By Tom Degun

Josh_Cassidy_out_in_front_at_the_Tunnel_2K_International_2011_20-09-11September 18 - Canadian wheelchair racing star Josh Cassidy and American Paralympic gold medallist Amanda McGrory claimed victories in the men's and women's 2011 Port of Tyne Tunnel 2K International - the fastest wheelchair race on the planet.

The cult two-kilometre road race through the Tyne Tunnel in North East England consists of a steep one mile decent that sees racers reach speeds over 50mph before a gruelling 1km steep climb to the finish line.

In the men's race, Cassidy destroyed the field as he claimed a course record of 3 minutes and 33.3 seconds.

The time meant that the 26-year-old from Ontario finished over twenty seconds ahead of second placed Richard Colman of Australia, while Frenchman Denis Lemeunier took third.

"I love this race," said Cassidy, who won the 2010 Virgin London Marathon wheelchair race.

"I think I broke 50mph on the downhill for sure and it is pretty special to win the first race in the new Tyne Tunnel."

In the women's race, McGrory claimed victory in a time of 4:26.4 as she narrowly beat 15-year-old starlet Jade Jones from Middlesbrough.

Jones led for the majority of the race but McGrory produced a sprint finish to cross the line three seconds ahead of her rival, while Italy's Francesca Porcellato finished in third place but nearly a minute behind the top two.

"I was way behind Jade at the halfway stage, being a lightweight on the downhill, but I came into my own on the climb, overtaking her just as we exited the portal," said McGrory.

"I am thrilled with my performance and can't wait for next year."

The Mayor of South Tyneside, Jim Sewell, said: "This is a fantastic weekend of sport for the region, with this wheelchair race leading the way right here in South Tyneside."

Race promoter David Burdus added: "We set out to break the mould with this race, and we certainly did that again.

"You won't have seen anything like this, 50mph downhill, your backside one foot from the tarmac - definitely not for the fainthearted.

"These athletes certainly know how to put on a show."

There was further good news for Cassidy over the weekend as he went on to take victory in the 2011 Bupa Great North Run - the most popular half-marathon event in the world.

Cassidy won in a time of 43 minutes and 57 seconds to finish nearly a minute ahead of second placed Lemeunier.

Third place went to Aron Anderson of Sweden.

In the women's race, Britain's double Paralympic medallist Shelly Woods retained her title with a superb performance.

The 24-year-old from Blackpool finished in 50:14, with McGrory taking second in 52:43 and Porcellato third in 55:00.

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