PARALYMPIANS Katie George Dunlevy and Eve McCrystal have added a silver medal to the gold that they won in the Time Trial last Wednesday by finishing in second place in the Women’s B Tandem Road Race in Rio on Saturday night.
Poland’s Iwona Podkoscielna and Aleksandra Teclaw got gold in the women’s race with New Zealand’s Emma Foy and Laura Thompson Laura winning bronze.
The composed duo of Dunlevy and McCrystal put themselves towards the front of the race for the majority of the mountainous course to win Ireland’s fifth cycling medal at the Paralympic Games.
The planned 90km race was cut to 75km following a delayed start due to a crash in an earlier race, in which Iranian paracyclist Bahman Golbarnezhad unfortunately lost his life.
Speaking after winning their silver medal the Irish women were delighted with their result describing a tough race; “It was a really, really hard race, one of the hardest I’ve done. We came into it with the pressure off us but we wanted to win it, we wanted to do well in it.”
The delayed race did not faze Dunlevy and McCrystal who said: “There was no impact really; it was delayed for everyone so we just kept drinking.”
Meanwhile, in the Men’s race, Peter Ryan and Marcin Mizgajski finished 12th in a race that had been animated by an early break by Damien Vereker and Sean Hahessy that had stayed clear for over half the race.
It was altogether until the steep climb, we stayed to the front. Neill told us to ride the climb at our pace. We are not the kind of bike that will respond to attack and repeat attack on the hill, and our own pace happened to match the best climbers. We were just with them – there was a break up the hill, break behind us. We worked well stayed with the Poles on the steep climb, but on the descent she just pushed it too much for us. She’s raced with us enough so she knew if she pushed she’d get a back. We kept fighting the whole way, we’ll take silver.
Vereker and Hahessy retired from the race soon after been caught with the effort taking its toll after the summit of the first climb on the mountainous circuit.
The Men’s B Tandem Road Race was an exciting one, with the pairing of Vereker and Hahessy making an early attack, pulling out a lead of over 1 minute in the opening 15km lap. Over the next two laps they extended the lead marginally, with Ryan and Mizgajski comfortable in the main peloton.
A combination of the heat and effort forced the Irish tandem to withdraw from the competition. Ryan and Mizgajski came home in 12th place in a race that was won by Holland’s Vincent ter Schure and Timo Fransen.
The mountainous terrain led to an eventual finish that saw the bunch disintegrate and riders power home one by one. Spain’s Ignacio Avila Rodriguez and Joan Font Bertoli finished in the silver medal position with GB’s Steve Bates and Adam Duggleby taking bronze.
The earlier crash shortened the men’s race to just under 100km, with 40km of the race taking part on the flat coast road followed by two laps of a mountainous circuit. After the race Ryan and Mizgajski were happy with their performance.
That was just a battle from start to finish, we thought the first 60 km would be a bit more of a procession that it turned out to be, but it was frantic enough. We had the boys up the road so we were trying to help them out as much as we could and get to the front and slow down the peloton. Then it was going from 30 to 60 [kmph] and it was a lot more erratic than I wanted for the first 60km.
Vereker and Hahessy were forced to retire from the race at the top of the climb on the circuit due to exhaustion. The pair had pushed hard to gain a 1min 45 second lead by the time they reached the mountainous circuit, but were caught at the foot of the first climb by a small chase group led by the eventual winners.
The effort to stay with these leaders was too much for the Irish tandem, and they were brought back to the medical centre by ambulance once the race had passed. Mizgajski said: “The first climb down is very steep, we saw the boys at the side of the road they were completely exhausted, we did not know what had happened to them.”
Ryan and Mizgajski pushed on in the mountains riding at a steady pace holding 12th position in a splintered remaining group.
Determined not to lose this position with a trio gaining ground on the newly formed Irish pairing, Mizgajski said: “We heard that three bikes were coming to us on the last climb so we said to each other, we will not let them catch us. No way, we were just here murdering ourselves for the last 30km on our own. No way was someone going to catch us. We just did a crazy descent. The boys behind us couldn’t catch us in the car; we were clocking 90+ on the bends. We said we are here to leave everything, that was our goal, and we didn’t have anything left. We are both really happy, I’m delighted.”
This brings to a close Irish cycling action at the Paralympic Games in what was a very successful Games for Ireland.
Ireland won two Paralympic titles, two silver medals and a bronze, matching the medal tally from London 2012.