CREATED Jan. 28, 2013
PALM DESERT--Thousands of cyclists will take to the streets in about a week for the Tour De Palm Springs. This year a group of visually impaired bikers will ride with the help of team captains. They're part of a group called the Blind Stokers Club where blind or visually impaired cyclists ride tandem with full sight partners.
"It was a little bit of a shock to wake up and not be able to see," Blind Stoker Club Cyclist, David Kuttnauer said.
Just four years ago, Kuttnauer lost his eye sight. A surgery that was supposed to improve his congenital glaucoma, ended up leaving him blind.
"The first year after that surgery was just kind of complete crisis management," Kuttnauer said.
Then came the painstaking process of re-learning everything. It wasn't long before Kuttnauer found the Blind Stokers Club.
"I needed a physical outlet because when you first lose your vision you don't want to go running down the street because you hit telephone poles and fire hydrants right? So on the back of a bike I can move like I used to move," Kuttnauer said.
"It gives them a chance to share a sport that they enjoy in partnership and team work with their tandem partner and the rest of the club," David White, Founder of The Blind Stokers said.
It's the first year the Blind Stokers Club will ride in the Tour De Palm Springs: 10 teams, 20 riders and about 100 miles.
"The reason we do any adaptive sports is because of what it gives them for self-esteem and connects them with the community," Judy May, Community Relations and Program Director at Incight, said.
The Tour De Palm Springs includes cyclists of all abilities. In total 10,000 riders are set to participate.
"We have people who are in recumbent bikes because they have health issues, back issues and we have tandem bikes. The great thing about tandem bikes is we have a number of blind people who will be riding, so they ride on the back of the tandem and someone who can see obviously will be in the front so they can go out and they can ride 50 to 100 miles," Founder of the Tour de Palm Springs, Tim Esser said.
Few people can ride 100 miles a day, but for Kuttnauer and his teammates, it's just another chance to prove what they can do, even riding blind.
"It gives us something to be proud of and a feeling like we're, not better than, but as good as," Kuttnauer said.
For more information on the 15th annual Tour de Palm Springs, click here