November 17, 2022

MK Wintz piloting para cycling tandem with partner

MK Wintz, front, pilots a tandem bike ahead of riding partner Hannah Chadwick, who is visually impaired and rides in the back “stroker” position. MK, who does not have a physical impairment, helps guide the bike through the track.

MK Wintz was scrolling through social media in 2019, when a post for a week-long para-cycling program caught her eye. She decided to give it a try, and it led her to places she never imagined. 

MK and her tandem partner recently competed for Team USA in the Para-cycling Track World Championships in France, where they clocked personal best times and finished in the Top 10 in each of their events. Her team at DICK’S has been rooting for her along the way and supporting her flexible work schedule so she can balance the rigors of training and competing at a world-class level while also making an impact in her career as an analyst.

In her first global competition with partner Hannah Chadwick of San Francisco, who rides in the back “stroker” position, the duo finished high in both the Sprint WB (fifth place) and the Time Trial WB (sixth place). 

MK and her partner were the only tandem bicycle for Team USA. MK, who does not have a physical impairment, sits in the front or pilot position of the tandem bike as a guide. Hannah is visually impaired and works in concert with MK during training and road rides, as MK communicates changes in altitude, braking needs, gear shifts and more. 

head on view of tandem cycling team

MK pumps through a bank on the velodrome track at the Para-cycling Track World Championships.

During the competition, though, the velodrome track (these are built in a uniform fashion with familiar banks and straightaways) was smooth riding and their practice paid off. MK didn’t say a word from the beginning of each race at the World Championships until telling her partner it was over. It was all feel as they got off to quick starts and hit a top speed of about 38 miles per hour. 

“The really cool thing about tandem is because of the aerodynamics, you can go faster than a single bike,” MK said. “It’s just really, really fun when you're in sync with your partner and get off to a rocking start with both pedals going at the same time, your bodies are engaged together, and the bike just takes off in a way that is different from a single bike.”

view of starting line with two tandem cycling teams preparing to start

MK, front right, and her partner getting set for a race at the Para-cycling Track World Championships

Their pairing has resulted in remarkable accomplishments, especially considering how new they are to competitions, and the forced hiatus brought on by the pandemic. Unlike many Team USA athletes who train for their event throughout a large portion of their lives, MK didn’t take up cycling until 2016. She was a gymnast growing up in Cincinnati and then a diver throughout high school. She put athletics aside while she earned an engineering degree. 

Her experience at DICK’S has helped reconcile her love for both career and sport. A flexible schedule allows for MK to train in Colorado Springs, Colorado, at the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Training Center alongside medalists and hopefuls. She typically wakes up early to work remotely, then trains late in the afternoon, and logs back on to complete her workday. Her analytics work at DICK’S helps support our athletes by better understanding what they need to stay at the top of their game. 

“MK has been amazing,” said Michael Ujevich, a manager of analytics whose team includes MK. “She’s an incredible asset and we love cheering for her whenever she competes.” 

It’s a hustle, for sure, but MK wouldn’t have it any other way. 

“I get to pursue a career I enjoy and get to do my sport – that is the coolest, most magical combination I could have asked for,” said MK. 

Since MK and Hannah were first paired up in 2019, their aspirations have grown. They have their eyes on podium finishes and numerous events on the horizon, including a possible return to France for the 2024 Paralympic Games. 

“Hopefully, we can continue to grow and improve and enjoy the process,” said MK. “What else can I say? I really like my life right now.”