The South African Para-cycling camp was abuzz late yesterday afternoon after World Champion Ernst van Dyk claimed a silver medal in the thrilling H4 hand cycling road race that took place at Brands Hatch motor racing circuit near Sevenoaks in Kent.
Dr. Mike Burns, Cycling SA Director of Para-cycling and Paralympic Cycling Team Manager, shares the events of the day:
“The men's hand-cycling road races produced everything one could wish from the London 2012 Paralympic Games, where the level of competitive cycling is the highest imaginable. The programme was arranged to have the two most exciting races of the day scheduled as the grand finale: the men's H2 and H4 hand-cycling road races.
“Brands Hatch was packed with spectators, the helicopter film crews hovered overhead capturing the action around the race circuit, the support teams were glued to the big screen following the race developments and the commentary provided by Phil Liggett kept the crowd fully entertained.
“The H4 road race, in which Ernst van Dyk participated, was set off first, with the H2 race starting a few minutes later. Under race conditions that favoured the recumbent cyclists, the peloton of H2 riders caught up with the tail-enders of the H4 group within about 15km of the start. In order to prevent a crow’s nest from developing in the event of the two pelotons becoming mixed up, the commissaires intervened and held up the H4 riders until the following group had overtaken them. This neutralised some of the early tactical positioning within the H4 group, effectively re-setting the race to allow for fresh tactics to be attempted.
“As these materialised, the H2 race saw a breakaway group of 5 riders establish about a minute's lead on the next riders, which included South Africa's Stuart McCreadie in 6th place. Riding alone for quite some proportion of the race distance, McCreadie was eventually pipped at the post by the two riders from whom he had earlier managed to break away. Finishing in 8th place (very nearly 6th) is a performance that McCreadie can be truly proud of.
“Not long after the finish of the H2 event, the main bunch of H4 riders entered the final 500m hairpin section of the circuit leading up to the finish line. Van Dyk positioned himself perfectly for a sprint finish coming into the final straight; however, he was to be outdone in this by Paralympic time trial gold medallist Alesandro Zanardi (ITA) who was riding an exceptionally light and aerodynamic hand-cycle.
“Technology certainly played a major part in Zanardi's win; however, he was probably destined to claim the gold medal after a year in which he has notched up some exceptional wins on the UCI circuit. Van Dyk can feel very proud of claiming silver in a race in which no podium places were guaranteed upfront.