21 June 2011
South African mountain biking fans are in for a treat. Pietermaritzburg has been awarded the opening round of the 2012 UCI Mountain Bike World Cup and the 2013 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships.
The announcement was made on Friday after a meeting of the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) Management Committee, and comes on the back of the successful hosting of the opening round of the 2011 UCI Mountain Bike World Cup.
A report by the UCI on South Africa’s 2011 World Cup event concluded: “In all aspects, the event improved a lot after a first experience in 2009.”
The report, based on feedback from, among others, technical delegates and riders, was overwhelmingly positive and reflected favourably on the strides made since South Africa first hosted a UCI MTB World Cup event two years ago.
Event organiser Alec Lenferna is the man who was behind the first two World Cup events and will be the man behind the forthcoming competitions in 2012 and 2013. Improvement can be expected every time an event is hosted, he told SAinfo.
“The 2012 World Cup is going to be bigger and will be important as a preparatory event for the 2013 World Championships,” Lenferna said. “Cyclists who haven’t been to Pietermaritzburg before will need to visit in 2012 because it will be their only chance to see the course before the 2013 World Champs.”
Putting the 2013 event into perspective, Lenferna explained: “The World Champs are about three to four times bigger than the World Cup and take place over eight days.”
Those eight days are divided into two: 21 to 25 August and 29 Aug to 1 September. They include trials, which have not yet been held in Pietermaritzburg. The other events are cross country, downhill and four-cross.
There will also be another addition, starting with next year’s 2012 UCI MTB World Cup, which will comprise 10 events in nine countries on three continents, with seven rounds for each of the traditional disciplines: a cross-country eliminator, in which several rounds will go towards a final ranking, will be run over a 2 000 metre short course and add to the action.
Why has Pietermaritzburg become such a hotspot for cycling in South Africa, hosting UCI-endorsed mountain biking, BMX and road cycling events in recent years? Lenferna says it’s simple – the KwaZulu-Natal government and the city have put themselves fully behind the events. “They went the events,” he said.
“The terrain of the region also lends itself to cycling activities,” he added.
The fact that Pietermaritzburg has a three-time World Cup overall winner and former World Championship winner in Greg Minnaar has also played a big role in drawing support from local MTB enthusiasts for the UCI MTB World Cup events but, Lenferna let on, Minnaar has done more than be a star for South African mountain bike fans to rally around.
‘Incredibly good advice’
“Greg’s always been a strong supporter [of Pietermaritzburg],” he said, “but, more than that, he’s been a point of contact, offering incredibly good advice and ideas of what would work from his experiences at events overseas.”
Of course, the fact that Minnaar remains one of the world’s elite downhill riders is a huge positive, so too is the fact that the country’s leading cross-country rider, Burry Stander, hails from Port Shepstone on the KwaZulu-Natal coast.
Stander is also among the world’s elite, having won on the World Cup circuit, and is a former under-23 world champion as well as this year’s Absa Cape Epic winner alongside Swiss legend Christoph Sauser.
Rising stars, like Andrew Neethling, who finished tenth in the downhill in the World Cup in Pietermaritzburg this year, bode well for the future of mountain biking in South Africa.
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