CHRISTIAN Ashby says the cheers from friends, family and the whole town in Buninyong were amazing as he raced to a bronze medal in his para-cycling debut.
The road trauma survivor said Cycling Australia Road National Championships were a great learning experience among incredible athletes.
Ashby rode out strong in the men’s C2 division but a younger rival burned away with two kilometres to go. Decorated South Australian para-cyclist Darren Hicks, an above the knee amputee, was in powerful form for gold.
“Darren told me I went out pretty hard but to me it didn’t feel hard. I just started riding how I always do,” Ashby said. "To ride with him , the person he is, and to speak with him was amazing...This was a matter of getting out there, having a go and being active.”
Ashby was now keen to improve on race tactics. Lake Health Group physiotherapist Peter Steggall introduced Ashby to the concept three months ago.
Ashby says para-cycling debut about moving forward in life
ROAD trauma survivor Christian Ashby is preparing to make his nationals cycling debut less than three years after the accident that changed his life while riding Lake Wendouree.
Ashby will ride in para-cycling title races in Buninyong this weekend for Cycling Australia Road National Championships.
He does not consider what he is setting out to do as inspiring, no matter what people tell him, rather this is about getting on with life. And learning to love the bike again in the process.
“It’s been good to have a sporting purpose again,” Ashby, a former triathlete, said. “The support’s been mind-blowing. Training-wise, the hours I am doing are probably the same, but I’m a lot slower and can’t ride to the same capacity I used to...I’m doing what I loved again.”
Ashby still acutely feels the lingering physical pain after being knocked off his bike by a car and left fighting for his life while on an early Good Friday morning ride. In an induced coma for 10 days, Ashby awoke to initial concerns he would never walk again.
One of Ashby’s biggest hurdles has been trying to conquer the mental fear he has about riding back on the road. The bulk of his training was done indoors but gradually, his rehabilitation team at Lake Health Group helped Ashby to the road, picking him up from his house and flanking him on rides.
Lake Health Group practice manager Kerri Gordon has also lent Ashby a lighter bike for the championships.
“The first few times back on the bike, I thought this was not for me. I was not enjoying it,” Ashby said.
I’ve been learning to get through that, and it’s helped my confidence, knowing not every car out there is likely to knock me off my bike.
“I know most drivers out there are really courteous.”
A training ride up Mount Buninyong on Thursday was Ashby’s first time cycling up the notoriously tough climb in three years.
Ashby will climb the mount four times in his road race on Saturday.
Competitive by nature, Ashby is keen to test how he might measure up against like-ability athletes but his main goal is to get out there and give his best.
Opening ‘para’ potential: a classifier’s aim
CHRISTIAN Ashby says para-cycling titles are more than a race, the championships are a show of “phenomenal humanitarianism”.
Ashby is preparing to make his Cycling Australia Road National Championships debut, less than three years after he was knocked off his bike by a car and left fighting for his life.
Competitive by nature, Ashby has looked up his rivals and found South Australian Darren Hicks, who has a leg amputation, is posting similar times to what Ashby used to ride as a triathlete. The process of becoming a para-athlete has also opened Ashby’s eyes to a whole new sporting world of possibilities he did not realise was out there.
Lake Health physiotherapist Peter Steggall suggested Ashby consider para-cycling and work to nationals.
“I know my injuries are quite bad and chronic but I didn’t have any idea what para-cycling was and I didn’t realised my injuries were enough to qualify me to be a para-cyclist,” Ashby said.
The aim of a classifier is to ensure athletes compete against others with like impairment, strength and ability. Para-cyclists compete in different divisions on tricycles, handbikes and standard road bikes.
Standard bike classifications, C1-5, are for athletes with limb loss or limb deficiency, cerebral palsy, nerve damage or other similar physical impairment.
Steggall, an Australian Paralympic Committee cycling and rowing classifier, initially deemed Ashby a C2. The assessment floored Ashby, who had thought his injuries would rank more on the lower end of the scale with C5 competitors. An independent classifier reached the same assessment.
Being a classifier has taken Steggall across Australia and Asia and there is pressure to get it right. He will be watching competition closely on Saturday morning to determine if he might have been a bit hard on some athletes, or if others had perhaps “turned it on”. Athletes like Ashby are what Steggall loves most about his role.
“To get an athlete like Christian, with so much potential achieving something and competing is amazing,” Steggall said.
Para-cyclists are highly competitive people. They are out there to be the best.
When athletes come to a team, it brings something new to their life. You can seem them develop confidence. Travelling internationally for sport does this too. I encourage people to get out there and watch them in Buninyong. Para-athletes want to be seen.”
What para-cycling classifications will be see in Ballarat?
Tandem: for visually impaired athletes, guide rides at the front.
C1-C5: athletes with limb loss or limb deficiency, cerebral palsy, nerve damage or other similar physical impairment. Athletes compete on a regular road bike.
T1-T2: athletes with a physical impairment who have cerebral palsy or impairment that affect all four limbs and use a tricycle to compete.
H1-H5: athletes with spinal cord damage (such as paraplegia or quadriplegia), limb loss / limb deficiency in the lower half of their body, or a similar. H1-H4 athletes compete on a recumbent handcycle and H5 athletes compete on a kneeling handcycle.
Para-cycling road races at Buninyong start Saturday, 9am.
Time trials, also from Buninyong, are on Monday and Tuesday.
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