Racing in the time trial discipline marked the start of the 2014 Time Freight SA Road Cycling Championships, which got underway along the Snell Parade in Durban today, 4 February.
It was the tandem cyclists who started at 7am, followed by the schools classes, under-16 boys and girls, and the Para-cycling disciplines.
Paralympian Ernst van Dyk donned the National Championship jersey in the H4 handcycling class in the afternoon when he blitzed the 16.4km course in 25 minutes and 52 seconds.
Van Dyk said that it is the first time that he has felt in this good shape in February. “I’ve had no off-season this year. I trained hard during December - the bar has been raised significantly, and I changed my training strategy to improve my average time. The course was tough today because of the wind. Yesterday during practice, it was super fast, today was tough.”
Van Dyk’s time was two-and-a-half minutes faster than fellow H4 competitor Andries Scheepers, who claimed silver. Bronze went to Christopher Large.
“Our first World Cup is in the beginning of May, and World Champs is much later in the year, so it’s a long season,” said Van Dyk. He does however feel chilled about Friday’s road race in Westville.
In the women’s handcycling H1 race, it was Justine Asher who posted a winning time of 18 minutes and 9 seconds along the 8.2km course. Asher, who has been racing since November 2012, was very happy with her result.
“I enjoyed the time trial, but I feel that I do better in the road race,” said Asher. “I’ve been training hard, with increased intensity and intervals. The wind kept me cool today and I enjoyed the simplicity of the course. Sometimes the courses can be tricky to navigate when you’re so low to the ground.”
Piet du Preez (H1 handcycling) posted 20 minutes 21 seconds on his 8.2km lap to claim the National Championship title. Du Preez also holds the accolade of being the first quadriplegic in the world to finish an Iron Man, a feat that he achieved in Australia in December.
“Compared to my preparation for the Iron Man, I was not in good form today,” said Du Preez. “ I broke my forearm in three places six weeks before Iron Man, so I had to rest after that race. I am happy with my result today considering my arm has been in a cast for 4 weeks during my preparations.
“I loved the course today, and the race was well organised. It is not too technical, but I could still feel the wind out there, even though we’re quite close to the ground.
Like Van Dyk, Du Preez will also turn to the athletics discipline of wheelchair racing in the coming weeks as he aims to claim his third consecutive title at the Berlin Marathon. Van Dyk will be looking to secure his 10th victory at the Boston Marathon this year.
The time trial continues tomorrow, Wednesday 5 February, when the Masters’ age groups take to the course with national titles at stake. Veteran Men, from age 30 to 80+ years, and Veteran Women, from age 30 to 60 years, will compete in the relevant number of laps starting at 7am.