5 August 2010
South African cycling has featured increasingly on the world stage in recent years. Now, Cycling South Africa aims to elevate the sport, for both elite and amateur cyclists, with a grand plan featuring new and exciting events, most notably the Tour of South Africa.
As part of the strategy, known as “2020 Vision”, a number of new national and international events covering all disciplines – road cycling, mountain biking, BMX, track cycling and Para-cycling – are planned, starting in 2011.
In South Africa, the sport ranks as the 15th most popular participation sport among adults and the 21st most popular among juniors.
“The highly impressive plan, backed by all key cycling stakeholders in South Africa, will see Cycling SA take back full control of the sport in the country,” Barry Mocke, the newly appointed CEO of Cycling South Africa, said on Tuesday.
‘More than just a sport’
“Cycling is more than just a sport, it is a lifestyle, which has shown considerable growth in both spectator and participation numbers over the years,” Mocke said.
“Our appointment of strategic and commercial agents, Accelerate Sport, along with our joint venture with Primedia Sport, a company who has been involved in cycling on a number of levels, makes us confident that the Tour of South Africa will be a great success and something that I believe all cyclists can look forward to.”
The route for the Tour of South Africa will be unveiled later this year when bookings will open for the event, which will take place in February.
The “2020 Vision”, according to Cycling South Africa, “will see the organisation becoming a dynamic, successful and highly respected governing body of cycling, at both national and international level.
“Cycling SA will be engaging in world class practices and playing a leading role in cycling amongst all disciplines, and this will ensure effective and genuine transformation and development.”
In recent years, the country has successfully hosted UCI-endorsed events in track, road, mountain biking, and BMX. Most recently, the UCI BMX World Championships, hosted by Pietermaritzburg from 29 July to 1 August, were declared “the best ever” by the UCI’s head of gravity disciplines Johan Lindstrom.
The MTB World Cup, hosted in 2009, earned widespread praise, but didn’t return in 2010 after worldwide sponsor Nissan withdrew its sponsorship in the wake of the economic crisis that hit far and wide after the collapse of some major banks. There is great excitement among South African mountain bike lovers at the news that the World Cup will return to the country in 2011.
In 2008, the country successfully hosted some of the world’s leading road cycling teams in the Intakatech World’s View Challenge.
In 2007, Cape Town was the venue for the UCI B World Championships, which was a track event. The following year, at the same venue, the Belleville Velodrome, the UCI World Junior Cycling Championships took place.
The annual Absa Cape Epic, raced over eight extremely demanding stages, attracts many of the world’s top cross country mountain bikers and is the most widely televised mountain biking event in the world.
And don’t forget that the world’s largest individually timed cycle race the Argus Pick n Pay Cycle Tour takes place on South African soil and the Momentum 94.7 Cycle Challenge is not far behind in terms of size!
South African cyclists have also excelled in recent times. Robbie Hunter became the first South African to win a stage of the world’s most famous race, the Tour de France, in 2007.
Ashleigh Mooman Pasio showed what South African women are capable of in the Giro d’Italia Internazionale Femminile in July when she became the first African to finish in the top 20 of an event regarded as the toughest in women’s cycling.
Greg Minnaar has been one of the world’s leading lights in MTB downhill racing for some time, winning the overall World Cup title in 2001, 2005, and 2008. He won the World Championships in 2003.
Minnaar, a native of Pietermaritzburg, delighted local fans by winning the 2008 MTB World Cup on home soil.
Burry Stander, a cross-country star, won the under-23 world title in Australia in 2009, and also recorded his first World Cup victory in Champery, Switzerland.
Sifiso Nhlapo starred at the recent BMW World Championships and delighted local fans by finishing second behind Olympic champion Marits Strombergs. There were also world titles for Teagan O’Keefe in the elite junior girls’ category, Sharlene McGillvray in the 45-plus age-group, and Georgina Grassie in the girls’ 9 category.
South African juniors have also started to make their mark on international road cycling. Christopher Jennings made history in June 2009 when he became the first South African male junior to win a top-graded ICU race. He won the Tour de Pays Vaud in Switzerland, a five-stage tour with a 2.1 grading – the highest UCI grading for a junior category stage race.
On the women’s side, Cherise Taylor placed second in the Junior World Championships road race in 2007, and won the Cape Argus Pick ‘n Pay Cycle Tour in 2008 while still a teenager.
So, South Africa has the events, it has the talent, and now, hopes Cycling South Africa, with “Vision 2020” it has the plan to lift the sport to far greater heights.
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