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Veal Report – Paracycling Pan Am Games

by Ed Veal

November 11, 2011 (Guadalajara, Mexico) – I have been quite lucky throughout my life. I have a loving family and lots of support, a healthy and happy son and I was born in an amazing place. I feel very fortunate and very lucky because a lot of this that has come my way seems out of my control.

Now I know some might argue and say, “I don’t believe in luck”. But to some extent I do think you can create luck with hard work, by being open-minded and knowing when to go for, and seize the right opportunities to have more success. But having my health, loving parents, and a healthy baby plus being born is Canada appears to be out my control – so I’m VERY lucky!

Now I say all of this as I write to you from Guadalajara, Mexico at the Para-cycling Pan-Am Games. I have been down here now for four days getting ready to compete for Canada and represent my country for the first time on the national team. This opportunity only came my way because I took an invite back in July to compete on a tandem bike at the Para-cycling Nationals.

I was contacted to see if I would like to pilot for a blind athlete named Brian Cowie and race both the the TT and RR. I said yes, and Brian turned out to be an amazing guy and an amazing rider and we did quite well.

I enjoyed it so much I competed with Brian at the Paracycling Track Nationals in Bromont, QC, and not only did we bond a bit more and become more of a team, Brian and I won the gold in the 4km pursuit. However, Brian and I did not qualify for Pan-Ams, as Daniel Chalifour and Alex Cloutier were the team selected to go and have been the top male tandem in Canada for a few years. Alex would be here piloting Daniel if his wife hadn’t just given birth to a happy healthy baby (lucky guy). Alex made the call to stay home with his newborn and Daniel made the call that he would like me to fill in for Alex. The result at Nationals and a little bit of luck got me here piloting Daniel at the Para Pan-Am Games and I couldn’t be happier.

Being a apart of the Paracycling National team has been quite the experience. Words can’t describe what I have witnessed and the stories I have heard. I feel lucky to be with these guys and gals. Most of them have to deal with things that I just can’t comprehend. I’m inspired everyday watching these athletes with disabilities live regular lives and compete at the highest level. I really feel like I was meant to be apart of this program and I’m blessed that somehow it found me. I’m learning more about life in general, finding a lot of happiness in helping others and I’m really enjoying the journey all of us athletes, able-bodied or not, endure trying to be our best.

This is quite the group and it all starts at the top with the head coach Eric Van Den Eynde. He leads the team and puts his heart and soul into things. As a coach myself I appreciate the work ethic he has and his knowledge of the sport is overwhelming. As a self trained athlete until now I took a big step and have taken him on as my very first cycling coach. So far the experiencehas been amazing. What he does with these para-athletes, and how he has already had an effect of me, says so much about him as a person, and a coach. Once again I feel lucky this path has brought me to him.

Ok, lets get to the week so far. We have a had a few good training days down here and the last two have been at the brand new velodrome in Guadalajara. Today we warmed up and actually trained with all of our aero gear including double disk wheels (disk in the front and in the back). The bike looked very cool and I couldn’t have been more excited to take it for a rip around the track. A tandem is tough to get going but is very much like a freight train once it gets up to speed. The weight of two riders and the larger bike makes it hold a ton of momentum and the speeds we can manage are incredible.

The learning curve has been huge. I started off having a hard time staying below the red line on the track yesterday because not only was I dealing with the G-force in the corner, but I was also getting used to managing more weight (another body) when we leaned into things. Today I had things dialed and was on the black line or below for the most part. We had a very fast flying 4km and we are all very excited with the time we put in. The 4km pursuit is a great event and one we can medal in if we get things dialed in like we did today.

This race is a unique balance of pacing and power and you need to be perfect at both to get the result you want. It’s 16 laps of pain and you start from a dead stop. Give too much too soon and you will pay for it late in the event as your legs fill up with lactate. Go to easy off the start and you will not have time to make it up because the event is so short.

I have only competed at this event one other time and won gold. I’m hoping the second time we can repeat the feat. The opening ceremonies are on Saturday night and our first event the 20km TT will be early Sunday morning to start things off. The two track events (4km Pursuit and Kilo) are next up, and we finish at the end of the week with the 110km road race.

We are back to the track tomorrow to try and perfect the 4km Pursuit and all this track/speed work should have us ready to rip up the TT as well. Look for a report from each event and be sure to follow my updates on twitter and facebook as the week goes on….wish us luck!


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