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          Hand cyclist pushes himself to excel

          Small but dedicated group heads to final time trials this season at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

          All Greg Taylor ever wants to do at the Carolina Cycling Time Trials is beat his own personal best record. Thanks to a new bike and some mid-summer surgery, he's pedaling faster than ever.

          The 58-year-old Charlottean is one of a handful of participants who ride a hand cycle, a three-wheeled, low-lying vehicle powered by hand, in the Carolina Cycling Time Trials. The group competes in its own division in the annual series, held at Charlotte Motor Speedway, which concludes its 2010 season on Wednesday.

          The Time Trials are hosted by the Carolina Cycling Time Trials Association, which was founded in 2004. Its season consists of six time trials that run from May to September.

          Riders score season points by how they finish in each time trial: 20 points for first place, 18 for second, etc. Taylor won the hand-cycling division in 2004 and 2005.

          Ironically, the first time Taylor rode a hand cycle, he said he'd never ride one again. He was in the early stages of rehabilitation after suffering a 1994 mountain bike injury at Renaissance Park that left him without use of his legs and with limited use of his hands.

          "That's a tricycle, not a bicycle," Taylor said he felt at the time.

          "The hand cycles I had been on (years ago) were not suited for going out on the road."

          Several years later, Taylor found a new hand-cycle design that he liked and he started riding again to improve his fitness.

          "I rode a lot of miles on the road (before the accident)," he said. "So it was nice to get on the bike again."

          Now an 11-year hand-cycling veteran, Taylor was involved mostly with charity rides before he started with the Time Trials seven years ago. He won the hand-cycling division points championship in 2004 and 2005.

          Taylor is a regular on the Adaptive Sports and Adventures Program's Cycle to the Sea, a three-day fundraising ride from Charlotte to Myrtle Beach.

          This year, for the second time, Taylor participated in the 24 Hours of Booty cancer research ride, as did Megan McCauley, a 25-year-old who bought her first hand cycle almost a year ago. McCauley is just three years removed from a four-wheeler accident that left her with a broken back.

          Taylor, McCauley, and 70-year-old Rod Spence are among a group of friends who train together at a business park in Huntersville. Spence's injury, which left him without use of his legs, has some similarities to those of his friends. Like Taylor, Spence, a one-time triathlete, was involved in a mountain bike accident, and like McCauley, he broke his back.

          All three are gearing up toward their final Time Trial on Wednesday.

          Before this season, Spence said, he regularly got the best of Taylor when they compared their times. But Taylor's new cycle has allowed him to cut considerable time off his ride.

          At the Time Trial's second event this season in June, Taylor's time in the seven-lap, 10-mile ride around Charlotte Motor Speedway was 39 minutes, 37.07 seconds. After his July surgery, which relieved nerve decompression in his right arm, Taylor has set personal records in each of his two most recent Time Trials.

          Taylor's best time is down to 36:48, which he set on Sept. 1. Spence's personal record is 35:20, which he set a couple of years ago.

          "There's always someone you want to beat," said Spence. "I've always been able to beat Greg but he has a new bike now, and he's putting more effort into it. Now he's beating me. I'll be out to beat him next time."

          McCauley established her personal best time of 40:30 during her first time trial in May. She has participated a couple times since then but didn't make the last Time Trial on Sept. 1 because she was just coming off a previous commitment with her main adaptive sport.

          In late August, McCauley participated in the Duke Energy Disabled Water Ski National Championships in Danville, Ind., where she earned a silver medal in the trick skiing competition.