Name: Monica Bascio
Birthplace: Massapequa, NY
Birthdate: September, 1969
Hometown: Ridgewood, NJ
Resides: Evergreen, CO
Racing Classes: H3 (Cycling), LW11 (XC Skiing)
Major Sporting Accomplishments:
Wheelchair athlete of the year: 2000
World Champion, IPC Handcycling Time Trial: Altenstadt Germany 2002
5-time winner, Sadler’s Alaska Challenge: 2000,2001,2003,2004, 2006
3-time Paralympian: Torino 2006 / Vancouver 2010 / London 2012
15-time U.S. Handcycling Champion
6-time U.S.S.A. National XC Ski Champion
Silver Medal, Paralympic 5-kilometer Test Event: Whistler Olympic Park, 2009
2nd Overall, IPC World Cup of Skiing: 2009
Gold Medal, UCI World Cup Time Trial: Segovia, Spain 2011
Gold Medal, UCI World Cup Road Race: Segovia, Spain 2011
Gold Medal, UCI World Cup Time Trial: Baie Comeau, Quebec 2011
Gold Medal, UCI World Cup Road Race: Baie Comeau, Quebec 2011
Overall Winner, UCI Para-cycling Road World Cup: 2011
World Champion, UCI WH3 Para-cycling Time Trial: 2011
World Champion, UCI WH3 Para-cycling Road Race: 2011
Silver Medalist, WH3 Time Trial: 2012 London Paralympic Games
Silver Medalist, WH1-3 Road Race: 2012 London Paralympic Games
Monica Bascio was always a natural athlete, and played many sports while growing up in New Jersey as the youngest of eight children. After high school, Monica moved to Santa Cruz, CA where she learned new sports and spent many weekends skiing in the Sierras. In 1992, Bascio went skiing with some friends near Lake Tahoe and crashed while navigating a small jump. The accident exploded her 12th thoracic vertebra, severing her spinal cord and resulting in complete paralysis from the waste down.
After her inpatient rehabilitation at the Kessler Medical Center in East Orange, NJ, Bascio returned to Santa Cruz to rebuild her life and re-learn to perform here daily activities from a wheelchair. Monica’s confident and positive personality rendered her disability a mere “blip on the radar” as she set about to meet new goals, including obtaining her degree as an Occupational Therapist from San Jose State University.
In 1997, Bascio was living in Santa Cruz and preparing for her final exam to obtain her Occupational Therapy certification. She was also looking for a way to get in shape and exercise outdoors with here then boyfriend, Ian Lawless. Lawless — a former bike racer — did some research and purchased a handcycle for Bascio. At that time, handcycles were relatively new but the designs were rapidly changing and it was a perfect way for Monica to train regularly and improve her fitness and health.
The inaugural handcycling National Championship was announced the following year, and Bascio took part in the events — which were held as part of an existing USA Cycling race in Duluth, MN — and managed to finish 2nd in both the time trial and road race events. She made the team for the IPC World Cycling Championships in Colorado Springs that Fall, but could only participate in the time trial as her OT exam conflicted with the road race date. She finished last among the women, but it was enough to inspire Bascio to train harder and develop herself in to a racing cyclist.
Over the next five years, Monica became the #1 ranked handcyclist in the world and won more 30 races, including a world time trial title in 2002, multiple U.S. national titles, and the toughest race on earth: The 267-mile Sadler’s Alaska Challenge, which she won five times. As the newest part of the Paralympic Cycling program, handcycling had not yet made an appearance at the Paralympic Games, but Bascio was excited to learn that it would be a part of the 2004 games in Athens, Greece. Although handcycling was indeed included, there would be no race for the women, which was a huge disappointment for Monica who was the top woman in the world at that time.
As she had done in the past, Bascio readjusted her focus in order to remain positive and stoke her competitive flame. After moving to Colorado in 2002 when Lawless took a new job there, she began cross country skiing (sit skiing). With her endurance sports background, Bascio was a natural and she focused on the sport wholeheartedly after the news she wouldn’t be attending the games in Greece. She won a silver medal at her first international event in Quebec in 2003, and made the U.S. National Team for the 2004 season. She was the best placed American sit skier at the 2006 Paralympic Games in Torino, Italy where she finished 5th in the 10k, and also finished 4th in the Sprint biathlon.
Monica continued to handcycle, but only as cross-training for skiing. She took half of the 2007/2008 season off to give birth to her son, Henry, but planned to race the last World Cup race of the season in Norway. After a dedicated return to training to prepare for the event, Bascio arrived in Norway feeling fit and ready to race. But it was not to be, as Bascio slipped transfering in to the team van following a training ski the night before her first race. She awoke that night with a fever and a very swollen left leg. A trip to the hospital in Oslo revealed she had broken her tibia and fibula and would be out for the rest of the year.
The broken leg proved to be a double whammy for Monica, as it was announced that there would indeed be a women’s handcycling event at the Paralympic Games in Beijing later that year. Although the leg was technically healed by the time of the Paralympic Cycling Trials in June, Monica did not have enough training hours under her belt to be competitive. She raced and performed well, but — as expected — her pace was no where near the standard needed to make the team. With the Paralympics in Beijing off the table, Monica refocused her efforts on skiing, and she won the bronze at the Paralympic Test Event — held at the Olympic venue in Whistler’s Callahan Valley — in March of 2009 and managed to finish 2nd overall in the IPC World Cup of XC Skiing that same year.
For the Winter Paralympics in Vancouver, Monica trained as much as possible, albeit with a different priority than in Torino now that she had to juggle her training time with being a Mom. The teams from Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Canada were ramping up their preparation — as well as their funding — for the Games while the head coach of the U.S. Team quit at the end of the 2009/10 season, leaving the athletes on the team without a coach, training plan, or any travel and training funds. Monica arrived in Vancouver well-prepared, but not optimistic about the team’s podium chances: “The fields are big for the Paralympic Games and everyone is well-prepared…I think we had no chance against the Eastern Europeans and the Canadians.” said Monica following the games. Monica performed well, finishing 9th in the 5k and 10th in the 10k. She was the only American to advance to the semi finals in the sprint, where she wound up 8th.
With two Winter Paralympic Games behind her, Bascio contemplated retirement altogether at the end of 2010, but a change in the governance of Paralympic Cycling got her attention: The UCI – the governing body of Professional Cycling, including the Tour de France – took over management of Paralympic Cycling. This meant that Paralympic cycling would truly become integrated and therefore become a bigger, better, and more organized platform for athletes with disabilities. The UCI immediately implemented a revised classification system in order to level the playing field among the competitors. The new system broke down the handcycling athletes in to four categories based on functional ability. Monica would now be classed as an H3 racer, and would race against athletes with a similar level of function and ability.
With a new-found inspiration for cycling, Monica called her long-time sponsor, Invacare Top End, and ordered a new, state-of-the-art handcycle and began training in the Fall of 2010. By the time the snow began to melt in Colorado in the Spring of 2011, Bascio had put in a lot of hours on the bike and optimized her position to match that of the women she would be racing against during the upcoming season.
Spring 2011: Bascio raced two early season races in Quebec and finished 2nd in both, giving her a boost of confidence. Something still needed some tweaking however, so Monica hired Allison Powers as her coach. Powers – one of the top U.S. domestic Pro cyclists – clicked well with Monica right off the bat, and helped her dial in her training utilizing a power meter and designing specific workouts to help Monica peak for her first World Cup in Segovia Spain.
Bascio arrived in Segovia in May, very fit and ready to race. Her hard work paid off with a win in the time trial, just ahead of Paralympic Gold medalist, Rachel Morris of Great Britain. Bascio narrowely missed another win in the road race, with Morris outsprinting her in the final 200 meters. “I miscalculated her strength at the end…” said Bascio following the race. “I thought she was dropped, but she came back and got me at the line.”
Monica continued her training through early summer, and won her category at the World Cup in Baie Comeau, but was unhappy with her form citing that the H2 riders had finished ahead of her in both races. “I should be faster than the H2 riders…I’m feeling strong, but not fast.” Despite this, Bascio claimed the overall UCI World Cup title and things were falling in to place for the upcoming World Championships in Roskilde, Denmark in early September.
In August — after some more tweaking of bike position, gearing, and some adjustments to the training regimen with Powers — Bascio raced at the Tour of UT and at the Quiznos Para-cycling Challenge in Colorado (part of the USA Pro Challenge), with a stop at the Fort Collins Bicycle festival races in between. In all, she raced seven days in August, which she felt prepared her well for Worlds. “It’s important for me go through my race preparation, put the number on, and get the kinks out…that’s what I did in August, and I think it really helped.”
By the time Monica arrived in Roskilde, the stars had aligned. She would end up winning won the time trial by :25 over Switzerland’s Sandra Graf, with Morris missing the podium behind the Kiwi Susan Reid. In the following day’s road race, Bascio — who was clearly peaked — pushed the pace early on and shed all but Graf and her Swiss teammate, H2 rider Ursula Schwaller. Despite the Swiss duos best strategical efforts, Bascio proved strongest in a very close sprint, timing things perfectly and edging out Graf for her second individual World title in as many days.
As Monica returned home to Colorado for a winter of cold weather riding, cross country skiing, and time with her family…she was relaxed after one of her best seasons ever.
2012 Season details on the way…but the most important part: Monica won two silver medals at the 2012 London Paralympic Games!