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Training camp draws competitors from the world

September 2, 2017
By David Prenatt - , Westfield Republican

Four years after Corry, Pennsylvania resident Ken Bastine started a hand-cycle training camp based at the Holiday Inn Express in Findley Lake, the event is bigger than ever.

Participants came from as far as Arizona and Florida. Two contingents of eight cyclists each came from Quebec and Chicago, respectively.

What is special about the training camp? All of the participants live with a handicap which impairs their legs. They ride three-wheel cycles that employ a hand-driven crank set for propulsion.

Article Photos

Photos by David Prenatt
At top left, hand-cyclist Paralympic Freddie Delossantos prepares for Friday’s time trial. He is training for the World Championships in South Africa at the end of the month. At right, Rico Morneau is a Paralympic who has competed in China at the Beijing games in 2008. He said he enjoys the hard training provided by the Findley Lake camp. Above, participants in the hand-cycling training camp head down the drive of the Holiday Inn Express in Findley Lake as they begin their ride.

Bastine said that the event draws new participants each year, as well as about 75 percent of former participants, returning. "It's popular because of how hard it is," Bastine said. "It's a real test of intestinal fortitude."

The other cyclists would agree. Some of them come for camaraderie and fun, and some come for the physical training and challenges. This year's group includes at least two Paralympic athletes.

During the five-day camp, the cyclists take many routes throughout the area. On Monday, they rode through Sherman, to Westfield, then reversed direction and rode to North East and back. Tuesday the ride took them to Bear Lake; Wednesday's cruise was through Peek'n' Peak and on to Panama. On Thursday, the cyclists also went to Peek'n Peak; on Friday the riders took part in time trials, then cruise to Panama.

Freddy Delossantos from Fishkill, is a Paralympic who has ridden in the United States, Canada, Europe, and South America. Currently, he is getting ready to travel to South Africa for the World Championships at the end of August.

"I've been having a blast," he said. "I think the climbing and the suffering are the best parts. The more pain we go through, the more we like it," he said with a laugh.

Mike Sprouse who came from Daytona, Florida, also laughed at the difficulty of the rides, but from a different perspective. "I haven't seen a hill in two years, he said, then I come up here and they try to kill me."

Kevin Gnehm from Midland Park, N.J. has been coming to Bastine's riding camp since it started. "It's the best week of the year," he said. "It's a great week to get together with friends and ride bikes. ... I really just ride for fun. This is my main event of the year," Gnehm said.

Rico Morneau, who was with the contingent from Montreal, is also a Paralympic athlete who competed in the 2008 games in Beijing, China. "This was perfect. It is a very hard training camp, but very fun," Morneau said. "We just have a great time, just fun riding, basically. That's why we do it."

The camp is not only about riding, however. Participants enjoy wine tasting, enjoy local attractions and have an event day with the Amish among other built-in social events.

Bastine, whose entire family provides support for the camp, said the greatest reward of hosting the event are the friendships he has gained. "My kids have grown up around people of good, sound character," he said. "Every year, they have new 'uncles and aunts' that look after them. It's a joy to see that interaction."

Bastine said keeping in shape is of particular importance for people with impairments. "Being in a wheel chair, everything is exaggerated if you get out of shape. It's two times as hard to lose the weight," he said.

Bastine said the Holiday Inn Express has been a "fantastic host." Also, Mazza Winery and the French Creek Tavern have provided support, he added.



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