March 30, 2017

The 2017 R5-PARA Racing Spring training Camp concluded yesterday with Joseph Matta and I competing in our first 10mile road time-trial, 4k Individual Pursuit and 1k time-trial. Joseph and I began our last day of training camp with a significant amount of training stress in our legs but we were both very committed to finishing up the camp strong and keeping an open mind about our results, considering we had been on the bike every day over the last nine days and averaged over 100TSS points with the exception of two days. 

There really isn't any script here, to this blog post. I typically just write and share my experience. I'm not the greatest writer out there but I feel that I must share this experience with anyone who might want to read it. It's important that I do this so everyone who makes this mission a success realizes the value they add to my life. We call it the 2017 R5-PARA Racing Spring Training Camp but I suppose it's just two friends who are passionate about training and racing tandem bicycles coming together and achieving a pretty cool thing. Heck, I can't drive a car, read a book without some sort of magnifier or audio book, see a person's face and I definitely can't ride a bicycle down a hill at 45mph without putting myself at and others at risk. However, with a fully-sighted teammate, I can indeed ride a tandem bicycle down a hill at 45+mph, compete in a 10mile road time-trial, compete in a 4k individual pursuit and a 1k time-trial all in the same day. 

Several of the race courses and venues are over an hour form my house so without my teammate, I would not be able to race my bike and take this often wild journey if not for incredible people like Joseph Matta and Stephen Pedone for example. Earlier this month, Stephen and I competed at UCI Para-cycling Track World Championships, hammered in The Shootout out in Tucson and over the last nine days Joseph and I planned and executed our own training camp. The training camp was definitely not easy and as I mentioned above, we averaged over 100TSS each day. The significance of this is, without a truly dedicated and passionate tandem driver and athlete like Stephen and Joseph, I would likely sit in my garage most days, turning the cranks while watching YouTube videos of Pro bike racers "live the dream". 

Joseph flew from Houston to Charlotte, however, to make the impossible, possible. What I respect the most is that for Joseph and Stephen, they don't see driving tandem with a visually-impaired or blind stoker as "charity". They truly enjoy training and racing tandem bicycles at an elite level and that is exactly what we have achieved this season, never mind an eye disease, vision loss, or a disability. We are just two dudes training and racing, developing cornering skills, standing accelerations, time-trial pacing on the road and track, experimenting with new time-trial positions, all the while, working together as a team to achieve our mission. 

Is it a very unique experience? Yes, indeed it is. After all, we often have to live with one another for weeks at a time so that we can maximize the amount of training time which is crucial for a tandem race team. It's unique because we spend a ton of time together, which can really test the two riders and for many, they don't pass the test. Fatigue, stress, setbacks, personalities and many other factors can create many challenges along the way and I must thank Joseph Matta for his calm and disciplined attitude. during our training camp over the last 9 days we had our share of challenges. 

We bent the rear triangle on my road tandem after climbing up Mt Morrow during the assault on Mt Morrow. After we climbed into the park, we took a quick photo, grabbed a drink and then descended with the lead group for our inbound ride back to the team van. After we descended, once we hit the first climb, we stood and immediately heard the noise would soon be diagnosed as a bent frame. We limped the tandem back to the van and headed for home. The thing is, we started last at the ride start because we arrived a little late so we spent the entire outbound ride bridging up to the front group. We had just caught the front group before the climb at Mt Morrow and Joseph and I were super stoked about that so when we had a mechanical that dropped us from the front group we were both rather frustrated to say the least. We could have processed that situation in a very different way though, we could have lost composure and made a moderately frustrating situation a complete mess. i will admit, for a moment, I was about to lose it but I quickly realized that, hey, you don't mentally give up! You don't quit just because you don't get the desired result. You keep fighting, you keep driving forward. So, we got back on the bike and launched a bridge back to the front group. When we realized the bike was too wounded to really hammer on, we focused on just finishing the ride and not giving up on the day. Big thanks to Joseph for remaining calm and focusing on the mission. 

During the training camp, Joseph and I watched a documentary about the U.S. Women's Team Pursuit squad who won a silver medal at the Olympics and we both could not help but compare our mini training camp to the extreme grassroots effort the team pursuit squad made during their build to the Games. We drove my Dodge minivan all over the Mooresville, Huntersville, and Rock Hill area . We trained and raced on the Rock Hill Road Course, Giordana Velodrome, Huntersville Business Park and the open road of the Charlotte area. We hammered out intervals, time-trials, mountain climbs and sharpened our skills on the tandem bicycle in preparation for the upcoming race season. 

One other very important component to training and racing tandem bicycles as a visually-impaired athlete is the need to do so with multiple teammates. I can't train or race a standard bicycle without a fully-sighted tandem driver so for a BVI rider to built a pool of Driver's, is very important and maximize the amount of outside training he or she does each season. it is very difficult to do the bulk of your training indoors and then go straight outdoors to the race and expect a positive result. It's not impossible but training outdoors as much as possible sure does help. Having elaborated on that, I want to thank Joseph for demonstrating a very professional attitude towards my commitments I have with Stephen, the other teammate with whom I plan to race with on the road this season. 

For me personally, it's important to keep my commitments to each teammate and maintain an open stream of communication so that R5-PARA Racing functions as a well-oiled machine and hopefully serves as a symbol of resilience. We may never win a race, compete at the UCI level as often as we want or reach the ultimate Paralympic Stage but by focusing on the journey R5-PARA Racing will sure accumulate many amazing memories along the way. I want to again thank Joseph Matta for dedicating over a week of training and racing with me out of my home in Mooresville, NC. Joseph is a young bike racer and tandem driver who will without a doubt continue tohave a very positive impact on the Para-Cycling  movement.  

Joseph and I want to thank Streamline Agency for video editing and capturing the journey in action. Next up: The Assault on the Carolinas and 2017 Para-Cycling Road National Championships.  Rule#1 There can be no victory, if you quit R5-PARA Racing with Joseph Matta 

Rock Hill Road course with Joseph Matta

R5PARA Racing

Rock Hill Road Course

Rock Hill oRoad Course With Joseph Matta

R5PARA Racing

2017 R5-PARA Racing Spring Training Camp

League Racing with Joseph Matta at the Giordana Velodrome

R5-PARA Racing

4k Individual Pursuit and 1k Time-trial

What is R5-PARA Racing?

R5-PARa Racing is an elite level Para-Cycling tandem race team.

The team is built around, Chester Triplett, the "Stoker" a visually-impaired Army Veteran and the "Driver" the fully-sighted teammate who sits in front on the tandem bicycle and is responsible for all braking, shifting and steering.

R5-PARa competes in the U.S. Paralympic Cycling Division and has represented Team USA in three UCI Para-track Cycling World Championships.

The race team also competes in many local, regional and National level competitions as well as international level competitions.

Who is R5-PARA Racing?

R5-PARa Racing is Chester Triplett, a 37 year old visually-impaired Army Veteran and the Tandem Driver Core . Chester is the "stoker", the rider in rear of tandem and the "driver" is the rider in front of tandem bicycle. The driver is also known as "pilot".

It is not uncommon for a bVI (Blind or visually-Impaired) stoker to train and race with multiple Drivers throughout each season.

What are the R5-PARA Rules of racing?

Rule#1 Never quit. There can be no victory, if you quit.

Rule#2 Focus on the Journey. Not Results. Even on your best day, your competitor may have a better day.

Rule#3 Fight and adapt. When life finds a way to knock you down, find a way to fight back and adapt to your new circumstances.

Rule#4 Recovery is not an option. Take a nap. Training and racing punishes the body. so if you want to get faster you have to rest, eat right and take care of your body and mind.

Rule#5 It takes a village. Build a strong support structure of friends, family, and sponsors who believe in your mission. No matter how self-driven you are, you can't achieve mission success, on your own.

What is the meaning of PARA?

PARA means side-by-side or standing along side our fellow able-bodied competitors as we all pursue the highest level of performance and the privilege to represent Team USA on the national and international stage.

The R5-PARA mission also includes, defeating eye disease and vision loss through training and racing the tandem bicycle. To achieve the highest possible level of wellness despite eye disease and disability and triumph in the face of adversity.

To serve as a symbol of resilience through proper nutrition, training and the teamwork required, getting the tandem form the start line to the finish line.

What is Stargardt's disease?

Stargardt disease is an inherited disorder of the retina – the tissue at the back of the eye that senses light. The disease typically causes vision loss during childhood or adolescence, although in some forms, vision loss may not be noticed until later in adulthood. It is rare for people with the disease to become completely blind. For most people, vision loss progresses slowly over time to 20/200 or worse. (Normal vision is 20/20).

Stargardt disease is also called Stargardt macular dystrophy, juvenile macular degeneration, or fundus flavimaculatus. The disease causes progressive damage—or degeneration—of the macula, which is a small area in the center of the retina that is responsible for sharp, straight-ahead vision. Stargardt disease is one of several genetic disorders that cause macular degeneration. Experts estimate that 1 in 8-10 thousand people have Stargardt disease.

Why does Chester Triplett, the tandem stoker, race on a tandem bicycle?

Chester has a visual impairment due to the vision loss caused by Stargardt's Disease and as a result, can not race a standard bicycle.
The tandem driver (or Pilot) is a fully-sighted athlete.

What is Para-Cycling, the Paralympic Cycling division and the Paralympics

The competitions comprise four groups of handicaps (blind and visually impaired riders, people with cerebral palsy, locomotor disabilities and handcycling) and a total of 14 functional categories for men and women in all the age categories defined by the UCI. Riders are placed in the appropriate category in the light of their functional capacity

Para-cycling is part of the Paralympic program governed by the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI). U.S. Paralympics manages the U.S. Paralympic Cycling Team and works closely with USA Cycling and community partners to provide recreational and competition opportunities for Para-cyclists in the United States.

he Paralympic Games is a major international multi-sport event involving athletes with a range of, including impaired muscle power (e.g. paraplegia and quadriplegia, muscular dystrophy, post-polio syndrome, spina bifida), impaired passive range of movement, limb deficiency (e.g. amputation or dysmelia), leg length difference, short stature, hypertonia, ataxia, athetosis, vision impairment and intellectual impairment. There are Winter and Summer Paralympic Games, which since the 1988 Summer Games in Seoul, South Korea, are held almost immediately following the respective Olympic Games. All Paralympic Games are governed by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC).

How can I help R5-PARA?

For the moment, the most straight forward way to help is through financial support. Cycling is an expensive sport, mainly because of the travel to events. All of the support you can manage helps. We are working on our program with some creative ways to contribute, however for the moment contact Chester to discuss.

How are contributions used?

Any sponsorship money or donation is used to offset the cost of coaching, travel, registration, and equipment. R5-PARA Racing travels to many local, regional, national and international events. All in the pursuit of earning an invitation to the Paralympic Cycling National Team, UCI World Championship Team, and the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic team.

Chester Triplett

Army Veteran and stoker for R5-PARA Racing

The Tandem Driver Corps

The R5-PARA RacingTrack and Road Cycling teammates who I have worked with over the seasons

Challenged Athletes Foundation

Grants for disabled military Veterans, made possible through Operation Rebound, a CAF program

The Independence Fund

Non-Profit Organization


Mar 2nd

2017 UCI Para-Cycling Track World Championships

Thu 3/2 - Sun 3/5
8 a.m. - noon
The 2017 UCI (International Cycling Union) Para-Cycling Track World Championships will take place this season in Carson, CA at the VELO sports Center.


Mar 22nd

2017 R5-PARA Racing Spring Training Camp

Wed 3/22 - Wed 3/29
8 a.m. - 9 p.m.
A 2017 Para-Cycling Road National Championship preparation camp.


May 4th

2017 Para-Cycling Road National Championships

Thu 5/4 - Sun 5/7
8 a.m. - noon
2017 Para-Cycling Road National Championships


May 27th

2017 Tennessee Para-Cycling Open

Sat 5/27 - Sun 5/28
8 a.m. - noon
TPO is a Paracycling event for all UCI-recognized paracycling classes plus recumbent classes.