Ireland’s Katie-George Dunlevy and Eve McCrystal made it two out of two at the UCI 2017 Para-cycling Road World Championships in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa today, winning the WB Tandem Road Race. In a bunch finish the powerful Irish duo outsprinted Poland to take the coveted World Title; Greece rounded off the podium winning Bronze.
Paralympic Champion and double World Champion Katie-George Dunlevy described a tough course with a finish that suited the Irish: “The hill on the lap made it tough and challenging, this lent itself to slightly negative racing, but that worked for us. The finish suited us perfectly – there was a tight left turn 700m from the line, and the Polish bike flew around the corner first. The gap was big enough, but we were confident and just drove it and passed them.”
With six laps to go, the distance of the race was altered, reducing the laps from fourteen laps to twelve. Pilot of the bike Eve McCrystal described a change in the dynamic of the race at that point: “With six laps to go a motorbike came up to us, and we were told that there were four to go. That call changed the dynamic of the race but we stayed calm and agreed that we would just go for it. We knew that we would be able to win it, but you just never know what will happen in a road race.”
Dunlevy was particularly delighted to win in the Road Race saying: “This is a massive thing. It’s everything I’ve worked for since Rio, but it’s also four years of hard work – and we have come so close to a win in the Road Race before. Road racing is my favourite part – I get such a buzz from it. We worked incredibly hard for this gold medal.”
While the Irish women have dominated the World Cup season this year – with Dunlevy winning with both McCrystal and Katharine Smyth – the season has had challenges of its own: “I’ve been dealing with an injury since April, so at times this year it has been touch and go. I’ve had great support from Neill (Cycling Ireland Performance Coach) and the Sport Ireland Services, but it has been a tough year – every hard session has caused me immense pain, so I’m going to take a bit of a break and recover completely.”
These challenges have made the double gold medal win, and coveted rainbow jerseys particulary special: “I’m going to enjoy this for now. We can’t quite believe it, and it will really start to sink in over the next few days. We are tired now, apart from the racing, mentally preparing for the Worlds takes a lot out of you – but it’s great. It’s just brilliant.”
There’s no immediate rest planned for McCrystal, who now switches her focus to An Post Rás na mBan, the premier race on the Irish race calendar which takes place in Kilkenny from Wednesday 6th to Sunday 10th September: “I’m going straight to Rás na mBan after this and I’m really looking forward to it. There will be no pressure on me, I’d love a stage win, but it really depends on my recovery from today. I don’t get in until Tuesday, and then it’s kids, school runs and Rás na mBan, in that order! It will be hectic, so I’ve taken the pressure off myself.”
Earlier today newcomer Ronan Grimes had the race of his life in the MC4 category – finishing in 8th place, just 32 seconds outside gold. The Dublin based Scott Orwell Wheeler rider was racing at the World Championships for the first time, rising to the challenge. Andrew Nicholson was also competing in this category, finishing 12th in hotly contested race. Colin Lynch was 11th in the MC2 Road Race this morning, finishing with Swiss rider Roger Bollinger.
Also in action were the two male tandems of Peter Ryan and Sean Hahessy and Damien Vereker piloted by Dermot Radford. Both tandems were forced out of the race with mechanical issues. The handcycling Team Relay saw the Irish team of Ciara Staunton, Declan Slevin and Seamus Wall finishing in 9th place.
This brings to a close what has been a hugely successful 2017 UCI Para-cycling Road World Championships which ran from the 31st August – 3rd September, with two world titles being secured by the Irish WB Tandem of Katie-George Dunlevy and Eve McCrystal.