Van Dyk closing in on Paralympic goals at Canadian World Cup

2011 hand cycling road race world champion Ernst van Dyk competed in the 3rd and final leg of the UCI Para-cycling World Cup series in Baie-Comeau, Canada on Friday and Saturday.

The venue of the World Championships in 2010 and the World Cup final in 2011, the Canadian city in the province of Quebec is a popular destination for the discipline’s major international competitions.

Friday afternoon’s competition was dedicated to the time trials raced over one, two or three laps of the 8.64km circuit, depending on the sporting class. Van Dyk’s H4 Hand cycling class raced 2 laps for the time trial, totalling 17.3 km.

Van Dyk shares his highs and lows from Canada: “I selected to come here to test a new bike set-up on a course similar to what we are racing in London, under racing conditions. After we tested the Paralympic course at Brands Hatch at the end of June it was clear that the course requires a very specific bike setup in terms of gear selection, crank length, wheel choice and tyre selection.

“I’ve made all the adjustments I thought necessary and wanted to test them here, in Canada. It was also very important to earn some more points to improve my overall world ranking. The world rankings will determine the starting order at the Paralympics in the TT and after losing the bronze medal in the TT at the Beijing Paralympics by a mere second we have learnt how important the starting line up in the TT is, as the riders in the back get the time splits of the riders in front of them to pace off.

“The course in Baie-Comeau is the same course we raced on at the World Cup final in 2011 so it’s also a good opportunity to compare how we have improved since last year. Unfortunately very few countries turned out for this event and in the H4 division, only Oscar (Oz) Sanchez (2011 TT world champion) and myself turned up. Conditions were cool and windy for our TT.

“I had to start first with nobody in front of me with Oz going one minute after me. I’ve been steadily improving my TT in the last couple of months and at the last world cup in Spain, only 36 seconds separated me from world champ Oz. In 2011 Oz beat me by 1min 50sec on this course when I finished in 3rd place. After the race was done today, Oz finished 34 seconds ahead of me in the results. I’m ecstatic as this is a massive improvement from 2011 and this year I’ve been steadily narrowing the gap on Oz.

“What got me even more excited is the fact that he made all his time on the first lap of the 2-lap race and our times were on a par for the second lap. This can be attributed to an error in our warm up timing as I was on the start line 15 minutes before the start as instructed by the commissaries, and Oz showed up two minutes before his start all warmed up – a good lesson learnt for us! I also improved my time from 2011 by almost 3-minutes over the 17.3km course!

“As we have not really started the high intensity training yet the results are good and a confirmation of the data we have been collecting in training. With 9 weeks to go topped up with a training camp in Switzerland before heading to London, things are looking very good and I should arrive in London in the best possible form.”

Van Dyk’s road race the following day did not go according to plan when he crashed out of the race. Going into this world cup round, Van Dyk was ranked number two in the world in this aspect of hand cycling, a mere 3 points behind Sanchez. A win for Van Dyk would have meant a number one finish in the series, but it was not to be.

Van Dyk had a break with Mark Ledo after Sanchez had a flat tyre on the first lap. With a two-minute lead on the third lap, Van Dyk’s brake cable snapped on a fast downhill section of the course, as he was approaching a 90-degree turn at the bottom, smashing straight into the curb resulting in an exploding front wheel on impact.

“The impact sent me flying out of the bike,” said Van Dyk. “I 'bounced' on the pavement and ended on a patch of grass. I lost a bit of skin and bruised my legs where my seat strap snapped as I was thrown out of the bike. Besides the wheel, there is no permanent damage and I'll go for a ride in the morning.”

Summary of Results – Men’s H4 Time Trial – 6 July 2012

  1. Oscar Sanchez (USA) 00:27:47.21
  2. Ernst van Dyk (RSA) 00:28:21.86 +34.65