How Two Tandem Cyclists Are Looking To Improve With A Move To Colorado Springs
by Joanne C. Gerstner
Hannah Chadwick and Mary-Kate Wintz (right) on the podium at the USA Cycling Para-cycling Track National Championships.
Emerging tandem cyclists Mary-Kate Wintz and Hannah Chadwick knew it was time to take a leap of faith.
In January, the pair, with Wintz as the pilot and Chadwick as the stroker, joined the full-time U.S Olympic & Paralympic Training Center residency program in Colorado Springs, Colorado. They wanted to see how much they could improve, both as individual athletes and their chemistry.
Wintz and Chadwick are a relatively new team, having only started competing together in 2019. However, they were unable to train together for nearly two years because of distance and COVID-19. The two knew that needed to change for them to truly progress in the sport.
So Wintz moved from Cincinnati, and Chadwick from San Francisco, to start their journey. Their goals are big, with the next step being a strong performance at the UCI Para-Cycling Track World Championships in October should they qualify when the team is named.
Their nine months of hard work paid off with a second-place finish in the tandem sprints at the USA Cycling Para-cycling Track National Championships at the start of September.
“It’s a big thing we share — we both want to see how far we can take this,” said Wintz, who’s been riding around Ohio with road and track clubs. “It’s going to take a lot of work to reach the level we want, like getting to the top, but we are both committed and invested. We want the same things, and we feel like things are working well so far.”
Moving to the OTC has changed a lot for the pair, especially for Chadwick. She’s learning how to be an elite cyclist, from the training lifestyle to the on-track strategy. Chadwick, who has taken her job as a diversity and inclusion specialist as full-time remote work, is figuring out all the aspects of her life.
The life of an elite athlete, involving daily on-track training, weights and cardio training, to the nutrition and sleep aspects, are new discoveries for Chadwick.
“It has really been an eye-opener to see how I have changed since January, really, in every way,” Chadwick said. “Having a coach like Sarah (Hammer-Kroening) next to you every day, and then having the best around making you stronger and helping you be better are big gifts. I am stronger, I feel more confident and I know I have just started to see what I can really do. It’s been something I have zero regrets about doing.”
The whole experience has been eye-opening for Chadwick. Now she sees herself in an entirely different light.
“I never really saw myself as a serious athlete until now. This has shown me a lot and helped me see what I can do,” Chadwick said.
Hammer-Kroening, U.S. Para-cycling’s high-performance coach and a four-time Olympic medalist in track cycling, loves working with newbies like Chadwick and Wintz. Every day is an opportunity for growth, and a chance to celebrate the wins.
“The only way you can get better on track is by spending time on the track. I know that sounds cliché or simple — but it’s the truth,” Hammer-Kroening said. “You need the time to work things out, see how things feel and push yourself. I’ve been excited to see Hannah and MK’s progress, I think they have real potential. They’re hard workers and want to fine-tune everything.”
A big part of the residency involves Chadwick and Wintz working on their chemistry. They need to wordlessly feel and understand what to do on the tandem bike, as well as anticipate the other riders. It’s not easy, and the best tandems have honed their connection through years of cycling.
Wintz is the more gregarious of the pair, liking to make jokes and bring down the stress. Chadwick is quieter and is appreciative of Wintz’s confidence and outward joy.
“It can bring me out of my shell a bit, she makes me laugh and everything is better,” Chadwick said. “That’s how we clicked. She is a fun person to be around, even when we are working so hard on the track.”
Training on a full-time basis, far from home, has not come without sacrifice.
Wintz’s husband and Chadwick’s partner remained in Ohio and California respectively. Friends and family visits are most often over texts or video chat.
Still, Wintz wants her team to push and explore their cycling talents. Their recent experiences confirming the basis for their big goals. They have the support of their loved ones, so they’re going for it.
“We are working, every day, so hard on getting stronger and faster,” Wintz said. “When you get opportunities like this to become the best, you need to take them.”
Joanne C. Gerstner has covered two Olympic Games and writes about sports regularly for the New York Times and other outlets. She is a freelance contributor to USParaCycling.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.