MTB Marathon World Champs for SA

15 June 2012

Cycling South Africa has pulled off yet another coup after being awarded the right to stage the 2014 Mountain Bike (MTB) Marathon World Championships in the greater Pietermaritzburg area in KwaZulu-Natal.

The announcement was made at the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) board meeting in Salzburg, Austria on Thursday evening.

The Marathon World Championships are the latest in what has become a long list of successful UCI-backed events for Pietermaritzburg and its environs.

Past UCI events

The city has in recent years hosted BMX World Cup and World Championship events, the MTB World Cup, and road races such as the Intaka World’s View Challenge and the Msunduzi Road Challenge.

Still to come in 2012, Pietermaritzburg will once more host the Msunduzi Road Challenge, which will serve as the UCI World Cycling Tour finals.

In 2013, the UCI Mountain Bike and Trials World Championships and UCI MTB Masters World Championships will be held in the city.

“Winning this bid helps to cement Pietermaritzburg as a major global centre for top-end international cycling competition, and to pursue the city’s and the province’s dream of making Pietermaritzburg South Africa’s ‘Cycle City’,” event organiser Alec Lenferna said on Friday.

‘There will be improvements’

Speaking to SAinfo, Lenferna said the Marathon World Championships would also be to the benefit of the many events already held at Karkloof. “There will be improvements to the course and venue, and future events will be much better.

“The major benefit is that World Championships create better commissaires, judges, and officials,” Lenferna added. “It’s not just about the riders. It uplifts the whole sport.”

With the elite event covering 110 kilometres, additional track will have to be prepared. The Mr Price Karkloof Classic, the largest mountain bike festival in the country, which draws about 4 000 competitors annually, has a 60-kilometre route for its longest race.

Different international stars

South African mountain bike fans who have been lucky enough to see the world’s leading cross-country competitors in action at the UCI MTB World Cup Pietermaritzburg will get to see some different international stars, Lenferna said.

Local stars such as Kevin Evans, David George and Brandon Stewart, who prefer longer events to cross-country races, will get the chance to mix it up with the world’s best on home soil.

Burry Stander, who has excelled at cross-country and in marathon events, including the Karkloof Classic, is also likely to feature, along with his Team Specialized Racing teammate and regular visitor to South Africa, Christoph Sauser, who has won world titles in both cross-country and marathon.

The event, which is also open to amateur competitors, will present an opportunity for other South African cyclists, with their strong background in endurance events, to shine.

‘We’re crazy about that sort of stuff’

“Endurance events, we’re crazy about that sort of stuff,” Lenferna laughed. “We ask guys to do 30 ks through the forests at the Cascades MTB Park and they baulk. We ask them to do 70 ks, and 4 000 turn up!”

He expects a field upwards of 3 000 competitors for the World Championships.

The event will likely take place in late September, but the dates are yet to be finalised. The reason for holding it later in the year is to allow riders opportunities to qualify in Marathon World Series events, one of which takes place early in the year, in Sabie in Mpumalanga.

‘Success breeds success’

“We’ve built up a very successful and good rapport with the UCI,” Lenferna reckoned. “Success breeds success, and we wouldn’t keep being awarded events if we weren’t doing a good job.”

Incredibly, he said, Pietermaritzburg has so far not lost a bid for a UCI-backed event since 2006.

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