Ernst is in a New York state of mind after Chicago win | SASCOC - SASCOC

Ernst is in a New York state of mind after Chicago win

Ernst van Dyk’s nail-biting win in the Chicago Marathon at the weekend has set the stage for a crackerjack clash at the New York Marathon next month, writes Mark Etheridge.

Our veteran Paralympian has enjoyed a great 2013 with medals galore on both the hand-cycling and wheelchair circuit.

Last week he won the Rolling Rampage 10km in Canada and followed up with a hair-raising sprint finish victory against Australia’s Kurt Fearnley in the Windy City. The Chicago win went some way to making up for being beaten into third by Fearnley at the London Marathon earlier this year.

Van Dyk firmly believes his win in Ottawa did as much good in the mental aspect as in the physical realm. “It gave me a level of self-assurance that things were coming together as planned,” he told Road to Rio 2016 on Tuesday.

Clearly the fact that he’s only been “back in the chair” for five weeks since he ended his hand-cycling campaign with two silver medals at the IPC Road Cycling World Championships in Canada was playing on his mind.

“Yes, I was worried that I wouldn’t have enough time to get the specific fitness and sharpness in place but it turned out that I was really strong after an intensive cycling season. So things came back to me quickly.”

Chicago had a deep, quality-filled field with a big pack (see right), making for the possibility of things going bump on the ride. With this in mind Van Dyk went off hard from the gun. “I kept on attacking for the first 10km to get some of the guys into the red. At halfway we were still nine in the pack but I could tell that some guys were in trouble.”

The fact that there were some stiff headwinds made it easier for the guys drafting at the back of the bunch. With this in mind Van Dyk and course record holder Heinz Frei of Switzerland put in a series of surges to keep the race honest.

“We managed to trim the group down to just four of us. We changed the leads and kept up the pace.”

And so, to the final stages. “With 500m to go there’s a small bridge and then┬á sharp left turn and then just 200m to the finish,” explains Van Dyk. “Kurt is arguably the best climber in the world and he went hard and gapped us but, to my surprise, I was able to push back to him and actually pass him on the hill.

“I took the final turn in the lead and just went for it. He quickly moved up next to me though and we sprinted side by side. I was able to throw in one more acceleration right before the line and got him by one metreÔǪ sweet revenge for London!”

Back to New York where the world’s best wheelchair racers will once again mix it up. Van Dyk has long said that New York is the toughest marathon in his opinion. “Kurt has made it clear that he’s going for the win. I may not be the best climber but now I have a bit more confidence after Chicago and I’m hoping to carry that through to New York.”