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Back 3.26.2014

Greta Neimanas Fixes Eyes on TWENTY16

At just 25 years old, Greta Neimanas finds herself to be one of the veterans on TWENTY16 Professional Cycling. It’s a role she embraces in different ways. At the team dinner table, she keeps the conversation lively. During the team’s recent training camp, Greta was the first to grab a multi-tool and help a younger teammate whose brakes needed a quick adjustment after a wheel switch.

PHOTO GALLERY OF GRETA NEIMANAS

On the bike, Neimanas’ drive and accomplishments also serve as a model for younger teammates. She joined the team in 2011, when it was called TWENTY12 – a name that reflected the team’s goal of preparing women cyclists for the London Games. Greta, who was born without a left arm below the elbow, achieved that as a member of the U.S. Paralympic team in 2012. Last year, she took first place at the UCI Para-cycling Time Trial World Championship.

As part of TWENTY16, Neimanas is aiming for the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games while racing a schedule of races for the Team USA Para-Cycling and able-bodied races as part of TWENTY16. Neimanas said both teams play a crucial role in providing her with support and expertise. Andy Sparks, head coach of USA Para-Cycling, is the husband of Olympic medalist and world champion Sarah Hammer, her TWENTY16 teammate. Neimanas also is part of the residence program at the U.S. Olympic Training Center.

A childhood spent knocking around in sports of all sorts prepared Neimanas for life as a pro cyclist.

“I was born without my arm but my parents were like, ‘well, she’s a kid, so she should do kid things.’ And kid things were like swim lessons, and toddler gymnastic classes,” said Neimanas, a Chicago native who now lives in Colorado Springs. “I wanted to do everything my friends were doing. I was lucky enough to have parents who were like, ‘OK, go for it.’ I wasn’t coddled or babied or anything like that.”

Soccer was her main sport in high school, though she wasn’t a star. She dabbled in wakeboarding, skiing, rock climbing, sailing… whatever kept her active. She didn’t lose her sense of humor as she searched for her ideal sport: “I wasn’t very good at gymnastics,” she said. “Doing a handstand I’d just fall over on myself. Maybe that’s not the best option for me, so let me try this other thing.”

When she was 16, she entered an essay contest on the topic “What Ability Means to Me,” sponsored by the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago and the Paralympic Academy Program, and won a trip to the 2004 Paralympic Games in Athens.

“Track cycling was the first event we saw, and it blew my mind,” Neimanas said. “I remember standing at the top of the track looking down at the rail watching people just rip around the track on super skinny tires with no brakes and just full speed on this crazy track…. I knew that I at least needed to try it.”

And it’s been full speed ever since.

Neimanas’ Bike Setup
She uses a prosthetic on her left side with which she holds the handlebars. But she uses one brake and shift lever on the right side set up with a brake splitter. “I can pull both brake calipers with the single lever,” she said. Instead of a front shifter lever, she has a bar-end shifter for the front derailleur plugged into the right side of her handlebars. Her training bike is equipped with SRAM Force 22, her racing bike SRAM RED 22.

Preferred Speed Weaponry
“The Zipp 404 Firecrest is just such a good wheel for really any situation. For me, I’m a little bit taller (5-foot-9) a little bit bigger rider. I can use a 404 Firecrest in almost any situation, whether it’s crit racing, road racing, a windy day, a calm day, a 404 is usually my wheel of choice.” For time trials, she prefers a Zipp 808 Firecrest paired with a Super-9 Disc. She’s been riding Zipp wheels and SRAM components for about seven years. TWENTY16 also rides Zipp bars, stems and seatposts, Zipp Tangente tires and trains with the Zipp 60 Clincher.

Follow @Gretaneimanas and @TeamTWENTY16 on Twitter