Athletic development specialists dedicated to the art and science of excellence in movement

Kara's World Championship: Part I

The last two weeks has been an interesting time for Pike Athletics and Kara Vatthauer, who competed in the UCI World Para Cycling Championships in Denmark. This was Kara’s first competition at the international level.   The goal going into the races was to learn the ropes of traveling with the national team and gain international experience for future competitions.  

Kara had planned for two races on her slate: the time trial and the road race.  She qualified for both events by winning the road race and by finishing second in the time trial at Nationals in June.  Allan and I were unable to attend as we are not part of the national team coaching staff.  I dropped Kara off at the airport two weeks ago with the advice I give all my athletes leading into major races: Championships are not won by heroic efforts; they are won by smart athletes who stick to a game plan and treat the race like any other.

Upon arrival in Denmark, the first few days were spent cycling very easy.  As is common during intercontinental travel, Kara caught a cold the first day.  Fortunately, she carried plenty of Emergen-C packets and was consistent about taking them.  By Wednesday she was feeling great and ready to go for Thursday’s time trial.  I was able to keep in contact with her via e-mail through her pilot Mackenzie.


That's Denmark...not downtown Tucson.

Unfortunately mid-day, Wednesday we found out there had been an administrative snafu.   The USA’s top visually impaired time trialist had spent 2010 recovering from a broken pelvis and had not accumulated world ranking points.  As a result, Team USA was only allowed one bike in the time trial, contrary to what everyone had been led to believe.  Kara had finished 2ndby 15 seconds in the time trial at nationals and would not make the time trial field.  As national champion in the road race, there was no risk of Kara getting bumped from the start list in that event.

While we viewed this situation as disappointing we did our best to turn it into a positive. I took the approach with Kara that she would have more time to recover for the road race Sunday. Her legs would be fresh while the others riders would have some residual fatigue form the time trial.

Kara’s only race would be one of the last of the entire championship. The next few days were spent going out for easy spins on the bike, corrective exercises, light manual therapy, and watching others compete. The support staff traveling with the USA was great and we were able to e-mail with Dr. Mindy Mar, the team chiropractor, about the work we had done with Kara leading up to worlds.  

Kara also kept busy teaching the team support staff and teammates some of her corrective exercises!  We take pride in teaching our athletes to help themselves; even better when they can help others as well.  Her best story was about putting the Spikey ball under the foot of a handcyclist who had limited feeling in his lower extremities, but did not realize the extent of tactile sensation on the bottom of his foot! 

The ever versatile Spikey Ball...

Kara was very nervous going into the race but kept telling herself it was just another day. The course was 76km and 5 laps. It was narrow, technical and had the familiar cobblestones seen on the professional cycling circuit.  

Cobblestones aren't for the faint of heart!

The field was 22 tandems, the most ever competing at a world championship.  I had suggested to Kara and her pilot they try to stay toward the front of the pack where less crashes tend to happen. Kara said the pace felt fast but she was very comfortable and each lap felt easier and easier. At one point Kara and Mackenzie even took a long pull at the front of the field.

Just past the middle of lap four Kara and Mackenzie were traveling downhill through a sweeping corner around 25-30 mph. Kara heard a pop. I was told either a rock or curb blew their front tire out.  Next thing Kara knew she was on the ground, on a backboard and surrounded by medics that did not speak English.  Her first thought was finishing the race, the next thought was we crashed, the third thought was do I still have my teeth, next was the arm hurts like heck.  

Kara was then transported to a hospital in a village thirty minutes from the race.  In Part II of this summary, we’ll pick things up when she entered the hospital.

Related information

Mission 2012: The Functional Movement Screen and the Paralympic Endurance Athlete

Long Term Athletic Development (LTAD): Paralympic Athlete With an Acquired Condition   


Great article Kara! Thank you

Great article Kara! Thank you for also including a picture of me, I love it :)

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