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Bicycle race, with a twist

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By Dan Johnson

MORRISON — “I want to ride my bicycle.

I want to ride my bike.

I want to ride my bicycle.

I want to ride it where I like.”

-Queen, “Bicycle Race”

That catchy 1978 tune could’ve easily been running through the minds of any of the competitors that converged on Bear Creek Lake Park on June 6.

While the bikes may have been a bit different than the standard road or mountain bike, the riders that took part in the U.S. Paralympic Team time trials stopped worrying about their physical limitations long ago.

Some rode handcycles, a three-wheel bike (one in front, two in the rear) with a bucket seat where one uses their hands to pedal the bike forward. Others rode somewhat standard fare cycles, except that some had a special contraption on one of the pedals where a prosthetic leg could fit. Blind cyclists rode a tandem bike with a guide out front leading the way.

Whatever the means of transportation, the athletes quickly made their way through the technical track, which was left free of traffic thanks to the park closing down for several hours that morning.

Former Marine Corps Sgt., Andy Hatcher, came all the way from Alexandria, VA to take part in the time trials. While he didn’t qualify for the team, Hatcher, who started competitive cycling this year, came away pleased with how he performed.

“I did what I wanted to do,” Hatcher said. “The course was very technical. It was also very pretty. I finished in (20 minutes, 30 seconds) and that’s not bad for my first season.

“Now I know what I have to do to make the elite team.”

The scenic ride in Colorado is a far cry from where Hatcher was several years ago. Serving overseas, Hatcher, now 24, was injured in November 2004 when his company hit a roadside bomb in Fallujah.

“I didn’t think I’d ever get hit,” Hatcher said. “I was 20 at the time and you think you’re Mr. Invincible.”

The explosion left Hatcher in a coma for two weeks due to the excessive loss of blood. He also suffered broken orbital bones, a broken nose and lost hearing in his right ear.

The worst injury, though, was to his right leg. While the leg could’ve been saved, Hatcher never would’ve had 100 percent use of it, so he made the decision to have it amputated.

Hatcher turned to sports as a way to rehabilitate himself after spending time in the

Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He initially competed in running and triathlons before moving into cycling this past year.

He appears to have found his niche.

“I’m out every day,” Hatcher said. “It’s a big part of the recovery process and I love it.”

While Hatcher is a relative newcomer to the sport, Sherry Schulz of Lakewood has been doing this for a long time.

Twenty-five years, in fact.

Schulz began her athletic career competing in various wheelchair races across the country before making the move to handcycles a decade ago.

“I just enjoy getting outdoors,” said Schulz, whose was born without the use of her legs, but didn’t move full-time into a wheelchair until college. “It’s great exercise, that’s for sure.”

Schulz, 49, took part in the time trials, but like fellow handcyclist, Evergreen’s Monica Bascio, she didn’t make the team. Schulz, though, has been queen of the road in Alaska, where’s she’s won the grueling Fairbanks-to-Anchorage trek several times.

“There’s no race up there this year, but I’m hoping to get back next year,” said Schulz, who has been teaching at Golden’s Shelton Elementary School for 23 years. “It’s my favorite place to race.”

U.S. Paralympic Team

Men

Alejandro Albor, Elk Grove, Calif.

David Lee, Boulder

Anthony Zahn, Riverside, Calif.

Oscar Sanchez, San Diego, Calif.

Ron Williams, Hoover, Ala.

Matt Updike, Denver

Women

Karissa Whitsell, Eugene, Ore. and pilot Mackenzie Woodring, Grand Rapids, Mich.

Jennifer Schuble, Homewood, Ala.

Allison Jones, Colorado Springs

Greta Neimanas, Colorado Springs

Barbara Buchan, Bend, Ore.