By: Mike McGill, VGM Marketing
[caption id="attachment_3891" align="alignleft" width="313"] Photos courtesy of Adaptive Sports Iowa[/caption]
Bill Bowerman, American track and field coach and co-founder of Nike once said, “If you have a body, you are an athlete.”
Adaptive Sports Iowa was created in 2011 and offers various sports programs for Iowans with physical disabilities. One of these programs is a bicycle team that participates in RAGBRAI®.
The Adaptive Sports Iowa RAGBRAI team was created to support riders with physical disabilities or visual impairments as they participate in the annual bike ride.
“Before moving to Iowa, I rode RAGBRAI several times and noticed that because of the size and complexity of the touring event, RAGBRAI wasn’t very accessible to riders with physical disabilities,” said Mike Boone, founder and executive director of Adaptive Sports Iowa.
RAGBRAI, The Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, is a seven-day bicycle ride that tours across the state. It is the oldest, largest and longest touring event in the world and begins along Iowa’s western border on the Missouri River and ends along the eastern border on the Mississippi River.
[caption id="attachment_3892" align="alignleft" width="841"] The Adaptive Sports Iowa RAGBRAI® team poses for a picture in front of the Missouri River before embarking on their journey across the state.[/caption]
In a typical year, over 15,000 riders pedal their bikes on highways across the Hawkeye state. Along the route, bicyclists ride 400 miles through around 50 communities, overnighting at eight different towns.
For the Adaptive Sports Iowa team, Mike Boone and his volunteers prearrange temperature controlled and accessible accommodations at the overnight town. They also arrange for volunteers to pilot tandem bikes for teammates that are blind and provide a 12-week training program for hand cyclists.
Other amenities provided to the team include volunteers that ride the route and a support crew of vehicles that transfer wheelchairs and other essential equipment to the midway point so riders can spend time off their bike.
“Most of the towns are rural communities of populations less than 1,000 so accessibility is a challenge for riders with disabilities,” said Boone. “Our mission is to break down any barriers for our riders so they can experience the ride like others.”
The 2015 RAGBRAI route was 462 miles long with a total climb of close to 16,000 feet – over three miles. Adaptive Sports Iowa team rolled off 80 strong with riders from 12 different states and one from Italy.
“We are very visible and you can sense people’s perception of those with disabilities change when they see our riders every day – pedaling the same route as everyone else,” said Boone. “Riding a bike 462 miles across a state is a daunting task for anyone and I’m not certain many of the riders could pedal that far with their arms alone.”
[caption id="attachment_3893" align="alignleft" width="271"] Adaptive Sports Iowa RAGBRAI team member Nick Bassett meets a new friend at one of the pass-through communities.[/caption]
“At first, the other riders cheered on our team and almost had sympathy for us,” said Adaptive Sports Iowa team member Nick Bassett. “By the end of the first day, we are seen as a legitimate team of riders just like everyone else.”
Bassett, 23, has scoliosis, a condition worsened by a benign spinal tumor. As one of the team veterans, Bassett loves taking to the road with his handcycle.
“This is my fourth year and every year I look forward to riding with people like me,” said Bassett. “The Adaptive Sports Iowa team provides us the opportunity to participate and ultimately succeed.”
There are many sights, sounds and smells along the annual bicycle ride across the state, but for one week, riders for Adaptive Sports Iowa feel liberated. “Riding gives me a sense of freedom. It’s cleansing and I feel as if I have no cares and no worries,” said Bassett. “No matter how hot the day or how big of a hill, I still feel like I’m free.”
VGM Forbin is a proud sponsor of Adaptive Sports Iowa. For more information about their organization, visit them online and like their Facebook page.