Ready to Rome-ble

Photo courtesy Kanako Sweet

The Clocktower Classic in Rome, Ga., is one of the most organized races on the United States Handcycling Federation Series calendar. The Paralyzed Veterans Racing Team made a great showing in this year’s event.

You might have heard the famous “Let’s get ready to rumble” from the WWF announcer. On April 28, a Rome, Ga., city commissioner made a play on that tagline when he announced the third stage in the four-stage Clocktower Classic Handcycle race.  A large crowd was on hand to cheer for the more than 25 athletes from across the nation. The Paralyzed Veterans Racing Team, with 12 members from as far away as New Mexico and California, was looking for a win.

The Clocktower Classic began on April 26 with a first-ever prologue race in nearby Cedartown, where team member David Randall took second in what would be the closest matchup of the weekend in the men’s H2 Class between him and U.S. Paralympic team member Matt Updike. In the men’s H3 class, Carlos Moleda came in 16 seconds ahead of Michael Postell.

Friday morning started off with the first stage a 35.5-mile road race. PVA Team member Robert Puckett had a strong day in the men’s H4 class, finishing second with a strong sprint at the finish to get by David Huggins. Moleda again came in first in his class and second overall just ahead of Updike in a sprint at the finish. Josh Sharpe and Geoff Hopkins worked together for much of the race in the men’s H2 class but Sharpe put 10 minutes on Hopkins on the second lap to finish fourth in men’s H2.

Photo courtesy Kanako Sweet

Saturday had two races lined up.  The first one was the much dreaded hill climb up Lavender Mountain.  For many of the racers, this was their first experience at a hill climb. The course proved to be a challenge, and a true sense of accomplishment was expressed by many who were just glad to finish the shortest — yet for most, the hardest — stage. Hopkins had a very good race getting up the climb in 20:30 for a solid fourth in his class. 

Saturday evening brought on the highlight of the series, the criterium in downtown Rome. Temperatures climbed into the 90s by the race start.  Criterium races are similar to a NASCAR race; racers go around a short course with a mass start, and it can get dicey. The race was going at a very fast pace when in turn three, U.S. Paralympic team member Dane Pilon tried to avoid hitting Moleda and crashed, ending his race day early. The wreck opened the door for team member Bobby Puckett to claim the overall lead. Newcomer Keith Winchell also crashed on turn four and was promptly taken to the local hospital for some stitches. Winchell’s bike was damaged beyond repair, but he was fine and will be back in his handcycle as soon as it is repaired. He has already registered for the next big race in Greenville, S.C., on Memorial Day weekend.

Sunday came early for the fourth and final stage, the 10K individual time trial. Racers are staged based on their overall standing in the stage race and start in 30-second intervals. Drafting during the time trial is forbidden, and it is a race against the clock. Hopkins again had a very strong finish, coming in third (17:23). Moleda continued to dominate the H3 class with 16:01.

Best finishers for the series were: Moleda, first place, men’s H3; Puckett, first, men’s H4; Josh Sharpe, fourth, men’s H2; Hopkins, fifth, men’s H2; Jeff Snover, fourth, men’s H3; and Michael Murphy, fifth, men’s H3. 

For information about the Paralyzed Veterans Racing Team, contact Jody Shiflett,


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