17 July 2012
World cycling’s governing body, the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), recently released its mountain bike calendar for 2013. For South African fans of the sport, it will look a little different, but there is a good and pleasing reason for that.
Instead of seeing Pietermaritzburg hosting the opening leg of the UCI World Cup during March/April, South Africa’s cycling city will instead be hosting the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships from 26 August to 1 September.
Furthermore, South Africa will also play host to the annual UCI MTB Masters World Championships, which is scheduled to take place a week prior to the elite event from 21 to 25 August.
The Masters event is open to all non-elite cross-country and downhill participants and is a hot favourite with the team mechanics and support crews of the elite teams that will be racing a week later.
Event organiser Alec Lenferna says that this is an opportunity that will take many years before it repeats itself again.
“The Mountain Bike World Championship event is a very big deal,” he explained.
“This is the second biggest UCI event after the Road World Champs, and an opportunity like this does not come around often.
“It could be another 12 to 15 years before South Africa gets the opportunity to host a world championship again.”
Unlike the previous four years, where the UCI Masters Worlds was held in Brazil, the Masters will now be held in the same country as the host of the elite World Championship events in the future, thanks to a South African initiative.
“With our proposal to the UCI to host both Elite and Masters World Championships events one week apart at the same venue, the UCI have now changed their ruling and all future Masters World Championships will be hosted by the same country as that of the main elite, under-23 and junior event in future,” said Lenferna.
The word “Masters” refers to all non-elite riders from any of the 30+ age categories, including sub-veterans, veterans, masters and grand masters.
No qualification criteria is needed to enter, making it a huge opportunity for local cyclists, but, for South Africans, the best way to test their skills in the crops-country and downhill disciplines is to participate in local provincial and national events before they commit to the Masters Worlds.
Lenferna also confirmed that Pietermaritzburg would host the UCI MTB World Cup opening rounds once again in 2014 and 2015.
Cycling events in Pietermaritzburg
The city previously hosted the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup in 2009, 2011 and this year, when home town boy, Greg Minnaar won the downhill for a second time, and Burry Stander, who hails from Port Shepstone on the KwaZulu-Natal south coast, finished second in the cross-country.
The city also hosted the UCI BMX World Championships in 2010, when Sifiso Nhlapo, claimed silver for South Africa in the men’s elite division.
Rounds of the UCI BMX Supercross World Cup took place in the city in 2011 and 2009, while, in road cycling, the UCI-backed Intakatech World’s View Challenge was hosted in 2008.
Last year, Pietermaritzburg became part of the UCI World Cycle Tour with the addition of the Msunduzi Road Challenge. This year, the event will serve as the UCI World Cycling Tour final.
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