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Men’s uphill battle

By Mark Etheridge

Team manager for Team South Africa at next month’s African Continental Championships, Barry Austin is under no illusions about the task that awaits the men’s side.

A team of eight cyclists will do duty for South Africa in Asmara, Eritrea from 9-13 November, four men and four women and Austin, also team manager at last month’s All Africa Games in Maputo, says its going to be tough, especially for the men.

“The competition will definitely be stiffer than All Africa as teams like Morocco, Eritrea and Egypt weren’t there. Morocco and Eritrea are Number One and Two in Africa at present. Combined with the fact that they might be fielding teams of up to eight riders and we can, at this stage, only afford to field four men, we’re going to have a proper battle on our hands.”

But that’s not all as apart from the improved quality of opposition, the venue itself provides a big challenge. “The race itself is flat but the real problem is that Asmara sits at around 2300m above sea level, so it’s going to be thin air up there.” Johannesburg, where many of our top riders are based, has an altitude of 1700m, so the team will definitely feel the effects of that extra 600m.”

The quartet of men’s riders are Jaco Venter, Louis Meintjies, Reinart Janse van Rensburg and Nolan Hoffman, the last mentioned will be doing duty at a World Cup track event just three days before the Continental Championships.

The four women riders all represented their country at the recent UCI Road World Championships in Denmark ÔÇô Ashleigh Moolman Pasio, Cherise Taylor, Jo van der Winkel and Robyn de Groot. They’ll all be out to score maximum UCI qualification points ahead of next year’s London Olympics.

And unlike the men’s event, Austin reckons the women should be in a class of their own. “As with Africa Games, our Women should be able to dominate once again. This time we are taking the top girls that have been racing in Europe.”