Campus Life

Texas A&M Hosts US Paralympics Cycling On The Road To Paris Summer Games

More than a quarter of the athletes competing in Bryan were military veterans, many of whom suffered injuries during combat deployments.
By Lesley Henton, Texas A&M University Division of Marketing and Communications April 8, 2024

a racer on a handcycle
An athlete competing in time trials during the U.S. Para-Cycling Open at the Texas A&M-RELLIS campus on Saturday, April 6, 2024, in Bryan, Texas.

Laura McKenzie/Texas A&M University Division of Marketing and Communications


The U.S. Paralympics Cycling Road Open brought more than 50 elite athletes from across the nation to compete at the Texas A&M-RELLIS campus this past weekend, hosted by Texas A&M University and the City of Bryan. The two-day competition was the selection event to qualify for the European leg of the 2024 UCI Para-Cycling World Cup season, eventually aiming to compete in the Paralympic Games in Paris this summer.

The annual event has been hosted by several communities around the country, debuting at RELLIS in Bryan for its fifth edition. Paracycling is a high-performance sport in which people with vision impairments, cerebral palsy, amputations and other physical impairments compete in road races internationally on bicycles, tricycles and hand cycles.

More than a quarter of the paracycling athletes competing in Bryan were military veterans, many of whom suffered injuries during combat deployments.

Ian Lawless, director of Paralympic Cycling, U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, traveled from Colorado Springs for the event.

“It’s been amazing to see how this whole community has come together to put on a world-class event,” Lawless said. “We have over 200 volunteers supporting — all sorts of people from City of Bryan, from Texas A&M, and people from the RELLIS campus, specifically, who really opened the campus up to us to have an amazing course.”

City of Bryan Mayor Bobby Gutierrez gave out medals to top finishers in each racing classification.

“It’s very inspiring, emotional too,” he said, noting the challenges that the athletes have had to overcome to compete at such a high level. “Hearing about this opportunity to host, we were all in … Hopefully, they’ll want to come back; this is the perfect place for an event like this and I love to see the community out here.”

Dr. Lisa Colvin at the race speaking to a staffer
(right) Dr. Lisa Colvin

Emily Caroline Sartin/Texas A&M University Division of Marketing and Communications


A Promise Kept

Dr. Lisa Colvin, clinical associate professor of kinesiology and sport management at Texas A&M, was a driving force behind bringing the event to RELLIS. She handed out stuffed toy replicas of Reveille to those who won a medal. Reveille herself attended the final awards ceremony.

“When I was hired at A&M two years ago, I had a crazy big idea to bring para-athletics to Texas A&M,” Colvin said. “It’s a community that’s underserved, they compete at a very elite level and manage the challenges of everyday living. This is one way that we can make their lives better.”

Colvin spoke with the School of Education and Human Development in the days prior to the event about a personal reason for her work with para-athletics: her former graduate student at University of Louisiana-Monroe Warren Strickland was a hand-cyclist who died in a training accident. She said she “whispered” a promise into his ear while he lay in the hospital on life support that she would carry on his legacy by bringing a para-cycling event to her community one day.

“That whispered promise is now a reality,” she said, tearfully, during the final race on Sunday. “He used to say, ‘keep calm and let’s go.’ Today I can feel like a pat on my shoulder and him saying ‘great job, let’s take it further, let’s go!”

Para-cyclist Cody Wills, from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, who took first place in the men’s H2 hand-cycling event said he was pleased with race setting at RELLIS. Wills was paralyzed in an accident during a 2011 motocross race and since 2019, has had 15 first-place wins as a para-cyclist.

“This is super,” he said, “It’s accessible, everything is really clean, and everyone is so nice. Just the whole environment — it’s been really fun to come here.”

Student Volunteers

Many of the day’s volunteers were Aggie students, who helped with planning and setup and were stationed at various points along the raceway ringing cowbells, a tradition in cycling to cheer on the racers.

Three members of the Corps of Cadets’ Ross Volunteers were on hand in dress uniform to welcome athletes, staff and attendees. James Guandolo ’25, a computer science major from Dallas, said it was “a blessing to get to come out here, meet the athletes and just see the amount of athleticism.… It’s incredible the work and discipline that they put into this.”

white cowbells with an A&M logo, handed out to spectators to help root on the athletes
Spectators at cycling events traditionally ring cowbells as racers pass by, as the bell sound is easier for the athletes to hear than shouts or applause.

Laura McKenzie/Texas A&M University Division of Marketing and Communications


Simultaneously alongside the event, students from the College of Engineering’s Meloy Engineering Innovation and Entrepreneurship Program, participated in “Aggies Invent: Para-Athlete.” In just 48 hours, engineering students were challenged to develop adaptive technologies with the goal of helping para-athletes compete more effectively. Students participating in Aggies Invent, Texas A&M’s intensive design competition, came to visit and talk with some of the para-athletes. Read more from the College of Engineering.

Additional sponsors for the 2024 U.S. Paralympics Cycling Road Open included Texas A&M University Office of the President, Department of Kinesiology and Sports Management in the School of Education and Human Development, the Division of Student Affairs, the Texas A&M-RELLIS campus, Office of the Chancellor and Texas A&M University System. And thanks to the following community sponsors HydroMist, Physicians Premier, KS College Station Tent & Event, ErgoWell Solutions, LLC, PepsiCo, CR Texas Fuel and Lube, Texas Made and Texas Tea.

View race results here.

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