Editor’s Note: This guest blog was submitted by Claire Aiello, Vice President of Marketing & Communications for the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber.
The Huntsville/Madison County community is excited to announce that U.S. Paralympics Cycling will return to the Rocket City this spring for a second year, bringing athletes from all over for three exciting days of racing. The U.S. Paralympics Cycling Open, presented by Toyota, will take place in two locations in Huntsville April 8-10, 2022.
“Huntsville is honored that these athletes are returning after a thrilling event last year,” said Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle. “They are incredible competitors – we enjoyed hosting them and cheering them on, and we look forward to having them back for another world-class event.”
Last year’s competition featured two days of racing in Cummings Research Park (CRP), the second-largest research park in the nation and fourth largest in the world. We will return there for time trials and road races, but race planners are adding something new for the Rocket City this year: hand-cycle team relays in downtown Huntsville!
This downtown relay is considered to be a “showcase” event, according to people involved in the sport. It will pit nation against nation racing around Big Spring Park. Think U.S. vs. Canada, Mexico and more. There are also plans for a food truck fest that evening, so come out, bring the family and wear your red, white, and blue. We want to have big cheering sections for the athletes that evening and through the weekend in CRP. Let’s show them a big Huntsville welcome!
By the way, no tickets are needed. All three days of racing are open to the public and will be held rain or shine.
Here’s what to expect on the three event days. Times are still being finalized, but this will give you an idea for planning:
- Friday, April 8: Hand-cycle Relays around Big Spring Park, downtown (afternoon/early evening time frame)
- Saturday, April 9: Time Trials in CRP (morning and afternoon)
- Sunday, April 10: Road Races in CRP (approximately noon to 6 p.m.)
Nationally, Toyota is proud to partner with U.S. Paralympics Cycling, and the company will once again present the U.S. Paralympics Cycling Open in Huntsville. We would also like to thank our local event sponsors Toyota Alabama, Raytheon Technologies and Phoenix, along with the Huntsville/Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Huntsville Sports Commission for their support.
“As a proud partner of Team USA and U.S. Paralympics Cycling, we are excited to again extend our Toyota hospitality to the athletes and event staff who will be making the trip to the Rocket City in April,” said Jason Puckett, president of Toyota Alabama. “This event is a wonderful opportunity for the Huntsville community and our Toyota Alabama team members are looking forward to cheering on all the athletes at the U.S. Paralympics Cycling Open.”
The 2021 event was considered a qualifying race for the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020, and was somewhat limited due to the pandemic. This year’s event is a C1 classification, open to international athletes. We expect 150-200 athletes and their families and support teams to attend, including athletes from around the United States, neighboring countries and possibly Europe.
“We are so excited to return to Huntsville,” said Ian Lawless, director of U.S. Paralympics Cycling. “Last April, the entire community welcomed Team USA with open arms and rallied around us as we prepared for the Paralympic Games in Tokyo. This year, we will be eyeing the 2022 World Para-cycling Road World Championships, and the U.S. Paralympics Cycling Open in Huntsville — this time with an international flair — will again be a key part of that journey.”
Many Para athletes who competed in the Rocket City went on to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. A few won medals for Team USA, including Oksana Masters (two golds), Shawn Morelli (gold, silver) and Ryan Pinney (bronze). Masters also competes in skiing and is considered one of the favorites at the Paralympic Winter Games Beijing 2022!
A number of athletes told our staff and volunteers they had an incredible visit here. In fact, Pinney joined us on Feb. 2 to help with the announcement for this year’s event, and shared a great story about Southern hospitality, as well as learning a connection to the Rocket City Trash Pandas from his native Arizona.
The Rocket City @trashpandas name alone grasps most peoples’ attention. But Manager Jay Bell is the reason this Phoenix native (and 2020 U.S. Paralympian) is now a fan.
— huntsvillealcoc (@huntsvillealcoc) February 4, 2022
“We heard several times from the athletes about how friendly Huntsville was,” said CRP Executive Director Erin Koshut. “They said we rolled out the welcome mat, they loved the weather and seeing the ‘green’ in the springtime, because many traveled from colder climates. They also loved the race route in CRP – they said it was challenging and well put together by the race planners.”
Medalist Sports is once again organizing the races. The team has already visited Huntsville to review different areas for race course options and have planning and logistics discussions with City of Huntsville and Huntsville Police Department representatives. We thank all the groups and organizations who are helping us!
Updates & Volunteer Opportunities
Please check hsvchamber.org/paracycling and cummingsresearchpark.com/paracycling for updates in the coming weeks as plans unfold. You can also follow the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber and Cummings Research Park on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. We also need volunteers to help in many aspects – please use this sign-up form if you’re interested and we’ll be in touch soon. We hope to see restrictions eased a bit this year so there will be more opportunities for spectators to interact with the athletes.