Ireland’s Katie-George Dunlevy and Eve McCrystal stormed home with a convincing win in the WB Tandem Time Trial at the UCI 2017 Para-cycling Road World Championships in Pietermartizburg, South Africa today, with a 6 second advantage over Lora Fachie and Corrie Hall of Great Britain who won silver. The Polish pairing of Iwona Podkoscielna and Aleksandra Teclaw won the bronze medal in the 31km race against the clock.

This is the first World Title for the Irish tandem, who are Paralympic Champions in the Time Trial, having also won silver in the Road Race at the Paralympic Games in Rio last year. Earlier this morning Colin Lynch finished 5th in the MC2 Time Trial, within 14 seconds of a medal, and just 31 seconds separating the field.

Speaking after winning the World Title stoker Katie-George Dunlevy described a hard, tight race: “It was really, really tight; a fight to the line. The course was quite up and down, so it wasn’t one that really suited us, but in that fourth lap our strength and endurance really paid off. It was our endurance that brought us to the line!”

While Dunlevy and McCrystal are reigning Paralympic Champions, a rainbow jersey and world title has eluded the decorated athletes to date. Dunlevy said: “It feels amazing. We really wanted this title, our aim was to get those world stripes, we decided that straight after winning in Rio last year. We worked so so hard for this. I’m going to enjoy this moment forever. After winning in Rio it was a hard feat to come out this year and win again, but we are both just over the moon.”

McCrystal piloted the tandem and described a tight race. The Irish women were unaware of their victory after they crossed the line: “After Rio, we immediately decided we wanted the stripes this year. In the World Cups in the run in this year we were winning by 40-50 seconds, but we knew it would be tighter today, and it was a matter of pulling together.

“After the first lap, we were ten seconds down, and going into the last lap we were five seconds up. But at the turn around point, with 3.5km to go, we were three seconds down again! We are long enough together on the bike to know not to panic, so we held our heads.”

In previous races the Irish tandem were particularly strong and successful on flat and fast courses. The 31km Pietermaritzburg route presented them with hills and cross winds, making it a challenging race: “That was a really hard course. It was up and down, quite steep in sections too, with the cross wind playing a factor. It made it difficult to control the bike but we handled it well.”

This pairing has been together for the past three years, and they have mastered the art of good pacing, which is essential in the Time Trial, or race of truth: “Our pacing was really good – we paced it well, and it’s what we do well in TTs. But after crossing the line I said to Katie that I think we got second. Then we saw Neill’s (Cycling Ireland Performance Coach) face and knew we had won the gold. He had us ready for that course, so we knew what to expect. It was fantastic.”

On a tandem the dynamic is different to solo bikes, with the combined effort of the two riders contributing to the performance. In Para-cycling the stoker is the rider with the visual impairment sitting on the back of the bike, with the pilot steering the bike. McCrystal added: “It was such a relief to get the rainbow jersey. I knew that for Katie this was so important. It was important for me too, but it is so important for her as the stoker and the para athlete. On the tandem you are doing it together, it’s not just you that you are letting down, there’s someone else there too.”

Next up for the newly crowned World Champions is the Road Race on Sunday. While relieved to have won a world title, the determined duo are targeting gold again. Dundalk based McCrystal said: “We want to win the road race, we are not going into it to not win. It’s 85km so longer than Rio, with 14 laps and a bit of a hill. There’s no reason why we can’t win, but it’s a road race, so that always is a bit of a lottery.”

Also competing today were the two male tandems of Peter Ryan and Sean Hahessy and Damien Vereker piloted by Dermot Radford. Both tandems raced well over the 31km course, finishing 9th and 11th respectively. In the Men’s MC4 Time Trials both Andrew Nicholson and Ronan Grimes made their World Championship debut, finishing 12th and 13th in a hotly contested category.

The Para-cycling Road World Championships runs from the 31st August – 3rd September, with Irish riders competing on each day.


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