If you are a serious bike racer or a fan of this sport, it just may be that you are familiar with the name of an amazing ex-competitor turned race organizer Tara Llanes. What you may not know, especially if you have never heard her name pronounced, is that Tara’s last name sounds like “yaw-ness”.
Tara Janelle Llanes was born on November 28, 1976 in West Covina, California. She competed as an American “Mid School” Bicycle Motocross (BMX) racer in 1990-1993. She became a champion Mountain Bike (MTB) racer. She competed in her first race at the young age of 11 in 1988. In 1996, Tara turned professional in Mountain Biking. She had hoped to compete in the 2008 Summer Olympics with the US BMX team.
Tara Llanes has had an impressive career as a competitive racer. What kind of a mindset is needed to be as successful as she was prior to her paralysis? To get to know the pre-injury Tara, the web allows public access to her blog entry in which she mentioned her arrival at Beaver Creek and what she thought of the course.
Professionally, Tara held many titles. Nationally, she was the National Off-Road Bicycle Association’s (NORBA) 1995 Junior National Downhill Champion, 2002 Dual Slalom National Champion, 2002, 2004 U.S. National 4-Cross Champion, 2006 National Downhill Champion.
In USA Cycling, she held the 2006 National Championship title. In Professional/Elite Women category, Tara was the 1999 Biker X Winter X Games Champion (Gold Medalist) in the ESPN Extreme (S) Games. For Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), Tara held several titles: 1999 Bronze Me1999 Bronze Medal Dual Slalom World Cup Champion, 2000 Silver Medal Dual Slalom World Cup Champion, 2001 Bronze Medal Dual Slalom World Cup Champion, 2000 Dual Silver Medal World Champion, 2001 Dual Bronze Medal World Champion, 2001 4-Cross World Cup Champion, 2004, 2005 4-Cross Bronze Medal World Champion, 2004 4-Cross Silver Medal World Cup Champion, 2006 4-Cross Bronze Medal World Cup Champion.
Tara’s paralysis was a result of a 2007 Jeep King of the Mountain race in Beaver Creek, Colorado. Tara hit an obstacle which threw her over the handlebars of her bike. She landed heavily on her head and back. She was taken to Vail Valley Medical Center and then airlifted to Denver Health Medical Center. A team of spinal cord specialists worked on her for seven hours. Despite her surgeons’ best efforts, Tara suffered a below-the-waist paralysis that is believed to be permanent.
Tara did not disappear from the bike race scene post-injury as is evidenced by her support of the Tara Llanes Classic. For the first time since her career ending in-competition injury, the organizers of the Tara Llanes Classic (TLC) announced that 2013 will not realize this competition. In May 2013 at a press conference, Tara announced that she was sorry that the Tara Llanes Classic competition would no longer continue. To Tara, the TLC raised over US$125,000 for spinal cord injury rehabilitation and research. The TLC competition was not just a race, but an “unwavering love and support” from everyone who had a part in its success.
Despite the TLC no longer continuing in 2013 and afterwards, it should be noted, however, that Tara herself promises “big plans ahead” and that she looks forward to sharing them with her fans. So make sure you are tuned to her website and Facebook page if you want to stay on top of the new things to come. Meanwhile, we wish Tara Llanes and her loyal fans the very best of 2014!