New Ross athlete Linda Kelly recently represented Team Ireland Paralympic squad as a tandem pilot for Katie-George Dunlevy – winning gold and silver medals in their first international competition together.
Katie, who is the stoker on the back of the tandem, was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentos aged 11. She previously competed in athletics, rowing and swimming before taking up cycling in 2011.
The Donegal native won two gold medals in the road race and time trial at the recent Tokyo Paralympics. She also had great success at the Rio Paralympic games in 2016 with pilot Eve McCrystal as the pair claimed Paralympic medals in both the Time Trail (Gold) and Road Race (Silver).
“Katie and I recently had two successful weeks of racing at the Road World Cup Round 2 in Germany and the UEC Paracycling European Championships held in Austria,” said Linda.
After a successful race season in 2021, Linda decided to apply for the Cycling Ireland Talent ID High performance program which gives potential athletes the opportunity to explore different fields in cycling such as track, road, or paracycling and a chance to compete at a high level.
“I was invited to attend the sports institute in Dublin to do a RAMP fitness test on a stationary bike in the lab back in March. That day was also my first time on a tandem to check that the bike is fitted to my height and I was cycling the tandem around the institute car park in my runners and then with Katie on the back we were doing loops around. Two days after the test I was invited to Athlone to pilot the tandem for Katie in a 16km time trial.”
The duo also raced together two weeks after that in Corkagh Park just outside Dublin which was a good opportunity to practice turning, accelerating, and attacks on the tandem.
“I was delighted when I was asked to race the Road World Cup in Germany and the UEC Paracycling European Championships in Austria for Katie. We won two gold medals (Time Trial and Road Race) in our first international competition together at the Road World Cup held in the beautiful town of Elzach located in the south west of Germany. We won gold medal for the challenging 18 km Hill Climb Time Trial finishing 3 minutes 54 seconds.”
The road race was 74 km distance based on a technical course where they finished in first place beating the British tandem by 1 minute 57 seconds, and so securing the world cup leaders jersey and winning our second gold medal that week.
“We kept attacking up the road to come away from the GB (Great Britain) and the Polish who were the strongest bikes. Every time we made a move, they were bringing us back. Eventually within two laps to go we got a big gap and worked really hard together until we were passed the finish line.”
Two weeks later Katie and Linda raced in upper Austria at the UEC Para-Cycling Road European Championships where they became European Time Trial champions after coming first place on a 24 km course.
“We were absolutely delighted to win the European Championship Jersey. The following day was our road race. We won silver medal on the road race finishing 24 seconds behind the British tandem where we kept the heads up and fought back hard after suffering a mechanical.
“I was delighted to get the opportunity to pilot the tandem for Katie we worked strong together on the tandem and had a lot of fun. I’ve learned a lot those two weeks I was away. Paracycling is so interesting and it was to meet all the athletes on the squad. I would like to thank Paracycling Ireland Head coach Neill Delahaye for giving me the opportunity to pilot the tandem and advice.”
She thanked Marcin Mizgajski (Spin The Bean Coaching) who has been coaching her over the last four years and her physio Michael Muldowney.
Linda’s next big race will be the National Championships Time Trial in Kanturk at the end of June with Katie on the tandem. She will also be competing in the road race that weekend on my solo bike.