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Paralympic Star for Festival of Cycling

Paralympic Star for Festival of Cycling

Beijing Paralympic gold medalist, Paula Tesoriero, will be the headline act in the new SPARC Disabled Cyclist categories within December’s Christchurch’s Armstrong Peugeot Festival of Cycling.

More than 1500 riders, both elite and recreational, are expected for December’s Armstrong Peugeot Festival of Cycling. The two-day event, scheduled for December 6 and 7, features an 80k road ride around the scenic Lyttelton Harbour bays and an exciting inner city criterium around the Oxford Terrace café strip. With the elite racing doubling doubling as a round of the Bike NZ national road series, and the BikeNZ national criterium championship, New Zealand’s best cyclists will be in Christchurch. But so too will be one of the world’s best disabled cyclists.

Wellington’s Paula Tesoriero won hearts across the country when she claimed gold at the Beijing Paralympics, winning the 500m track time trial in a world record time and she is bringing that world-class form to the streets of Christchurch for the Armstrong Peugeot Festival of Cycling.

Tesoriero has entered the event’s new SPARC Disabled Cyclist division. She will race in her LC3 category, which is locomotor (physical) disability of the third level. This is for athletes with a disability on one lower limb, regardless of upper limb disability.

Despite winning Olympic gold, the Wellington lawyer is relatively new to elite cycling. She was born with a rare disease that left her without a lower left leg and no ankle function in her right leg. But she led a normal childhood on the Kapiti Coast, including cycling everywhere like any other kid.

At Secondary School and University Tesoriero took up triathlons and duathlons with friends, competing recreationally as their team cyclist. Her teams regularly won events, with Tesoriero often beating able-bodied riders, which eventually steered her toward serious cycling with the goal of going to the Paralympics.

Tesoriero first came to prominence in 2006 with wins in both the New Zealand and Australian paracycling championships, and then followed that up with silver medals in both the 2006 and 2007 Paracycling world championships. Then, with Beijing just around the corner, there was a hint of greater things when she set a world record for the 500m distance.

Prior to Beijing she dedicated her life to cycling, training 15 to 20 hours a week, travelling to Invercargill once a month for a year to gain experience on the steep banking of international level cycling tracks, and then taking three months off work to train at the Australian Institute of Sport prior to leaving for the Olympics.

The result was the much talked about Olympic gold in the 500m time trial, where she broke the world record but then crashed horrendously as she celebrated in the moments afterward. But Tesoriero also two silver medals in the 3000m individual pursuit and the 25k road time trial despite serious injuries. In the road time trial she was unable to stand on the podium after riding herself to collapse in the Beijing heat.

Tesoriero comes to the Armstrong Peugeot Festival of Cycling to race the national championship events, but also to promote the disabled cycling cause. The Armstrong Peugeot Festival of Cycling will feature the full list of disabled classes for LC1, LC2, LC2, LC4, CP3, CP4, Tandem, Tricycle and Handcycle.

Created four years ago, the Festival of Cycling concept of bringing world class and recreational cyclists together for a weekend celebration of the sport, has been a big success. The event welcomes riders of all age and ability and is hoping to top 1500 entries this year. As well as the SPARC Disabled Section, other special events the SBS Kid’s Mini-Bays and special categories such as new mothers, retro bikes, tandem bikes and Clydesdales, a new category encouraging riders over 100kg.

Racing starts on Saturday December 6 with the 80k Armstrong Peugeot Harbour Ride and 80k Avanti Long Bays Classic, which includes the Bike NZ national series. Starting at McCormack’s Bay Reserve in Redcliffs, the course heads out around Cashmere, Halswell and Motukarara before climbing over Gebbies Pass to Lyttelton Harbour. The course then undulates along the northern bays and through Lyttelton itself, before climbing Evans Pass for a final stretch down through Sumner to finish back at McCormack’s Bay Reserve.

On Sunday December 7, the Armstrong Peugeot City Criterium will bring a taste of European cycling to Christchurch with an exciting morning of multi-lap racing around the inner city’s Oxford Terrace café strip. The event will feature the New Zealand Criterium Championship, but also events for riders of any ability, including a celebrity tandem fundraising race for Cure Kids NZ.

Entries for the Armstrong Peugeot Festival of cycling are still open. For more details: www.festivalofcycling.co.nz

ENDS

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