Italy got the 2014 UCI Para-Cycling World Championships in Greenville, South Carolina, USA, off to a flyer on Thursday (28 August) with gold in the handbike relay.
Vittorio Podesta got the Italians off to an excellent start, before Luca Mazzone took over. There was a resilient push from the USA team of William Groulx, William Lachenauer and Daniel Cnossen, shortening the gap to just six seconds on lap five.
But the ever reliable Alessandro Zanardi ensured the victory for the Italians with some impressive hand-cycling to take victory in 34:12:8. The USA (34:52:1) took silver and the Swiss team of Jean-Marc Berset, Toias Fankhauser and Heinz Frei (35:01.2) took the bronze.
Speaking to the US Paralympic Committee about his team’s silver medal, Groulx, who raced the first leg for Team USA, praised the unique course.
“It was a great hard-fought race in a fantastic venue. Italy had a fantastic ride and earned a well fought win. Big thank you to BMW and the City of Greenville for hosting at such a great venue. It was a good start to the competition, and we’ll only get better.”
After powering through the middle leg of the race for the USA, Lachenauer said: “It was a great race for our whole team. We all hammered as hard as we could and Dan and Will just get faster every time they race. Italy was a great competitor and did a great job.”
A total of 291 athletes from 44 countries are competing in Greenville in relay events, time trials, and road races, making it the largest World Championships ever, with 27 participants and six nations more than 2013.
Two years after being awarded the World Championships, the organisers have done their utmost to put Greenville on the world map. It is the first World Championships held in the USA since Utah in 1998.
“At the beginning, we wanted an international competition, but we got the World Championships,” stated Stan Healy, President of Notus Sports, the local company with responsibility for organising the event.
“Greenville will welcome the world, and the world will become better known in the USA thanks to Greenville.”
Having already secured a silver medal, the USA is ready to live up to its status as the host country. Led by their star athlete Jamie Whitmore, Team USA has arrived with 44 athletes.
The UCI Para-cycling Road World Championships will also see a number of the stars of the discipline, including Italy’s Alessandro Zanardi, South Africa’s Ernest van Dyk, Great Britain’s Lora Turnham and Corrine Hall, and the Netherlands’ Alyda Norbruis.
There is more than just a world title at stake here, however, with results also counting towards a place in the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games.