GREENVILLE, S.C. -- Go ahead and add "World Champion" to Alicia Brelsford Dana's lengthy list of personal achievements.
The Putney woman took first place, along with Poland's Renata Kaluza, at the 2014 UCI Para-Cycling Road World Championships in Greenville, S.C., on Monday. The two led the field of competitors in the Women's H3 Road Race with a time of 1:37:53, more than 7 seconds ahead of third-place finisher Karen Darke of Germany. The race consisted of five laps, covering a distance of 51 kilometers.
Brelsford Dana is the youngest of five children in her family and grew up cross-country skiing, beginning her competitive career when she was 5 years old.
She picked up bike racing when she was 14 and competed in nationals two years later.
But in 1986, when she was just 17, she suffered a fall which paralyzed her from the waist down.
Following her accident, she picked up wheelchair racing and competed in a handful of marathons. Then she discovered handcycles. In 2000, she powered her way across the country, from Washington to Vermont, to raise money and awareness for disability-related causes.
That experience encouraged her to take up competitive handcycling, and in her first season she defeated the reigning female champion in the sport, eventually making her way onto the U.S. Team and competing in Germany in the World Championships in 2001.
In 2002, she became pregnant and spent the next five years raising her daughter, Willa, in their home in Putney.
According to the 2014 UCI Para-Cycling World Championships website, "the event features individual time trial and road race disciplines for men, women and teams. Male and female athletes compete in categories related to defined disabilities, such as amputation/limb loss; blindness/visual impairment; spinal cord injury/wheelchair-users; (and) cerebral palsy/brain injury/stroke."
During the event, which was held Aug. 28 through Sept. 1, "athletes compete in categorized events using bicycles adapted to his/her abilities: traditional or adapted bicycles, tandems, tricycles or hand-cycles."
This was the first time the World Championships had been held in the United States in 26 years, the last being 1998's paracycling event in Colorado Springs.