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Paralympic cycling returns to the Rocket City with an exciting new downtown relay event

The Huntsville/Madison County community will be pleased to hear that U.S. Paralympics Cycling returns to the Rocket City for a second year this spring, bringing hundreds of athletes back to Huntsville and welcoming new competitors as well for three exciting days of racing from April 8-10.

Sponsored again this year by Toyota, Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle livestreamed the news Wednesday morning from the AC Hotel downtown overlooking Big Spring Park. The setting put a little pedal to the medal with his announcement of a new showcase handcycle relay race event on Friday night, April 8 in the park downtown, accompanied by a food truck fest.

“Huntsville is becoming quite a destination for large sporting events like gymnastics, swimming, volleyball, basketball, soccer and now international cycling,” he said. “We are expecting participants from Canada, South America, Asia and Europe to join the more than 100 American Paralympic cyclists who competed here last year, some who went on to compete in the 2021 Tokyo Paralympics.”

The exact number of international athletes expected depends on pandemic travel restrictions this spring.

Beginning with the handcycling relays downtown Friday night in Big Spring Park, it is on to the time trials on Saturday, April 9 in Cumming Research Park. Races start and end near the entrance to Columbia High School. The event concludes Sunday, April 10 with road races also in CRP.

All events are family-friendly with no tickets required to attend. There are also expectations that restrictions may be eased this year so spectators can more freely interact with the athletes.

Ian Lawless, director of U.S. Paralympic Cycling said he is honored and thrilled to be coming back to Huntsville after the success of last year’s event here.

“I’ve heard regularly from athletes who participated in the 2021 event what an absolutely amazing time they had while in Huntsville, and they have regularly indicated it was the very best paralympic cycling event they have been to in a long time,” said Lawless.

“2021 was a really high-level event that was part of our qualifications and selection process for the Tokyo Paralympic games. After we left Huntsville, we went to Europe to finish our selection process and those who qualified went on to Tokyo where the USA won eight medals.

“We will return this spring to begin our journey to the Paralympic games in Paris in 2024.”

The races involve athletes in four different impairment groups including handcycles; visually impaired cyclists called the stoker who rides on the back of a tandem; disabled cyclists who ride a standard two-wheel racing bike with an amputation or other impairment to one or more limbs; and the upright trikes for athletes with neurological impairment.

“As a proud partner of Team USA and U.S. Paralympics Cycling, we are excited to again extend our Toyota hospitality to the athletes and event staff who will be making the trip to the Rocket City in April,” said Jason Puckett, president of Toyota Alabama. “This event is a wonderful opportunity for the Huntsville community and our Toyota Alabama team members are looking forward to cheering on all the athletes at the U.S. Paralympics Cycling Open.”

Medalist Sports is again organizing the races, and the team has already visited Huntsville to review different areas for racecourse options. Update discussions about planning and logistics are ongoing with representatives from the City of Huntsville and the Huntsville Police Department.

Visit the Huntsville Chamber website and the CRP website for updates in the coming weeks.

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