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SA cycling raises bar in 2013

The 2013 cycling season in South Africa started on a sad note with the untimely death of cross-country biker Burry Stander, who died early January after being struck by a taxi near Shelly Beach in Durban.

The trial of the minibus driver accused of killing Stander was postponed to February 27, 2014.

The rest of the year panned out to be a more cheerful one, laced with superb achievements for South Africans Daryl Impey, Greg Minnaar and Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio.

The notable highlight of the year was delivered by Impey, who made international headlines when he became the first South African to lead the Tour de France.

“I’m really proud to be the first South African and the first African to wear the yellow jersey,” said Impey, who had been in second place overall since Orica-GreenEdge’s triumph in the team time trial on stage four.

“To be able to say I wore the yellow jersey for just one day is something I will treasure forever.”

He also snatched the silver medal in the men’s team time trial at the Road World Championships in Italy.

Back on South African soil, Impey won his second individual time trial at the South African road championships. His previous win was in 2011.

South Africa’s downhill sensation, Minnaar also experienced a splendid season winning his third downhill title at the UCI Mountain Bike & Trials World Championships in his home town of Pietermaritzburg. Minnaar claimed his first world championship title in 2003 and had to wait nine years before he took the top step of the podium in 2012.

He capped of the year by placing third overall at end of the 2013 UCI Downhill World Cup season.

The country’s top women cyclist, Moolman-Pasio made her presence, dominating the local and international road circuit.

In March, she was crowned the national road champion after claiming both gold medals at the SA Road Championships in Nelspruit. She was also crowned the Momentum 94.7 cycle challenge champion later in the year.

She also competed in Europe where she moved into the top 15 in the International Cycling Union (UCI) world rankings, the highest placing ever by a South African road cyclist. In May, Moolman-Pasio won the UCI 1.2 Boels Rental Hills Classic in the Netherlands.

In Africa, she continued her dominance bagging her fifth African championship title after grabbing double gold at the African Continental Champions. To date she has won gold in the road race in 2011, 2012 and 2013 and the time trial crown in 2012 and 2013.

“This year has been my best yet, however it has also been one of my worst,” said Moolman-Pasio.

“Although I have enjoyed much success, it has come with a fair amount of challenges, especially in the second half of the year.

“My hand fracture in August and illness at the world champs in September are examples of the challenges I have faced this year.”

When it came to national representation, the South African cycling team continued its dominance in Africa, once again cementing its position as the number one cycling team in Africa. Multiple South African champion, Kevin Evans claimed victory in the elite men’s road race at the Maccabi Games, increasing the tally of medals to four for the small team at the games in Israel.

The team went on to claim eight gold, four silver and four bronze medals at the African Continental Championship in Egypt.

The South Africans celebrated another milestone when national team rider Dylan Girdlestone won the eight-day Tour of Rwanda in Kigali.

South Africa’s Louis Meintjes was rewarded for his efforts this season when he was named Best African Rider of the Year in a poll of African cyclists conducted annually by La Tropicale Amissa Bongo.

He claimed a silver medal at the UCI Road World Championships in Italy after finishing a close second to Slovenia’s Matej Mohoric.

On the local circuit, where national titles were at stake, Jay Thomson secured the biggest prize in road cycling lifting the national men’s title at the South African Road Championships in Nelspruit.

The gold medal followed Thomson’s silver in the individual time trial earlier that week.

Olympian Philip Buys and Samantha Sanders claimed the elite cross-country (XCO) titles at the SA-MTB National Championships in Port Elizabeth, while defending champion Tiaan Odendaal won his second consecutive downhill championship title.

Meanwhile, James Reid and London Olympic road cyclist Robyn de Groot, who recently turned to mountain biking, were crowned champions at the SA Mountain Bike Marathon Championships in Hazyview.

It was a busy year for cyclists with a large choice of races. One highlight was the inaugural staging of the Mzansi Tour which was won by Robert Hunter, who later announced his retirement from professional cycling.

The popular Momentum 94.7 cycle challenge, was won by Bonitas rider Willie Smith, who cruised to his maiden victory in the men’s race.

Team Bonitas’ Herman Fouche claimed his first win of the season in the Cape Argus cycle tour. The women’s race was won by Anriette Schoeman, who was later rewarded with a motion of congratulations in parliament.

She was praised for her achievement of winning a record of seven Cape Argus titles.

Dylan Girdlestone stormed to victory in the 151km Jock Cycle Classique, while Bestmed-ASG captain An-Li Kachelhoffer took the overall honours in the women’s race.

Team Abantu’s Nolan Hoffman was sensational on the road, bagging 15 road titles which included the Amashova Durban classic, GoWest cycle classic and the Engen cycle challenge.

In mountain bike racing, national women’s mountain-bike (MTB) marathon champion De Groot capped a solid year with a win at the Momentum 94.7 MTB Challenge race, while Kallen Williams defended his men’s title.

De Groot had a remarkable season, winning the national mountain-bike marathon championships in June, as well as the women’s 75km marathon at the MTN Rooiberg event in the same month.

South Africa’s team RE:CM’s Waylon Woolcock and Erik Kleinhans secured the men’s title at the seven-day Cape Pioneer Trek.

Cape Epic victory went to Christoph Saucer and Jaroslav Kulhavy in the men’s race, while Yolande Speedy and Catherine Williamson won the women’s race.

Max Knox and Nico Bell claimed overall victory in the three-day Nedbank sani2c mountain bike race which finished on the KwaZulu-Natal south coast.

Candice Neethling and Philip Buys bagged titles at the national mountain bike cup series.

Looking at the headliners in track cycling, South African Track cycling Olympian Bernard Esterhuizen smashed his own national record in the 200m sprint qualifying event at the UCI Track World Cup in Mexico.

He also won the men’s title in the keirin at the Deer Park Nature Spring Water UCI Fastest Man (and Woman) on Wheels in Pennsylvania.

At the national champs in Belville, Esterhuizen won both the sprint and one-kilometre time trial, but was beaten by Jeanne Nell in the keirin event, while Hoffman won both the scratch and omnium events.

Meanwhile, Elite BMX racer Teagan O’Keeffe finished 12th overall in the UCI Supercross world cup standings, while Sifiso Nhlapo ended the season ranked 31 the men’s standings.

South African H4 Hand-cyclist and defending road race World Champion Ernst Van Dyk won his second silver medal at the UCI Para-cycling Road World Championships in Canada.


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