The world is coming to Greenville this weekend for the UCI Para-cycling Road World Championships, which start Thursday.
The international race will bring 300 athletes from across 40 countries to the Upstate for a competition of strength, will and top-notch ability.
Athletes will compete in handcycling relays, time trials and road racing events that run Thursday through Monday.
The event officially kicks off this evening with a Parade of Nations and an opening ceremony at the TD Stage at the Peace Center at 6 p.m. Other events will be held at the Millennium campus at Interstate 85 and Laurens Road.
“What we’re doing here, it’s similar to the London Paralympics,” said Stan Healy, president of Notus Sports and a senior administrator with Greenville Health System. “This is going to bring Greenville exposure to the world, and the world will have exposure to the U.S. through Greenville.”
After the U.S. Pro Cycling Championships moved to Chattanooga last year, Healy began working toward bringing “a bigger event” to the area. Initially, he said, he was looking just for an international race, but “we got the world championships.”
Para-cycling is a cycling competition for athletes with physical disabilities. It is one of the events that make up the Paralympic Games. The championships here in Greenville represent the first time the event has been held in an American city since 1998.
Paracyclists are classified according to level of disability and the type of bicycle they ride — traditional or adapted, tandem, tricycle or handcycle. The athletes competing in this week’s events have a range of impairments from limb loss and visual impairment to spinal cord injury and brain injury or stroke.
Aaron Trent, a local Greenville resident and a member of the Greenville-based Roger C. Peace Team, will compete in the men’s road race Sunday.
Trent, 28, has cerebral palsy, which affects the limbs on his left side. He got into cycling about seven years ago at the age of 21. He fell in love with the sport, but assumed, as he put it, “any chance of being an international or professional athlete had sailed at that point.”
But since getting involved in cycling, Trent has proved a force to be reckoned with. He is a two-time medalist at the Para-cycling Track World Championships.
Trent competes in able-bodied racing as well, but para-cycling has given him the chance to compete on a world stage.
“It’s also really cool to be part of the Paralympic movement, because a lot of times a disabled kid looks at sports as something that is for somebody else,” he said.
“But with Paralympics there is a realization that it’s not just for people who look like Greek statues. It’s just a good way to be healthy and compete if that’s what you want to do.”
The Para-cycling Road World Championships offer a number of opportunities for the public to watch. For a full list of events, times and locations, visit www.greenvillesc2014.com.