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New ‘chariot’ might help Van Dyk conquer Chicago Marathon again
- Updated: October 7, 2015
By Mark Etheridge
Chicago Marathon champion two years ago, Ernst van Dyk will be looking to unseat last year’s winner Josh George in Sunday’s 2015 edition of the race… and he’ll do so with a hot new racing seat beneath him.
Van Dyk recently parted ways with United States based Team Invacare after a successful 17 years during which he won numerous Paralympic medals as well as a record-setting 10 Boston Marathon victories.
Sunday will see him lining up in his new Honda R&D Sun racing chair and it seems he’ll need every bit of technology available to him as racing is going to frenetic.
‘With all the guys in final preparation mode before they head to Doha, Qatar for the IPC Athletics World Championships I think it’s safe to say that everyone is extremely fit and razor-sharp,’ he told Road to Rio 2016. We’ve got a stacked field including the main man Marcel Hug who won Boston Marathon this year.
‘The racing is going to be fierce with a lot of surges and attacks on the menu. But I still think it’ll go down to something of an old-fashioned bar fight and everything will happen in the last 2km because this course doesn’t really allow anyone to sneak away.
‘In 2013, I won in a tight finish from Kurt Furnley and got third last year in another tight sprint with Josh and Kurt again.’
But there’s no doubting Van Dyk is fired up for the challenge. ‘I’m in very good form and the new chair has been additional motivation for me so I look forward to testing myself against the guys. New York follows shortly after Chicago and after having placed second there for the last two years in a sprint finish I’m very motivated to “lose the race in order to win it” this time. Again it’s going to be a stacked field and they’ll all be coming from Doha directly after completing their track racing.’
Adding spice to Chicago is the fact that it doubles up as the United States’ 2016 Rio Paralympic trials with the top two American finishers in both the men’s and women’s division getting the green light to go to Brazil.
Elaborating more about his association with the land of the rising sun, Van Dyk said: ‘I’ve been with Team Invacare for 17 years since Chris Peterson sponsored me with my first racing wheelchair in 1998. I can still remember how excited I was in my apartment as a student opening the box when it arrived. Together we won several Paralympic medals and road races all over the globe including those 10 victories in the Boston Marathon.
‘Our industry is still very young and very fast evolving with new technologies coming to the front all the time. The versatility of composite materials has opened a whole new box of ideas which we need to explore so that the next generation of Paralympic athletes can raise the bar even further.
‘I’ve come to terms with the fact that I have about five years left in which I can still be highly competitive in the wheelchair marathon while also seeing the amazing athletes coming through and I wanted to take the opportunity to explore some other equipment options before I retire. I took the very tough decision to exit Team Invacare and be on my own after I had their support for so many years. This was not an easy decision.
‘Honda R&D Sun has been working on a full carbon racing chair for several years and they recently took it to market. I’ve been closely following the development of the chair for several years and after Hiroyuki Yamamoto won the Boston Marathon in 2013 using the latest version of the chair I really became interested. A few of these chairs have since then appeared on the racing scene and we will start seeing more and more athletes use them as the technology becomes more accessible.
‘To me the KIWAMI racer represents the epitome of what a racing chair should be. The chair is highly customised to the exact dimensions of the user through 3D laser scanning. The carbon fibre used has a high level of resistance to impact and absorbs vibrations coming off the road surface, so reducing the load on the user. The design optimises aerodynamics and stiffness and these are the important things we have seen the bicycle industry strive towards. I never thought that in my life as an athlete we would have access to this kind of technology.’