Ramona tandem captain leads way for visually impaired

Patrick Nelissen, as tandem captain, waves as he and his visually impaired stoker continue to pedal. Photo/Saskia Gitmans
Patrick Nelissen, as tandem captain, waves as he and his visually impaired stoker continue to pedal. Photo/Saskia Gitmans

By Karen Brainard

As his tandem bike sat unused in the garage, longtime cyclist Patrick Nelissen said he knew he hit the jackpot when, by chance, he discovered a website that was all about teaming up on a bike.

Not only would the 46-year-old Ramonan be able to ride his tandem bike but he saw “an opportunity to give back while having fun.”

“How cool is that?” he asked.

The website was for the Blind Stokers Club (BSC), a group that teams up a visually impaired stoker (rear

cyclist) with a sighted captain, explained Nelissen. Doing so, gives the visually impaired person a chance to enjoy recreational cycling.

The teammates are matched in size and personality and each captain serves as a cycling mentor and coach for his/her stoker, Nelissen said. He joined the club in late 2011, serving that first year as a substitute captain.

This year Nelissen has been riding with 21-year-old Andrew Olivier, who has lost all of his peripheral vision.

Nelissen and his teammate spent a weekend participating in the three-day “Cycling for Sight” fundraiser. They and other teams left La Jolla on a recent

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Patrick Nelissen and his stoker, Andrew, relax after riding 200 miles in three days. Photo/Saskia Gitmans

Friday morning, rode to University of California Irvine, participated in a “cyclo-rally” there on Saturday, and returned on Sunday. The trip was a total of 200 miles.

A systems engineer, Nelissen said he has been riding a bicycle all his life, along with playing sports. In the last five years he has participated in triathlons.

Nelissen explained how he happened to have a tandem bike: “Because I am competitive on the bicycle, my son or wife never wanted to ride with me because I was always riding ahead. I thought that riding on a tandem would solve that problem so I bought one.”

It worked for a while as both rode with him at different times, but as his son, Job, grew older and his wife, Saskia, spent more time playing tennis, the tandem bike sat in the garage, he said.

“That was a bummer because I really enjoyed riding tandem,” said the cyclist.

It was when he was looking on the Internet for a bike part that he came upon the Blind Stokers Club website, www.blindstokersclub. org.

Nelissen’s wife, Saskia, said her husband has a website page to raise funds for the San Diego Center for the

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The teams gather in a group photo after the Cycling for Sight fundraiser. Photo/Saskia Gitmans

Blind and the Blind Stokers Club at www.active.com/donations/fundraise_public.cfm?ckey=cfsbsc2013&key=PatrickCFS&force_a2=y.

   
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