South African cycling shines in 2010

17 December 2010

South Africans continued to build on their ever-improving performances in all forms of cycling in 2010, excelling on the road, on the track, in mountain biking and in BMX.

The country had the honour of hosting the UCI BMX World Championships in August in Pietermaritzburg and the venue certainly sparkled with a one-of-a-kind track that sported two starting ramps and was rated as one of the finest tracks ever built.

Latvia’s Maris Strombergs raced to the men’s elite title, but South African star Sifiso Nhlapo gave the home crowd plenty to cheer by finishing second.

Great Britain’s Shanaze Reade won the women’s elite title, while South African women picked up three gold medals in age group racing.

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

In June, it had been learnt that Pietermaritzburg would host a round of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup in 2011. The city had previously very successfully hosted a round in 2009, but the withdrawal of global sponsor Nissan due to the worldwide economic meltdown had prevented the 2010 event taking place.

South African hopes for 2011 will be high after Pietermaritzburg local Greg Minnaar won the downhill title in his home town in 2009 and Burry Stander, from Port Shepstone on the KwaZulu-Natal coast, finished third in the cross-country.

Both men continued to shine in 2010. Minnaar, a three-time overall World Cup winner, finished runner-up to Britain’s Gee Atherton in the final standings as the South African’s team, Santa Cruz Syndicate once again dominated.

During the year, Minnaar recorded wins in Leogang (Aut), Maribor (Slo), and at Fort William in Scotland. He finished third in the World Championships.

Stander finished seventh overall in the cross country rankings. His best result was a third place at the World Championships in Canada, and at the first World Cup stop in Dalby Forest in Britain.

In 2009 Stander was crowned the under-23 world champion so his best years are still ahead of him.

World champion

And speaking of young talent, Bernard Esterhuizen scored one for South African track cyclists when he sprinted to the one-kilometre time trial title at the UCI Junior World Track Championships in Montichiari, Italy.

Former Olympic track cyclist JP van Zyl told Cycling South Africa: “Bernard Esterhuizen is the ‘Real Deal’ of South African track cycling.

He continued: “His winning time of 1:03.265 is world class. In my opinion, it is lightning fast.”

Esterhuizen is based at the UCI’s World Cycling Centre in Aigle, Switzerland.

On the women’s side of things, Ashleigh Moolman Pasio made a favourable impression when she became the first African to finish in the top 20 Giro d’Italia Internazionale Femminile. What made her achievement even more remarkable is that Moolman Pasio was ill on the final four days of racing in the mountains.

Tour of South Africa

There was good news for South African cycling in late November when it was announced that the UCI-backed Tour of South Africa will take place from 19 to 26 February 2011.

The eight-day, seven-stage event is expected to prove a popular draw for international teams, scheduled as it is just after the Tour Down Under and before the start of the Spring Classics in Europe.

Phil Liggett, known as “The Voice of Cycling”, is a big fan of South Africa (he owns a couple of properties in the country) and will lead the television coverage of the event.

Pat McQuaid, the president of the UCI, commented at the launch of the race route: “I am looking forward to the future, where it will have a place among the greatest races of the world.”

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