This year’s Cornèrcard Cancellara Challenge will also be contested by Heinz Frei and around 20 handbikers from the Para-Racing Team. We asked Heinz Frei, THE legend in Swiss wheelchair sport, about the background.
Heinz Frei, you will start for the first time with your Para-Racing Team and a total of 20 handbikers at the Cornèrcard Canceallara Challenge, just a few hours before the prologue time trial of the professionals at the Tour de Suisse. How did this participation come about?
In concrete terms, the idea and request arose during last year’s Swiss Cycling-Night in a conversation with Kurt Betschart. Basically we like to get more involved in exciting bike races. The goal is a better integration and to show what is possible with a hand bike.
Time trial is a speed discipline. What speeds can you reach with your hand bike?
The best hand bikers contest their time trials with an average of over 40km/h. The distance is normally around 20 kilometres. Personally, this winter I set a best performance, so to speak, as the conclusion of the winter training in the Velodrome Grenchen, by wanting to ride as far as possible within an hour. The result: 40.8km.
In the climbs we are a bit slower than muscle-bound legs, but downhill we can keep up again – I saw top speeds of about 100km/h on my speedometer!
How does a strong handbiker perform against a racing cyclist?
We can certainly have some nice training sessions together. When it is relatively flat, this is what we handbikers like. As soon as it becomes mountainous, differences become apparent. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t also conquer really solid alpine passes…!
Have you already visited the Cornèrcard Cancellara Challenge course? If so, what are the pitfalls you face?
I don’t know the route yet, but I still want to do this homework. It can be decisive which handbike I use – designed for flat or hilly terrain!
The Para-Racing Team is based on the idea that also handbikers should receive optimal support for their races. They have a professional infrastructure, a truck, wheelchair accessible facilities. How strong are you and your team at the forefront of wheelchair sports?
We have certainly broken new ground here. It proves that success can be targeted through innovative ideas and the courage to try something new. But it also shows that the appreciation and interest from sponsorship circles is the only way we can get these opportunities today. A nice development, if I still know the pioneering times of wheelchair sports by comparison…!
What are the highlights of the season for you and your team this year?
I’m still highly motivated, healthy and full of energy, in order to be able to focus on the selection and qualification for the World Cup in South Africa this year.
More information about the Para-Racing Team can be found here.