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Cyclist readies for Paralympics, with help from friends

Local cyclists came out in force Sunday to support Bagels for Bosco, a fundraiser for Upland phenom Samantha Bosco, and her attempt to medal at the Paralympics next month in Rio de Janeiro.

To help pay for travel costs and other expenses, 42nd Street Bagels agreed to give Bosco 20 percent of sales during Sunday’s regular hours, and a steady stream of fellow cyclists braved the summer heat to help send her to Brazil.

Just inside the front door, Bosco stood out in her team USA jersey and matching bib shorts. She chatted breezily with supporters as employees took orders and delivered food. She estimates the trip will cost about $7,500, so events like this really help. There is also a Gofundme account, www.gofundme.com/boscotorio,

Bosco was born with a posteromedial bow of the tibia and a calcaneal valgus foot, which required many surgeries and resulted in her right leg being an inch shorter as well as limited movement in her foot. To compensate, she cycles with a special cleat and uses pedals that allows more rotational movement. She qualifies for the Paralympics as a C5, which is lowest level of disability.

Bosco and her husband Andrew are regulars at 42nd Street, so owner Fred Zitar and his manager Pamela Gamboa knew they had to do something.

“When we found out she made the Olympic team, well that was something special, and I told Pamela we have to do something,” said Mr. Zitar who has owned 42nd Street for seven years.

“We like to be involved in this community,” he said. “We [his family] have been here 40 years, our four kids went to Claremont schools, this is a great place.” Similar events at 42nd Street included one recently for the animal rescue Priceless Pets.

Bagels for Bosco raised about $600 from 42nd Street, plus she collected several direct donations including $500 from team Impact Racing.

The team brought an oversize check and posed for a photo with Bosco in front of the restaurant. One of the team’s members, Philip Board of 1 on 1 Financial, said he had sponsored other teams in the past, but it seemed like the money just went to covering racing expenses and at times the accounting was less than stellar.

The team’s name reflects their goal: to have an impact. “We give half of the money back to charity, [including] people like Sam,” said Mr. Board.

An Alaskan native Bosco was drawn to cycling at an early age.

“When I was younger my dream was to race mountain bikes and travel the world but after my surgery I lost that dream,” she said. “After those surgeries I thought racing bikes was long gone,” said Bosco while taking a break from Sunday’s event.

According to her official bio: “I was transitioning into road racing [at age twelve] just before surgery was scheduled to break my right tibia and attach a stretcher device.” “Before the surgery, my parents surprised me with a new road bike, something to look forward to riding with equal legs. I never got to ride that bike, however, since surgery didn’t go quite as planned.”

“I spent the next several years on crutches and endured multiple procedures and surgeries to try to correct the complications. I had to re-learn how to walk. In the end, I’m left with muscle atrophy, bone-on-bone at the ankle, low ankle flexion, low bone density, knee, hip and foot pain, scarring, and my legs are still off about an inch or so.”

With cycling out of her life she took up rowing at University of Central Florida but had to quit after a couple of years because of knee pain. Recuperating again and living with her parents in Florida there was a bike path nearby and her father set up an old bike so she could get some exercise. The bike was too big but she was hooked again, and was training full time before long.

“I am very passionate about cycling and when I am passionate about something I give it everything I have,” she said.

She raced her first UCI para-cycling event in 2013, winning the road race, and became a member of the US Paralympic Cycling national A team. Bosco placed third in the time trial, racing against the clock, at the World Championships in 2013 and 2014; won the road race at the 2015 ParaPan American Games and placed second in the 3K individual pursuit on the track. In four world cup championships she earned one bronze, four silver and one gold medal. She is currently the U.S. National Para Cycling Champion in the time trial, road race and criterium.

She prefers time trialing because it’s all about power, whereas road racing is more about strategy. “I like to suffer,” she said.

She is not concerned about the Zika virus, which has made headlines leading up to the games. “Before every Olympics there are bad headlines, it doesn’t matter if the buildings aren’t built or mosquitoes carrying Zika, they’re only going to showcase the bad,” she said. “I bought high Deet bug spray for the trip. There is always risk when traveling, even if you travel in the States there is always the chance to get sick.”

Bosco will leave for training camp in Colorado Springs August 7, and then on September first she and her husband Andrew are off to Rio. She will compete in two track events, the 3k individual pursuit and the 500-meter race. She will also compete in the road race and the time trial.

“We did not have a lot of time [to prepare] and I knew I wanted Andrew to be there with me in Rio, he will be the only one there for me,” she said.

—Steven Felschundneff

steven@claremont-courier.com