Aces on track in Astana | SASCOC - SASCOC

Aces on track in Astana

By Mark Etheridge

South Africa’s two riders gave a good account of themselves at the weekend’s first UCI World Cup track event of the season, in Astana, Kazhakstan at the weekend.

Up and coming Bernard Esterhuizen, 2010 junior world time trial champion, ended joint 19th overall in the keirin while the versatile Nolan Hoffman took ninth in the scratch event.

The keirin, raced on Saturday, saw Esterhuizen ending as one of six riders boxed in 19th spot. The race was won by Greece’s Christo Volikakis from British Olympic veteran Chris Hoy, the age gap being 12 years. Third was Russia’s Sergey Borisov. Encouraging for the 20-year-old was that of the 21 cyclists ahead of him, just one was his age, Germany’s Stefan Botticher.

In the next days’ racing, the sprint event, Esterhuizen had an off day, ending 37th overall as Hoy won. “The racing didn’t go too well,” Esterhuizen told Road to London 2012 on Wednesday.

“I felt strong in the keirin but I got boxed in. I started to come around them in the back straight but I was going three wide around so it was tough and I managed to get third. Then in the repackage I didn’t ride too smart and got third.”

As for the sprint qualifying and it didn’t get too much better for Esterhuizen the next day. “For qualifying I was feeling a bit sick, maybe something in the water or food and I was very nervous and I didn’t do a great time. I did a 10.24sec in training but in the actual race I did 10.38sec. Next up for me is the World Cup in Cali, Colombia.”

Hoffman, recent winner of the Amashova Classic from Pietermaritzburg to Durban raced the scratch event. Johannesburg-based but originally from Franschhoek, Hoffman was ninth of 23 finishers.

Race winner was Belgium’s 21-year-old rider, Gijs van Hoecke. Hoffman had the following to say on his Kazhakstan experience. “Going to the world cup was a big focus for me in trying to qualify for the world championships.The conditions inside the track were perfect and it made for fast aggressive racing.

“Myself and four other guys managed to get through to the final fairly easy by take two laps on the peloton. The final on the other hand very aggressive from the start. Half way through the race a rider from Belgium attacked and managed to take a lap, leaving the peloton to sprint for the minor places.

“The build-up to the last few laps was very fast with the total average speed of the race being 51 kph. I got a top 10 in sprint which I’m ┬ácontent with at the moment seeing that its my first international race in two years and I’m confident of bettering my result at the next scratch event in Beijing, China on 12-14 January next year.

Esterhuizen was also at hand so see Hoffman in action. “Nolan rode really good. His qualifying round went good and he was looking comfortable. I didn’t watch the final but I heard that he raced well there as well.”