI cycling events and already hosts the Defi Sportif (tandem paracycling races), with commissaires familiar with paracycling, and the paracycling national team coach is also based in Quebec.
Baie Comeau on Quebec’s North Shore might seem a little remote, but there’s an airport there. It’s really no different than places like Abitibi and Saguenay which host major UCI-sanctioned races. This region has never had a major sporting or cultural event and the town of 23,000 was very keen. They put together a strong bid and as a result, the town was selected and has now gained exposure in media reports around the world.
In addition, Baie Comeau is the third and final paracycling world cup for 2010. Having the world cup final in Eastern Canada also makes it a low cost entry point for local paracyclists.
Can you offer any estimates of the economic spin-offs or benefits to Baie Comeau?
LB: The budget for Baie Comeau’s July 2-4 paracycling world cup is about $300,000 whereas direct economic spinoffs have been estimated at $1 million. There will also be indirect spinoffs, but these have not been calculated.
How many paracyclists are expected to compete at each of the three world cup events?
LB: Some 125 to 170 athletes are expected to participate, but perhaps more in the two European cups. This compares to perhaps 300 athletes at a regular (able-bodies) world cup. Among some of the better known names are: Darren Kenny, a British paracyclist who currently holds the world record in CP3 individual pursuit; Javier Otxoa, a Spaniard who once beat Lance Armstrong in a mountain stage of the TdF in 2000. In 2001, a car accident left Otxoa in a coma for 63 days and he now competes as a CP3 paracylist; Alessandro Leone Zanardi of Italy, a former F1 racer of considerable repute who lost both legs below the knee following a violent crash in 2001. He finished fourth in the 2007 NY Marathon, racing in a wheelchair; and Romania’s Carol Eduard Novak who is missing a leg, competes as an LC2 cyclist.
How many paracyclists participated at the Paralympics in Beijing 2008?
LB: We saw 145 paracyclists at the 2004 Athens Olympics, 188 at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and are hopeful to see 225 at the 2012 London Games. It’s the only paralympic [or Olympic] discipline where the quotas are increasing.
What’s happening to world paracycling records? Are the times getting faster? Are the gaps (with able-bodied athletes) getting smaller?
LB: Yes, the gaps are getting smaller. Novak for example is ranked 65th worldwide among able bodied cyclists.
Most of the Canadian paracycling team comes from Quebec – are other provinces getting on board with active efforts across Canada to recruit new paracyclists?
LB: The FQSC has been reasonably successful in recruiting paracyclists, but never could have done this alone. We work with many other associations for wheelchair sports, muscular dystrophy, etc. to develop local talent. And it takes a lot of effort to develop just a few good paracyclists. Alberta, BC and Ontario are becoming much more involved now as well.
What are the plans for the future for the sport worldwide and in Canada?
LB: We want to attract more women to the sport, expand the world cup events to cover more regions of the world, and continue developing paracycling talent.
Thanks for your time and good luck with the Paracycling World Cup and your future plans.