Hills and Skills Handcycling Camp

This was the second year for the OCA’s ‘Hill and Skill’s camp for a group of high performance and developing athletes. This past weekend the camp was held in Collingwood, Ontario with para-athletes Christine Molnar, Craig Millar, Kevin McKenna, Anthony Lue and National Team Member Joey Desjardins. The camp was run by Ontario Handcycling Coach Blaine Betzold and he was joined by coaches Chantal Thompson, Matt Steeve and Brandi Rae.

Blaine Betzold said thanks to great support from the other coaches and effort from the participants, the camp went off without a hitch.

“Considering the situation we’re in with the pandemic and everything, the camp went better than I expected. Everyone took it seriously and really performed to the best of their abilities.”

The training camp was aimed at building short-term anaerobic power and polishing general skills to prepare the athletes for winter base training as well as the 2021 season.

Physical distancing rules prevented the athletes from working on drafting but they were still able to gain valuable experience from the camp including pacing themselves on climbing. In addition to a staggered start group ride, the camp also gave the athletes a chance to complete an unofficial, 10 or 15 km time-trial.

Chantal Thompson commented that the athletes are able to maintain speeds of 30-35 km/h on the flats and with the aerodynamic design of handcycles, athletes are able to reach very high speeds on the descents.

“I’m redlining trying to keep up to them on the flats and getting dropped on the descents. Thank goodness I get a bit of a reprieve on the uphill sections where I can catch my breath.” – Chantal Thompson.

National Team Member Joey Desjardins poses in front of his customized bus.

Joey Desjardins, who was recently nominated to the preliminary athlete list for the 2021 Paralympic Games, elevated the level of the camp by answering questions and demonstrating first-hand the preparation and commitment that comes with being a National Team athlete. Joey’s inclusion in the camp was especially valuable for those newer and developing athletes to recognize the value of these camps as part of the athlete development pathway and understanding that everyone starts somewhere.

Blaine Betzold said that they were able to almost do one-to-one coaching which really made a difference.

“Typically it’s not very often that you can have one-to-one coaching so it was a huge bonus for us. Volunteer support can be hard to find, especially with para because people get kind of nervous but we were lucky enough to have two coaches from a great club in Niagara, Energy Cycling Club and they really want to work with para-athletes. While the focus was athletes, it was kind of a coaching camp as well and it’s not very often we can run these types of camps.”

Blaine said that the camp has been growing in popularity and hopes that they can continue to bring in new athletes and grow the sport.

Thank you to all the athletes and coaches for a successful camp. For more information on how to get involved in para-cycling, please contact the OCA Office or CLICK HERE