By James Costley-White, BikeRadar.com
Tara Llanes has set her sights on winning a gruelling Ironman challenge despite the spinal injuries that ended her successful mountain bike racing career. The former United States of America 4X champion, who now has to use a wheelchair, announced the news on her MySpace page.
"One word. Ironman... I am finally saying it out loud," she wrote. "I am going to try and qualify for the Ironman."
She goes on to say that she not only wants to take part, but wants to win the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii. "I met up with my friend Ricky James months ago and his dad told me that no female in a chair has ever completed the Ironman in Kona, Hawaii, let along won it, so that pretty much made the decision for me," she said. "I want to not only finish the damn thing, I want to win it!
"I am very much at a time in my life that I need a goal and I figure this is a good one. Now there is A LOT of training and preparation involved, and I have been talking to David Bailey a bunch and will be riding with him as well in order to get ready for this. David was hurt 22 years ago and had competed in the Ironman three times. He knows what it takes and knows where I need to be and by when."
Llanes, a Giant for Women Ride Society Leader, also reveals that she has been invited by the US Paraplegic Team to train at the Paralympic Training Camp at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, California.
"I was never invited [to the Olympic Training Center] when I raced mountain bikes, but I am now! Weird how things work, huh?!," she wrote. "Anyway, Aaron [Baker] and I will be able to put in some good training miles while we're there and learn a few things, hopefully."
Llanes suffered a spinal cord injury at the Jeep King of the Mountain race in Beaver Creek, Colorado, in September 2007. She was racing against Jill Kintner in the semi-final when she crashed, breaking her seventh cervical vertebra.
She required seven hours of surgery in Denver Health Hospital to stabilise her, and has undergone further surgery since then.
During her mountain biking and BMX careers she won two US national championships, four World Championship medals and four ESPN X-Games medals.