I competed in my first handcycling race yesterday, the Elgin Cycling Classic in Elgin, IL. (I'm out here in the Chicago area for like a week visiting my friends Abby and Shifra.) There were only three people entered in the handcycling division and I finished third, but it wasn't really a disappointment. It was harder than I thought it would be, though.
The race was a criterium, which is a short course around several city blocks. You ride lots and lots of laps along the course (this one was about 1 km long), and the winner is the rider who is ahead after a certain period of time has elapsed (in this case, 40 minutes plus four additional laps). The course was a little hillier than I thought I expected for Illinois, and some of the curves were really sharp for a three-wheeled handcycle. (Regular two-wheeled bikes have a much easier time since they can bank into the turns.) I definitely got better at riding the right line through the curves as the race progressed, and I also got better at finding the right gearing for the hill. About twenty minutes in, I started hitting my knee with the hand crank because my foot was sitting at the wrong angle. To fix the problem I had to yank off my shoe and toss it to Abby on the sidelines. On one lap my water bottle skittered across the pavement as I went around a corner, but the next time around a police officer was holding it out for me to grab back. I got lapped a few times by the leader and once by the second-place guy, but I was OK with it. They were nice guys and gave me some tips on riding better. I'd do it again sometime.