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Paralympic cycling is played at national and international championships and at the Paralympic Games, where athletes compete in various disciplines and categories. As in conventional cycling, the main objective is to complete the course in the shortest time possible or to beat the opponent in specific races. But this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to  everything about Paralympic cycling.

There is a set of rules, classes and disciplines within this incredible universe that is Paralympic cycling.

And to help you learn more about it, we’ve created this guide, with everything about Paralympic cycling, including the great promises of medals for Brazil. We also share details about the disciplines and their rules. Read on and get all your questions answered.

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How does paralympic cycling work?

Paralympic cycling is a sport that allows athletes with visual impairments, physical-motor disabilities and cerebral palsy to take part. All are divided into various classes, each adapted to the different needs and abilities of the athletes. Competitions take place both on tracks (track cycling) and on roads (road cycling).

At the Paralympics, athletes can compete on four types of bike: 

  • conventional;
  • tricycle;
  • tandem;
  • handbike. 

Each of these categories corresponds to the equipment used by a group of athletes, assessed according to their type of disability.

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In addition, the men’s and women’s races are held separately;

Types of bike for every disability

One of the main aspects of learning all about paralympic cycling that you can’t ignore is the relationship between the type of bike and the type (and degree) of the athlete’s disability. We’ve summarized this below:

  • Conventional adapted bicycles: this is the equipment used by athletes with mild disabilities.
  • Handbikes: used by athletes with leg disabilities, such as paraplegia and tetraplegia. In this case, the bikes are propelled by the arms;
  • Tricycles: ideal bike for athletes with cerebral palsy. It has two wheels at the back for better balance.
  • Tandem: model used by visually impaired athletes, always with a rider in front.

The tandem is a type of bicycle that fits more than one person at a time. In the paralympic triathlon, for example, this is the model also used by visually impaired athletes;

Paralympic cycling classes

In the Paralympics, cyclists are divided into four classes: H, T, C and E. Each has its own subdivisions.

  • H (H1, H2, H3, H4 and H5): brings together cyclists who lie down on the bike seat. In H5, the athletes kneel and also use the strength of their torso to propel the bike;
  • T (T1 and T2): T1 athletes have a greater degree of disability, are weaker than T2 athletes and both groups ride tricycles;
  • C (C1, C2, C3, C4 and C5): in classes C1 to C5, the lower the number, the weaker the athlete.
  • E: brings together visually impaired athletes.

What are the rules of adapted cycling?

The rules of paralympic cycling are established by the International Cycling Union (UCI) and the International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA) and include aspects related to equipment, the classification of athletes and, of course, the races;

First of all, you need to understand the types of races that can take place. In addition to track and road cycling, there are also subdivisions in each.

  • Individual Time Trial: athletes compete against the clock over varying distances.
  • Single Pursuit: two cyclists start on opposite sides of the track and try to catch up with each other.
  • Road Race: endurance race held on roads.
  • Speedway: short, fast races on tracks.

One aspect that can’t be ignored when it comes to understanding everything about paralympic cycling is the classification of athletes in the categories listed above: C1-C5 (conventional bikes), T1-T2 (tricycles), H1-H5 (handbikes) and B (tandem).

All equipment must be approved by the UCI and suitable for the athletes’ needs.

In addition, modifications to the equipment are allowed, as long as they comply with the established rules.

Classification process

To compete and qualify, athletes undergo a detailed medical assessment to determine their classification category.

Functional tests are carried out to assess the athletes’ physical and functional capacity.

It’s worth saying that these classifications can be reviewed and adjusted as necessary. After all, many athletes can improve their skills by reducing the degree of disability;

Therefore, this re-evaluation is essential for a fair and exciting competition, as well as guaranteeing space for all athletes, regardless of their level of commitment.

How did Paralympic Cycling come about?

Paralympic cycling has its origins in the games for war veterans who suffered amputations and injuries in the Second World War;

Cycling was included in the Paralympic Games for the first time in 1984, in New York and Stoke Mandeville;

Since then, the sport has grown in popularity and complexity, with more categories and classes being added to include a wider variety of disabilities.

All about paralympic cycling in Brazil

In Brazil, the sport is governed by the Brazilian Cycling Confederation (CBC) and began to gain prominence in Brazil in the 1990s, but it was at the Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games that the country began to consolidate its position in the sport;

Since then, Brazil has excelled in various international competitions, thanks to the efforts of athletes, coaches and organizations dedicated to promoting adapted sport.

In 2024, Brazil hosted the Paralympic Cycling World Championships and won two silver medals, with Sabrina Custódia and Lauro Chaman.

Chaman is even a Paralympic medalist, with a silver, and hopes to bring more medals to our country. So let’s cheer on our super athletes!

After understanding all about paralympic cycling, it’s clear that we’re talking about an exciting sport that offers a platform for athletes with physical and visual disabilities to demonstrate their strength, speed and endurance.

With a rich history and a comprehensive set of rules and classifications, this sport continues to grow in popularity and prestige, standing out as a shining example of how adaptability and determination can overcome physical challenges;

Whether on tracks or roads, Paralympic cycling celebrates athletic excellence and inclusion, inspiring spectators around the world.

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