Handcycling 2011 World Champion Ernst van Dyk came out of nowhere to scoop a victory by the narrowest of margins at the 2012 Melbourne and Beaches Music Marathon held in the USA on Sunday 5th February.
The Melbourne and Beaches Music Marathon took place in East Central Florida, and offered a running marathon event but while the roads were closed, the organisers held a bicycle and handcycle race after the runners had finished. The 26-mile-long course (approximately 42 kilometres) offers great straight aways and challenging bridge climbs and drops.
Ernst is a regular visitor to Florida at this time of the year, as this is where they manufacture his new race bike for the season.
One would think Ernst was feeling in peak condition on Sunday, but this was not the case: “I had a bit of a cold, which takes it out of you and I wasn’t feeling my best, so I stayed at back of the pack and did not attack. Normally I am right at the front, setting up attacks and commanding the pace. Close to the finish line, I came through and put in a massive sprint, giving it everything I could and I won the race. So it worked for me on the day!”
The final sprint was extremely close, with Van Dyk winning by a mere half a bike length and recording the same winning time as second placed Dane Pilon from Fayetteville, North Carolina, and third placed Joel Jeannot from Boulazac, France. The winning time was 1 hour 10 minutes 04 seconds.
“It was really close at the end,” said Van Dyk. “There were four of us on the finish line together!”
Ernst races on a Top End handcycle, a bike that he imports through his own company and distributes in South Africa. “I have a new race bike built every year,” continued Ernst. “I did not win the race on my new bike as they are still manufacturing it. It is something special, made of carbon and aluminium and has a steep price tag of about R 120,000.00.”
Although equally competitive in the wheelchair cycling discipline, Ernst will be focusing purely on handcycling in the 2012 Paralympic year. His next big race will be the Cape Argus Pick n Pay Cycle Tour, where he has set a target of breaking 3hrs 15 minutes. Then he is off to Durban for the SA National Para-cycling Champs at the end of March.
Ernst’s international calendar includes the all-important UCI World Cup races, visiting Rome, Spain and Canada as he heads towards his final preparations for the Paralympics in London, early September. He will participate in both the road race and time trial events.
“I was impressed with my TT time in Florida,” said Ernst. “I was able to beat the American who placed 4th at the 2011 World Time Trial Champs, and I clocked my best power output and average speed!”
1 Ernst Van Dyk (RSA) 01:10:04
2 Dane Pilon (USA) 01:10:04
3 Joel Jeannot (FRA) 01:10:04
4 Mark Ledo (CAN) 01:10:27
5 Chris Peterson (USA) 01:10:35