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We’re off to the races: U.S. Paralympics Cycling Open kicks off in Huntsville this weekend

Dr. K.K. Doty famously said, “A good bicycle, well applied, will cure most ills this flesh is heir to.”

As hundreds of Paralympic cyclists arrived in Huntsville from around the world this week, cycling certainly seems to have been their cure as they have overcome tremendous obstacles to compete on a world stage.

The U.S. Paralympic Cycling Open sponsored by Toyota begins in Downtown Huntsville tonight with the Paralympic handcycle relay races beginning at 6 p.m. The start/finish line is on Church Street between the Cozy Cow and the Huntsville Museum of Art with the races circling Big Spring Park and ending in an awards ceremony at 7 p.m.

The vibrancy of Downtown will be on display with a Food Truck Fest to make for a delicious evening out to the races. Downtown Huntsville, Inc. has announced that Mac and Snacks, 2 Chicks on a Roll, New South Hot Dog and Sushi, and Little Dipper Baker & Cafe will also be present for you to grab a delicious bite to eat and snag some treats as well.

Before and after the race, you can also sit back and relax as Glenn Replogle will be performing from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m.

Keep in mind the active section of Church Street will be closing today at 2 p.m. and crews will break down as soon as the event finishes to get the road re-opened later this evening.

Other nearby roads and all of Church Street between Williams and Clinton Avenues will close at 4 p.m. The main race ring around Big Spring Park will close at 5:30 p.m.

Then on Saturday, the races move out to Cumming Research Park. Huntsville Police have already put up flashing signs to alert drivers about the races and Explorer Boulevard will be closed most of the weekend.

Since the cyclists have been here most of the week, they have previewed and even practiced on the course throughout the week. The start/finish line is in front of Columbia High School at 300 Explorer Blvd.

According to Paralympic medalist Jill Walsh, who competed here in Huntsville last year and went on to win two medals at the Tokyo Paralympic Games, just because this is not an Olympic year, does not mean Team U.S.A. doesn’t do its share of competing in between.

“In those four years, you have to earn enough points to earn a slot on the Olympic year team so races like these in Huntsville are just as important as any other to earn the rights to take athletes to the games,” Walsh explained. “We have to hit the ground hard and win as many medals as we can in the World Cup series. This year we have a short turn around because in just a couple of weeks after Huntsville, we have a couple of World Cup races in Europe to start the season.”

At last year’s races here in Huntsville, 25% of the athletes who competed were military veterans.

Paralympic medalist Ryan Tinney was one of those veterans.

“Even before I got injured, I loved cycling, I loved bikes in general, so when I got hurt, an organization in Phoenix where I live held a charity event to raise money for wounded vets and families,” Tinney explained. “They found out about me just as I was getting out of rehab and they provided a bike for me. Within six months I was actively competitive. When I got the bike, I started riding all the time.”

The Saturday races in CRP start at 9 a.m. with a brief opening ceremony to kick things off featuring the Columbia High School’s JROTC presenting the colors and Lee Marshall singing the national anthem.

Awards ceremonies will be at 11 a.m. and 2:40 p.m.

Then on Sunday, the races in CRP start at noon and run until 7 p.m. with an opening ceremony around 11:50 a.m. featuring the Columbia High’s JROTC presenting the colors, followed by the band from the Alabama School of Cyber Technology and Engineering performing the National Anthem.

Awards ceremonies will be at 1:20 p.m., 3:15 p.m., 4:55 p.m. and 7:05 p.m.

After the races, 14 of the Paralympic athletes will remain in Huntsville to continue training. The results from Huntsville will help determine who goes to the World Cup stops in Europe next month.

Those athletes will be on hand to throw the first pitch at the Trash Pandas’ opening home game on April 13.

Download the Spectator’s Guide here.

Download a Parking Guide for tonight’s Downtown race here.

Download Race Course Maps here.

Download the Race Schedules here.

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