“We’re definitely a strong contender and a strong force. We expect to be on the top. That’s definitely my agenda.”
Editor's Note: Prior to November’s Parapan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) is counting down the top 10 storylines to watch. Today, at No. 6, we feature Oz Sanchez and Monica Bascio of the USA’s Para-Cycling team.
The USA’s Para-Cycling delegation enters next month’s Parapan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico, safely in the driver’s seat.
It is coming off a first-place performance at the UCI Para-Cycling Road World Championships in September. Several of its team members have already qualified for the London 2012 Paralympic Games. And, being that the Parapans are a regional event, many of the American athletes’ biggest rivals from Europe, Oceania and Asia will not be next to them at the starting line in Guadalajara.
“It sort of puts things at ease,” said Oz Sanchez, who is unbeaten in the handcycling Time Trial (H4) since the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games.
But that does not mean the Americans will take it easy in Guadalajara. Instead, they will use it as the starting point for the build-up to London 2012, according to Sanchez and teammate Monica Bascio.
“I’m super amped for the Games and looking forward to being a part of the Guadalajara event and checking it out and doing well,” Bascio said. “I’m looking forward to starting the next 10-month prep for Paralympic gold.”
The USA Para-Cycling contingent in Guadalajara from 12-20 November will consist of 16 athletes and two pilots, including nine riders who won medals at the Road World Championships in Denmark.
Both Bascio and Allison Jones won two gold medals apiece in Denmark – one in the Time Trial and one in the Road Race.
Bascio took a few weeks off after returning from Denmark until she resumed training for her first Parapans with her personal coach about 30 miles West of Denver, Colorado.
“Given all of the information that we’re receiving from our coaches, it’s like a mini (Paralympic) Games. It definitely looks like it’s on that calibre and in pretty large scale,” she said.
Bascio, a Paralympian in Cross-Country Skiing, will use November’s competition as a kick-start to gain momentum heading into the final training stretch before her first Paralympic Summer Games. She is not participating in the Nordic Skiing World Cup this season so that she can devote all of her time to Para-Cycling.
She said the American Para-Cycling squad is already ramped up for next summer, and that it will potentially field the strongest women’s team ever.
“We’re definitely a strong contender and a strong force,” Bascio firmly stated. “We expect to be on the top. That’s definitely my agenda.”
Sanchez, from sunny, cycling-friendly San Diego, California, will be pushing that same agenda on the men’s side.
Despite winning two golds in Denmark in September, Sanchez will not use Guadalajara to relax, even without the presence of rivals Ernst Francois van Dyk of South Africa and Norbert Mosandl of Germany.
Because the competition in London will be even stiffer, he insists.
“The same performance that, say, would have won a race for me in the last year or the preceding years definitely wouldn’t have cut the mustard the succeeding years,” Sanchez said.
“As long as you’re not sitting around eating a bag of Cheetos everyday, you’ll be alright,” he joked.
But, in seriousness, while he does not like to break down the details of his mileage, he always finds several methods to keep fresh.
“There are individuals that believe that cycling alone is the best practice, but I myself incorporate a heavy amount of weightlifting, especially in the offseason, in order to make sure that I’m not reaching plateaus,” Sanchez said.
He spends an hour a day, four times a week in the gym, in addition to swimming and stationary rowing.
(If you are still wondering, he clocks 100-200 miles per week on the bike.)
The Parapans could be a little extra special for the full-time government employee, who is of Mexican descent and has family near Guadalajara.
“That actually hasn’t crossed my mind,” Sanchez said.
“But now that you mention it, I guess I’m going to have to make some phone calls to see if they’ll show up.”