Bernard on his "awesome" win | SASCOC - SASCOC

Bernard on his “awesome” win

By Mark Etheridge

Bernard Esterhuizen, South Africa’s latest young sporting hero, has revealed just how much winning gold at the UCI world track cycling championships in Italy at the weekend meant to him.

Esterhuizen took the gold medal in the junior men’s 1000-metre time trial (TT) in Montichiari to win South Africa’s first medal at a junior world championship event.

The 17-year-old clocked 1min 03.265sec to edge out France’s Julian Palma (1:03.624) and Australian Maddison Hammond (1:03.794).

Prior to his gold medal feat, Esterhuizen had narrowly missed out on medals in the 200m sprint after qualifying third fastest as well as in the keirin after winning all of his heats. He finished sixth and fourth in these events respectively.

Speaking on his return to Switzerland where he is based at the UCI World Cycling Centre in Aigle, Esterhuizen said: “The Junior World Track Championships was my goal for almost two years and to finally get the world title on the final day of competition was pretty awesome.”

But the Durban youngster knows there’s still room for improvement. “I was a little disappointed in how the the other races went but I think it’s just because I’m not used to riding against other cyclists who are the same level as I am. It was also the first time since last year’s juniors that I had ridden a sprint competition.”

As far as his gold-medal ride goes Esterhuizen had this to say: “In the kilo I wasn’t really thinking of winning rather just thinking about being in so much pain after the ride that I couldn’t walk. During the ride all I was thinking was going full gas. On the final lap my arms went cold, probably because all the blood was going to my legs.

“The last half lap I was riding just using my hamstrings because the rest of my legs where dead. After crossing the line I’d thought that I did a really bad time, but when I looked up at the time I was over the moon with 1:03.265.”

And his thoughts on the keirin? “I managed to win both my heats to get into the final. I won both rides from the front with a lap to go without anyone coming around me.

“In the final I tried to get to the front but it was a fight as everyone was trying to do the same thing. The American rider rode really dirty and almost made me crash a number of times, but I somehow managed to stay on my bike. Then half a lap to go there was a huge crash right in front of me we where going around 70km/h. I managed to go around and I narrowly missed the German rider but also almost rode into the rail on the top of the velodrome.”

The good news for opponents is that the championships didn’t last longer. “From the day the champs started my legs felt better with each day that went by. The day before the the kilo which was just after the keirin. I felt so strong and couldn’t wait to let all the power out the next day.”

His fine form in Italian will bodes well for the remainder of the year. “My next big race will hopefully be at Commonwealth Games in October. If not then it will be nationals which will be at the same time. I come back to South Africa on 24 August and should be be here for a week or two before I got back to Switzerland to get ready for Commonwealth.”