Medals and World Cup leader jersey for SA Para-cycling team

South Africa’s national Para-cycling team returned from Europe yesterday evening (18 June) with a number of special accolades that they earned in back-to-back UCI Para-cycling Road World Cup races in Merano (Italy) and Segovia (Spain).

The team equalled their previous best tour tally of podium finishes with four silver medals and one bronze. Riders who contributed in this regard were Paralympian cyclists Ernst van Dyk and Roxy Burns, and their rookie teammate George Rex.

H4 hand-cycle World Champion and Paralympic silver medallist Ernst van Dyk demonstrated his road-racing prowess by claiming silver medal finishes in both the Merano and Segovia World Cups. Having positioned himself well to achieve sprint finish wins in these races, he was pipped at the post on both occasions by Paralympic gold medallist Alessandro Zanardi. Whilst Zanardi’s stamina and strength made him a deserving winner, his one-of-a-kind, aerodynamically optimised hand-cycle certainly assisted him in clinching the sprint finishes. Van Dyk is very satisfied with his performances in Italy and Spain, which he regards as confirming his potential to retain his current UCI road race World Champion status, which he will defend in Canada later this year.

George Rex, who is the 2013 T1 tricycling national champion, was selected to the South African team with the aim of introducing him to international racing. However, not only did he introduce himself to the international competition, he also claimed silver medal finishes in both the time trial and road race events in which he competed in Segovia. Rex now has an excellent platform upon which to further develop his international cycling career.

Roxy Burns (C4) used the European UCI road World Cup series as a basis for preparing for the 2013/2014 track World Championships. Although track racing is her preferred discipline, her world class all-round cycling capability was proven by the bronze medal finish she achieved in the Merano road race and, more remarkably, by the UCI World Cup leader jersey she won for the overall best-performing rider in the European leg of the UCI Para-cycling Road World Cup series. This is an accolade never previously afforded to a South African cyclist.

Apart from the medallists, South African riders who performed particularly well in the World Cup series include T2 tricyclist Yusthin Lintnaar, who claimed one 4th and two 5th place finishes, H2 hand cycling time trial specialist Stuart McCreadie, who claimed a 5th place finish in Spain, and H1 hand-cyclist Justine Asher. Asher’s excellent performances in Italy were curtailed by a serious accident during the Merano hand cycle relay race that left her with bone fractures in both legs.

“For many of our riders competing in a world cup in Europe for the first time, the experience was a revelation, and they are motivated to better their current times,” said Team Manager JC van der Walt. “Even for those riders who did not win medals, they improved their performances and bettered their personal-best average times. Watching them race was very satisfying and it was a great tour for the team.”

The South African team that will compete in the 2013 UCI Para-cycling Road World Championships in Canada during August/September will be selected on the basis of rider performances in the just completed European World Cup series. It is expected that the team will be announced by the end of June.