It was a double victory for Canada in the 7th GEZE Tyne Tunnel 2K International in North East England on Thursday 2nd October. Josh Cassidy and Diane Roy took line honours in the event described as "bizarre, barking mad but totally unique", by Dame Tanni Grey Thompson.
The race starts at the Tunnel's south end with a 100m sprint to the entrance portal. Within seconds, muscle power alone takes the state-of-the-art racing chairs smashing through the Tunnel's 30mph speed limit and reaching up to 50mph on the 1km downhill run to the belly of the river Tyne - the 1996 course speed record stands at an unbelievable 47.6 mph. Then it's a shoulder-burning, lung busting, 1km straight up killer climb to the finish line."
This year's grid included Beijing 5000m multiple pile up survivors and silver medal winners; GB's Shelly Woods and Canada's Diane Roy. Italy's Francesca Porcellato put in her fourth appearance. The men's line up boasted, Josh Cassidy - Canada, Ralph Brunner - Germany, Raphael Botello - Spain, and GB's Mickey Bushell, Brian Alldis, Tushar Patel, Karl Nicholson and Jason Gill.
All front liners got of to a flying start but in the men's race it was the heavier Brunner who broke away on the downhill free-coast. Tucked down like a cycle time trailer he was 150m ahead at the half way mark. The lighter Cassidy then had his chance to pull back. Cassidy is an excellent climber and with his arm stroke pumping one and a half times to Brunner's once, he was able to catch the German and take him as they emerged from the North end portal and power to the finish line.
"I had a slippery start in the rain last year and came fourth. Although the downhill was faster and the uphill was tougher than I remembered, I put last year's experience to good effect. I knew if I got a good start and could hit a higher downhill speed, I could strike back at heavier athletes on the uphill. I did it and I can say I won one of the toughest races of my life".
Cassidy's time was 4minutes 42.4 seconds, Brunner's; 4.38.4 and third place Briton, Tushar Patel's was 4.42.6. 18 year old Mickey Bushell who took a silver medal in the T53 100m in Beijing finished in 6th position.
In the women's race, it was the streamlined Canadian, Roy who accelerated down the hill first. This was Roy's second visit to the Tunnel. She knew what to expect and showed no signs of nerves. She hit 39mph on the downhill which is fast for a lightweight female. She puts her speed down to her smooth rolling chair, aerodynamic position and 'no fear'. "I never touch my breaks and just go fast - 62kph, I think" , she said. "It was fun but the climb was very tough. You saw, I could hardly lift my arm to salute as I crossed the finish line. Roy's time was 5.19.7.
Britain's Shelly Woods finished second in 6.03.2. Woods admits she finds the phenomenal downhill speeds a little worrying. "I am always a bit slower down the hill. My strength is my climbing and I did make up a lot of ground, passing Francesca about half way up but Diane just got too far ahead on the downhill. Italy's Francesca Porcellato finished third in 7.21.9.