Canadian cyclists seek Paralympics spots at Pan American Open

The Canadian team at the Pan American Open paracycling championships – set for November 11-18 in Cali, Colombia – is looking to qualify as many athletes as possible for the Paralympic Games next year in Beijing.

"It's the last competition for our riders to score points in order to determine how many we send to the Paralympic Games," said coach Vincent Jourdain. "Canada is currently ranked eighth internationally which should give us about eight athletes."

Individual Canadian riders are Paralympic medallist Jean Quévillon (cerebral palsy), Mark Breton (LC1), Éric Bourgault (LC2) and Mark Beggs (handcycle). There are also four tandems. In the road events: world championship silver medallists Stéphane Côte and Pierre-Olivier Boily (pilot) of Quebec as well as Brian Cowie (B.C.) and pilot Devon Smibert (Alberta).

Quebec riders Daniel Chalifour and veteran pilot Alexandre Cloutier race on the track while Geneviève Ouellet and Mathilde Hupin-Debeurme of Quebec chase Paralympic spots in women's competition.

America and Europe are expected to provide the toughest competition. "Normally this is a Pan American championship and only countries from the Americas compete," said Jourdain. "This year they decided to make it an open event to allow European countries an opportunity to also earn qualifying points for the Games. It should be a very strong competition."

Track events get underway Sunday while the road races start Thursday.

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