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Moolman-Pasio out ill as Venter swoops to take national TT title
- Updated: February 11, 2016
Time trials and para-cycling got the 2016 national road, time trial and para-cycling championships underway in Wartburg, KwaZulu-Natal on Wednesday.
Day one saw warm and humid conditions and the seemingly gentle route provided its challenges to the competitors with many of the riders talking about the back section and the cruel final kicker hill just before the fast, sweeping downhill to the finish line.
Defending champion Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (Cervelo-Bigla Pro Cycling) was sorely missed early Wednesday morning when she withdrew due to sickness. She is however hoping to recover in time for the defence of her road race title on Saturday.
Taking the Elite women’s time trial title, Juanita Venter, pictured above, opted for a slight change in her equipment prior to the race, which seemed to pay off with a handsome result despite thinking the course was tough. ‘I decided not to use a disc wheel today and to rather use the 808 because of the climbs. I knew if I could make it up on the climbs and power up the last kilometre then I would have a chance at being on the podium.’
Coming into the Championship as a relative newcomer, mountain biker Samantha Sanders (Team Valencia) was considered a dark horse and she showed her strength in the TT discipline with a second-place finish in the Elite women’s race.
‘After injuries I decided to swap my cycling a little and give road riding a bit if a crack. I got onto a TT bike about two weeks ago and preparation wise, my training was good but I’m not used to the set-up of my bike just yet. I just wanted to suss out the scene today and thoroughly enjoyed it and I’ll definitely do another one. I had no expectations today other than to push my own limits.’
In the para-cycling competition, multiple Paralympian and multiple World Champion H5 handcyclist, Ernst van Dyk (right) powered his way to yet another Championship title. ‘It’s early season now so I’m just doing all the basics right now and building the foundations for the rest of the season. The route was quick, it was fast but there was a lot of climbing too, which was very deceiving since I didn’t ride the course beforehand. My focus was the Time Trial because that is the one where I can measure myself, the road race will be fun.’
Celebrity ‘DJ’ Palesa Manaleng (H3) competed in her first national time trial after diving into the deep end late last year at the UCI para-cycling Road World Cup in Pietermaritzburg as her first opportunity to race in a time trial.
Setting the bar high for herself, Manaleng thoroughly enjoyed the KwaZulu-Natal countryside. ‘The course wasn’t as hard as the World Cup course, but it was faster though. I enjoyed the downhills. Justine passed me and I was so embarrassed but then she is a World Champion,’ she laughed. ‘I had a puncture before the start but we fixed it quickly and my ride was event free. I see that I need to do a lot more work and need to ride in more competitions.’
London 2012 Paralympian Stuart McCreadie (H3) has returned to the racing scene after taking a break from competing last year. ‘Even though I didn’t compete, I was still riding a lot and putting in that all-important time on the bike with long rides. Coming back now I feel almost rested from the stresses and strains of competition. Today’s route profile looked rather easy, but that back section required quite a lot of work and the road surface was not that smooth in parts. But it was a nice TT course.’
Local resident and rising mountain bike star, Frankie du Toit (Kargo Pro MTB Team) enjoyed racing in her hometown on the familiar training hills of the area. ‘The course pushed you so it made sure that the best rider won,’ she said. ‘I enjoyed the local support.’
Keen 80-year-old cyclist, Arthur Duncan, returned to compete in the Men’s 75+ class, finishing in second place behind Vincent Kelly. ‘It was a fantastic race, the course was a little bit challenging but it was really most enjoyable. I’ve got to congratulate the organisers for the actual event and the road management was absolutely fantastic. It was a thrill to be here. The people who inspire me the most are the para-cyclists – to see them participating, I really get inspired from that!’
Cycling South Africa’s Road Commission Director, Bosseau Boshoff, was pleased with the race organisation and the level of racing on the opening day of the Championships. ‘On the first day of a competition there’s always going to be some teething problems but between the organisers and the Commissaires I think they sorted it out well – the riders had to wait a little bit for their results. It’s nice to see new faces on the podium, which means there’s new blood coming into the sport – it’s refreshing.’
In terms of the status of the event, Boshoff added: ‘Not only is there pride for the riders to compete but there are some UCI points and the national jersey up for grabs. For the riders, it ups their status and their value as a rider. It’s then easier for them to get into bigger teams and build a better cycling career.’
Cycling SA Para-cycling Commission Director, Dr Mike Burns explained how the national champs has many functions. ‘For example, there about five new riders who have just started para-cycling, so it was nice to see them compete for the first time. I think we’ve got at least two new riders, Gary Coetzee (C4) and Gavin Cowden (C5), who look really competitive today so I’m looking forward to seeing these new riders shape.
‘It’s also about team selection for the national team that will compete in the very first UCI World Cup of the season in Pietermaritzburg in May. So we will be making the national team selection based on these results. Thirdly, it’s the very first race on the road to Rio, so it’s incredibly important to see how our Rio Squad riders are looking. It’s from this base that we are going to monitor them, then the World Cup in Pietermaritzburg, and so on.
Burns said that some of the standout performances for him were Coetzee and Cowden, as well as tricyclist Gerhard Viljoen (T2). It was so unfortunate that his teammate Goldy Fuchs suffered a broken chain as he started his ride because I would’ve loved to have seen them race. I have a lot of hope for Craig Ridgard (C2) for Rio, and of course I was expecting Ernst and Stuart, Pieter du Preez (H1) and Justine Asher (H2 – both double World Champions) to do well as well, which they did.
Racing continues on Thursday in Wartburg with the Elite, U23 and Junior Men Time Trial from 8.30am, plus the Masters’ Men 30-34, 35-39, 40-44 and 45-49 as well as the para-cycling road race, which begins at 11:35.