This is my account of taking part in day 3 & 4 of the 2014 Cape to Cape – on a hand cycle.
This is from the perspective of someone that is quite new to being paraplegic and if I’m honest, I still haven’t quite come to terms with it. Previous to my accident mountain biking was the most important thing in my life and I was just starting to get fast. So I went from being in the top 10% in competitions like the Cape to Cape and being focused on flowing through smooth fast lines, to being one of the slowest and just trying to get through. That said, I just need to focus on different things now and it is a great feeling – that sense of accomplishment – and I guess I seem to be an inspiration to other people and mountain bikers alike.
I have to admit that seeing the reactions of other people is one of the best things and it made me realize that doing something like the Cape to Cape is a big deal.
Day 1 (Stage 3)
Like I said, it was great just seeing other people give their encouragement but it didn’t take me long to realize “this is going to be hard”. At the start that of the stage, we joked about being allowed 3 stacks – it took about 30 seconds of single track before I notched up my first! I made my quota of 3 that day but when I think about the course, I’m not surprised and luckily that stage goes over mostly soft loamy soil. Next time — a strap to keep my butt attached to the seat.
So riding an off-road hand cycle is a bit like four wheel driving and you really have to focus on just getting through, so a good support rider is a must or I’d likely still been stuck somewhere out there (thanks Freddie).
I got used to being passed by a lot of riders (I hated it) but really got so much encouragement as people went by and it just gives me more people to chase after. Awesome single track, muddy water crossings, steep climbs and beautiful terrain are my main memories of day 3. I made it to the end to a big applause, covered in dirt and feeling a bit sore. Now, just 1 more day.
Day 2 (Stage 4)
I knew from my days as an able bodied athlete that stage 4 was a ‘roadies stage’ (road cyclist). So I realized it was going to be long, but with fairly open trails. Lots of rock too, so I knew to stay upright. My hand cycle had a Bionx electric assist which helps when needed but when it runs out of battery it’s just a lot of extra weight. So I had it on a low enough setting again so that it just overcame its own weight. It was sooo tempting to just crank it up a few notches but I wanted to as much work as possible o my own.
By the end I was spent and just happy to cross the line, once again, to lots of cheers and congratulations – thanks to all those that made me remember what an accomplishment it was. My mates had all been finished for ages but were looking forward to seeing me finished. Smiles all round!
So next year I’d really like my own cycle set up the way I want it and with no assist but we’ll see what comes.