Allison Jones fell in love with bicycle racing the day she saw a man with no hands or feet climb aboard a track bike and race at the velodrome in Colorado Springs.
She had become an accomplished skier by age 14, but she needed something to do in the summer.
“In 1998 the Para-cycling World Championships were here in Colorado Springs,” she said. “I lived a stone’s throw away. My mom brought me down to the races. I told her, ‘This is what I want to do.’ And I learned to ride a track bike before I learned to ride a road bike.”
Jones, now 31 and living in Colorado Springs with her wife, Sara Jarrell, will compete this weekend in the U.S. Paralympics Track Cycling National Championships. The event will be the first major competition held under the new seasonal dome, and will feature fierce competition among elite Paralympians hoping to compete in the 2016 Summer Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Jones was born without her right femur, and at 11 months old she was fitted with her first prosthetic. “It’s like shoes,” she says. “Every six months I had to get new shoes, and I’d get a new leg as well.”
She is preparing to compete in her eighth Paralympic Games where she has won six medals in cycling and skiing. Jones won a gold medal in the slalom at the 2006 winter games, and she captured individual time trial gold on her bike in London in 2012.
“I started ski racing when I was 8 years old,” she says. “I didn’t know about the Paralympics. I just knew I was having a blast. I was out being competitive. I am able to ski against able-bodied athletes and be very competitive until I get to the elite level.”
In skiing and cycling she found freedom.
“Even on one leg, I could anywhere on the mountain I wanted to go. There were no limitations. With cycling I found that same freedom,” Jones says. “It may have taken me a little longer, but I could definitely ride anywhere I wanted to ride. I even climbed Pikes Peak (in the 2010 Pikes Peak Cycling Hill Climb), even though that was the dumbest thing I ever did. But I found those sports more free.… There was nothing restricting me from what I enjoyed doing.”
Tucked in streamlined form, Jones pedals powerfully with her left leg, while her right leg, missing from above the knee, is clipped to a carbon adaptive devise that provides stability and allows her to stand out of the saddle. It all equates to more efficient pedaling and more power transferred to the track.
She’ll compete in the 3K individual pursuit and the 500-meter sprint (time trial) this weekend.
U.S. Paralympics Track Cycling National Championships Schedule
Saturday, Dec. 12, 2015
10 a.m.: Pursuit Qualifying
1 p.m.: Pursuit Finals
3 p.m.: Team Sprints
4:15 p.m.: Awards
Sunday, Dec. 13, 2015
10 a.m.: 500-meter, 1K Finals
1 p.m.: Scratch Races
2:45 p.m.: Awards
Find the U.S. Olympic Training Center Velodrome on the east side of Memorial Park at 250 S. Union Blvd. Get more info at teamusa.org
Cheer the Locals
Allison Jones won’t be the only Colorado Springs local on the track at the 2015 U.S. Paralympics Track Cycling National Championships. Watch for these others:
Ian Lawless, the high performance director for U.S. Paralympics Cycling, said the national championships will include five world champions, including Joe Berenyi, the world champ in kilo and pursuit. All will aim for the coveted stars-and-stripes jerseys worn by U.S. national champions.
How do paracyclists compare to able-bodied cyclists? “To give you an idea, the world record for the kilometer is 56 seconds,” Lawless says. “The paracycling record is only a few seconds off of that.”
With the new dome, the track is expected to be faster. USA Cycling CEO and President Derek Bouchard-Hall says the dome will be a “game-changer” for track cyclists who can now train year-round at Colorado Springs’ higher elevation. He said the 333-meter velodrome may be the world’s fastest and that he expects track riders to come here to make world-record attempts.
Allison Jones plans to again be in the mix. Lawless says her determination to compete and win has been a life-long story.
“Basically her whole life she has had to go up against people with two legs. I think she has the ability to show up and not only do it with one leg, but she has the attitude of ‘I can do it and kick some butt,’ ” he says. “That’s the common denominator among all the athletes this week. There is no [attitude of] We’re doing this because it’s something to do. They’re elite athletes. That is super important. And I think anyone seeing it for the first time will notice it right away.”
by Tim Bergsten