Shelley Gautier battles elements to impressive fifth place finish in road race

Canadian had best time out of all T1 classification riders

Shelley Gautier powers through the rain during the women's T1-2 road race.  Canadian Paralympic Committee

In the pouring rain at the Fuji Speedway Thursday afternoon, Shelley Gautier mounted her bike and set off in an attempt to achieve her second podium in as many games.

The Niagara Falls, Ont. native won a bronze medal in the individual time trial during the 2016 Rio Olympics. Now, she was competing in the T1-2 road cycling race, a 26.4-kilometre dual classification event.

Gautier finished with a time of 1:24:48, good for fifth place overall.

“I was feeling good – it was very competitive and I was able to take advantage of curves and turns and wet weather and I just love racing in the rain because it doesn’t bother me,” she said. “I was able to do very well.”

The weather certainly bothered other racers, however, as two of the 10 participants, including fellow Canadian Marie-Eve Croteau, crashed out of the race and were unable to finish.

She was not injured.

Out of those who did complete the circuit, Gautier had by far the best time of all three T1 participants, having only been bested by those in the T2 classification. The significance was not lost on her.

“Yesterday, I came in eighth and today I came in fifth, so yes, it’s wonderful,” the 52-year-old said.

According to the International Paralympic Committee, tricycle athletes are divided into either T1 or T2, where athletes use stabilized wheels to increase stability due to balance and coordination impairments. T1 class is allocated for athletes with more significant impairment or muscle loss than T2.

The gap between Gautier’s time and that of the fourth-place finisher, a T2 cyclist, was 17:16, while the gap between fourth (1:07:32) and first (1:00:58) was just 6:34.

In spite of the classification disparity, the Canadian looks fondly upon her experiences.

“I was much more focused,” Gautier said. “Winning bronze is very nice. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to do that this time, but I did really well and I probably did better in my road-racing experience.”

While she wasn’t able to attain one this time, the cyclist in no stranger to hardware, having compiled 24 gold medals over the past 12 years in world championship and world cup events.

As previously mentioned, Marie-Eve Croteau, a T2 racer from Quebec City, also participated in the race, but fell victim to the treacherous conditions and spun out after 12 minutes due to mechanical failure, leading to a DNF. Thankfully, she walked away without injuries.

Both athletes have wrapped up their Tokyo Olympics and will be headed home soon.

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Posted: Sep 2 2021 12:49 pm
Filed under: Cycling News Sports Tokyo Paralympics