The sport of cycling is an exciting one that tones the muscles of participants while strengthening their cardiovascular systems. Cycling is an enjoyable recreational activity as well, offering relaxation and fun and providing an inexpensive form of transportation to those who choose to pursue it. Special Olympics Cycling offers all of these things to athletes who become involved in the sport.
Athletes are the very heart of the Special Olympics movement. Athletes who participate in Special Olympics have the opportunity, not only to develop their physical fitness; they build social skills, leadership skills, self-esteem, and become competitive athletes. Participants learn life lessons while having fun, ones that carry over into their daily lives apart from the playing field. They become more productive and accepted members of society.
Special Olympics is based upon the belief that people with intellectual disabilities, through sports, training and competition, benefit socially, physically, spiritually, and mentally. The organization believes families are strengthened and communities are united through understanding people with intellectual disabilities in an environment of respect, equality, and acceptance. The process of participation and observation works to bring people with disabilities, families and communities together. Where cycling is concerned, there are a number of official events available through Special Olympics, ones that are appropriate to each individual athlete's skills and interests:
The cycling facilities involved in Special Olympics Cycling competitions must meet some various standards. The standards are in place in order to ensure the safety of athletes as well as spectators. Enjoyment of the sport is also enhanced through the following standards.
The road the competition is to take place on needs to be in good condition and free of potholes; it must also not be made of gravel. Prior to the race, any gravel, pebbles, or earth should be swept from the road. Sewers Should be covered with a rubber plate, and bales of hay should be placed in front of posts and trees - as well as at curves and turns along the cycling course.
Traffic needs to be stopped while the race itself is in progress and the course needs to be closed to public traffic whenever possible. To facilitate the goal of a safe departure for participants, the start and finish lines should cover the full-width of the course. The width needs to be at least five meters. For the safety of athletes, a one-hundred and fifty meter straightaway, both before and after the finish line must be established. The area needs to be free of both spectators and obstacles. The starting line can be adjusted according to the distance of the particular race.
There is no particular need for specific courses related to individual races; the course may be the same for all races. The layout for the course should be between two and five kilometers long with two-and-a-half kilometers being the optimum length. The course should always be in the form of a loop because, 'out and back,' courses are difficult to control from a safety perspective. The course should also include a slight hill if possible, yet not one that is so difficult that all athletes are unable to complete the course. Para-cycling athletes, as well as visually-impaired cyclists, compete on the rear of tandem cycles with a sighted pilot.
Where Special Olympics Cycling is concerned, not only athletes must wear helmets - Unified Sports Partners and Coaches must wear them as well while they are cycling during either training or competitions. The helmets must meet the safety standards of the National Governing Body (NGB) for cycling in the host country. Cycles need to be inspected before training and competition session to make sure they meet the safety standards of the host country's NGB rules for cycling. If a modified cycle is not covered under NGB rules is to be used, the Race Director must determine if the cycle is suitable.
Adult tricycles, recumbent, or cycles with outriggers are all examples of modifications. Cycles that are not in a satisfactory condition may be rejected by the organizers of the event and an inadequate cycle might preclude an athlete from participation. Cycles also need to be inspected in relation to their suitability by a licensed or certified cycle shop mechanic or mechanic before the first event of the day. Any standard cycle that complies with safety standards is suitable to be ridden in events.
Cyclist are required to keep at least one hand on the handle bars of their cycle at all times, even as they cross the finish line. Athletes are not allowed to use radios in any Special Olympics race. Athletes are also not allowed to use headphones of any kind while they are either training or racing, with the exception of on stationary equipment. Safety is important!
There are more people involved in Special Olympics Cycling that athletes, coaches, and spectators. For example, in competitions there is also a:
Competitions also include two stagers who are in charge of entry numbers, ensuring the correct number placement, bib numbers, matching cycles, and the correct starting lineup. Stagers make sure that if computer chips are used, they correspond with the appropriate registered rider. There are certified medical personnel, as well as a technician who is certified or licensed as a cycle mechanic and has the proper tools.
The, 'Holder,' is a person at competitions who supports riders in an upright position on their bike, preferably with both feet on the pedals, yet is not allowed to push the rider off of the start line. The court marshals stand at every intersection throughout the course in order to keep cyclists on the course, and both cars and pedestrians off of it. There is also a technical delegate.
Special Olympics cycling competitions are offered for athletes of all ability levels, who are placed in appropriate divisions based upon their time of entry or preliminary events. Preliminary races are conducted to determine an athlete's riding abilities; the athlete is then placed in an appropriate division. A time trial is something that consists of an athlete racing against the clock. The use of modified cycles is permitted only in time trial events, and the Race or Event Director will decide of modified cycles and two-wheel cycles will compete together. The decision is usually based upon the course conditions, the number of athletes, as well as the ability levels of the athletes.
Road races consist of mass-start events. Where races on multi-lap courses are concerned, everyone finishes on the same lap as the leader and is given a prorated time, unless the referee decides there is too great a differential in the speed between the athletes on the course. Should this happen, the referee consults with the Event Director, as well as the Rules Committee, regarding the action to be taken. No times are recorded for Road Race Finals, and awards are based on placing only.
Head coaches and delegation members are not permitted to follow the competition in a vehicle or on a cycle unless they have been specifically invited to do so by the chief referee, although coaches can coach from the sidelines. The race is started with either a whistle or a starting gun, and the finish is determined by order of crossing of the finish line. If the course id greater than two-and-a-half kilometers in length, more than a single division can ride on the course at one time; they can start at between one and three-minute intervals. An athlete is considered to have finished the race when their front tire has crossed the finish line.