Back to the Starting Line

Author Matt Bigos is a U.S. Paracyclist and will be participating in Saturday’s Pro Panel and Sunday’s SLO GranFondo presented by VisitAvilaBeach.com. 13 years ago Matt was paralyzed from the chest down in an auto accident. In 2016 he became the first American since 2011 to win the UCI Para Cycling World Cup Overall Champion. Matt is also six-time USA Cycling Road National and Criterium Champion and is a five-time member of the US ParaCycling Track / Road World Championship Team.

When you’ve done something for going on 10 years, it’s easy to forget why you started. I’ve been racing something since 1993. I was 10 when I started racing motocross, and started Para cycling in 2008. The first time I went to the Olympic Training Center (OTC) in Chula Vista, California I must have looked like a little kid at Christmas! It was one of the most amazing experiences I’d had in my very short cycling career. Fast forward to 2016 and I am an offsite resident at the OTC in Chula and go down a few times a month to train and get massage/sports medical work done.

It’s easy to forget what it all means and how far you’ve come. This past week though I was reminded of how cool it really is and how far I’ve come. The National Paralympic team held a development camp this week at the OTC. This was a very different camp than the one I was tossed into back in 2008. I managed then to talk my way into a prep camp that included most of what would be the Beijing Games team. To say I was in over my head would be the understatement of the year! But I managed to get through it somehow. The camp this week was a much more laid back environment. Most of the athletes this week are rather new to Para Cycling and are still finding where they might fit in. The look on the riders’ face as they realized they were really at the Olympic Training Center was pretty amazing.

I only spent two days with the riders this week, but it was a fun time. The first day was a very mellow day working on things that most people take for granted — shifting, gear choices, proper turning style, etc. But it is fun to see how big of an improvement athletes can make in just one short day of hard work. The second day I rode with them was a time trial. With several years of training on the same roads there is lots of data from athletes training in the area to get an idea where someone might fit in. Looking at the faces of the riders before they started the TT was pretty fun. Some were very nervous, probably not that different from how I looked at the time a few years back. Some said they might puke before even starting. In the end, they all rode great and it was fun to start at the back and ride a few moments along each of them to watch them suffer and remind myself what it was all about in the beginning, having fun!

On the drive home it was nice to get a reminder that sometimes, you have to step back for a moment and think about how far you’ve come. That in the end, it’s all about how much fun you have doing something and about growth. The results don’t always come how we want them to, but if you’re having fun and growing as an athlete and more importantly as a person, I think you’re winning the battle!

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Established in 2010 to bring world class sporting events to the beautiful California Central Coast, the Race SLO family of annual events currently includes the SLO Marathon + Half and Family Fitness 5K (Spring), SLO GranFondo (Fall) and SLO Ultra at Wild Cherry Canyon (Fall ).

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