SA duo on track | SASCOC - SASCOC

SA duo on track

By Mark Etheridge

Team South Africa was represented by Nolan Hoffman and Bernard Esterhuizen in the third and penultimate round of the UCI World Cup track cycling events in Beijing, China at the weekend.

And both would have taken a lot out of the event. The first two Cups had been ridden in Astana, Kazkhakstan and Cali, Colombia.

Hoffman rode the 15-kilometre scratch race and ended ninth in the final after cruising through qualifying. The final was won by Russia’s Kirill Sveshnikov from Spaniard Albert Torres Barcelo and Bellarussian Aliaksandra Lisouski.

Hoffman told Road to London 2012: “The scratch race was a big focus point for me and I had huge expectations going into the race. By doing all the previous World Cups I gained a lot of competition time and confidence.

“The qualification race was a mere formality and I went through to the final comfortably. In the final it was a different story and the racing was really fast from the start. A lot of guys tried to lap the field but was unsuccessful, I also tried to go away with a group of eight guys. We had a maximum advantage of half a lap on the peloton, a Russian rider [Sveshnikov] managed to escape from our group and would catch the peloton solo.

“Meanwhile my group got caught again, I was a bit boxed in with three laps to go and could only manage ninth in the sprint. But I took a lot of positives out of the race and I look forward to preparing for the World Championships now.”

Hoffman, from Franschhoek originally but now based in Johannesburg, will skip the final World Cup in London. “I’m focusing on preparing for World Champs in Melbourne now.”

Sadly Hoffman won’t be part of Team SA at the London Olympics. “I haven’t raced the omnium at the World Cups so I don’t have enough points and Africa only has one Olympic spot for that.”

Also at the championships Hoffman had a crack at Garen Bloch’s long-standing National Individual pursuit record, but fell just four seconds short of the record as his time of 4min 38.694sec saw him place15th place in the 21-man field.

Hoffman also had kind words for fellow team member Esterhuizen. “I really hope Bernie qualified for OlympicsÔǪ he is really fast.”

According to Cycling SA Swiss based Esterhuizen was up against a star-studded field in the Keirin event and didn’t get past the first round. In the Sprint event he posted a credible qualifying time of 10.366 seconds, finishing in 18th position out of 56-man starting field, narrowly missing out on a top 16 spot.

The fastest qualifier was China’s Lei Zhang with a time of 10.138. ┬áCharlie Conord (FRA), who qualified in 6th position with a time of 10.257, upset the formbook by progressing to the final and beating Zhang for the gold medal. ┬áDenis Dmitriev of the Moscow
Track Team beat Juan Peralta Gascon (ESP) to claim the bronze medal.

Focus now moves to the fourth and final leg of the UCI Track Cycling World Cup series in London on 17-19 February.  The competition here will be fierce as all nations make a final bid for much-needed World Champs and Olympic Games qualification points.