Tuscany works its magic for the SA Para-cycling team

After breaking the racing season’s ice with some impressive results in the Italian Verola Cup, in the country’s Lombardy region, the South African Para-cycling team has performed exceptionally well since the start of the UCI World Cup hosted by Italy in the small Tuscan coastal town of Castiglione della Pescaia (9-11 May).

Making the venue for this event particularly special is the fact that the iconic former Formula-1 motor racing champion and hand-cycling Paralympian medallist Alessandro Zanardi has a holiday home in the town - a situation that has attracted almost every resident out onto the streets to see him compete in the World Cup.

On 9 May, the spectacular time trial route had the riders racing across a flat coastal foreland through Mediterranean coastal forest, with the smell of pine resin and the singing of a few early cicadas adding much to the ambience. The largely non-technical nature of the circuit proved deceptive in the way that it enticed the unwary rider to go out too fast and to not leave enough in reserve for the return section. Extending the successes of the previous week, the first of South Africa’s riders to medal was T1 tricyclist George Rex, who won bronze. Following this performance was the silver medal win by H5 hand-cyclist Ernst van Dyk. Adding to South Africa’s medal haul, this time gold, was the outstanding performance of H1 hand-cyclist, and accomplished tri-athlete, Pieter du Preez.

The team’s other riders all performed well: H2 hand-cyclist Justine Asher used the occasion to prepare herself for the next day’s road race; C3 rider Craig Ridgard, competing in his first international tour, finished respectably in the middle of his group; Stuart McCreadie finished 5th in the H3 category; and youngster Yusthin Lintnaar finished 6th, ahead of former Italian T2 World Champion Giorgio Farroni.

Completely different to the time trial route in terms of technical challenge, the route selected for the road race threaded its way through the narrow streets of Castiglione della Pescaia and the even narrower country roads extending out of town into the postcard landscape of olive groves and vineyards. As first off South African rider Stuart McCreadie discovered, the route made it extremely difficult to maintain a place in the lead group, of which he unfortunately lost touch towards the end of the 65 km race. He nevertheless finished in a very competitive 7th place. George Rex, using lighter gears than in the time trial (to accelerate quickly out of the route’s myriad tight corners) improved on his previous day’s results by claiming a silver medal. 

His T2 tricycling teammate Lintnaar rode to a pre-set race plan, which worked perfectly and positioned him for a 4th place sprint finish, one bike length behind Paralympian gold medallist David Stone, who finished 3rd. This result was later overruled when Lintnaar was disqualified for an infringement and, although he and his teammates were obviously very disappointed with this ruling, they now know what he is capable of. A highlight performance of the day was Justine Asher’s gold medal win in the H2 category and the award to her of the World Cup champion’s jersey for her outstanding overall performance in the first leg of the season’s road race series.

As the sun set over the town’s ancient rock fortress, two more medals were added to the South African team’s impressive tally for the day. Pieter du Preez claimed silver in his event, with the bronze medal awarded to Van Dyk for the day’s H5 road race grand finale. Deserving his gold medal win, Zanardi certainly did not disappoint his hometown community; however, it was a close three-way sprint to the line, which could have produced a different result on any other day.

Summary of results – UCI Para-cycling Road World Cup – Time Trial (9 May)

Men H5 (15km)

1 Alessandro Zanardi (ITA) 21:51.88
2 Ernst Van Dyk (RSA) +1:03.55
3 Tim de Vries (Independant) +1:17.12

Men H3 (15km)

1 Vittorio Podesta (ITA) 21:58,74
2 Jean-Marc Berset (SUI) +29.67
3 Heinz Frei (SUI) +35.10
5 Stuart McCreadie (RSA) +50.98

Women’s H2 (15km)

1 Justine Asher (RSA) 34:57.93

Men H1 (15km)

1 Pieter du Preez (RSA) 33:06.07
2 Patrik Jahoda (CZE) +3:58.47
3 Marco Milanesi (Independent) +15:20.96

Men T2 (15km)

1 Ryan Boyle (USA) 25:09.00
2 Steven Peace (USA) +3.22
3 David Stone (GBR) +9,48
6 Yusthin Lintnaar (RSA) +1:39.05

Men T1 (15km)

1 Quentin Aubague (FRA) 30:49.16
2 Jiri Hindr (CZE) +1:39.98
3 Gerald Rex (RSA) +2:05.92

Men C3 (30km)

1 Alexey Obydennov (RUS) 41:43.04
2 Sergey Ustinov (RUS) +8.79
3 Masaki Fujita (JPN) +12.37
14 Craig Ridgard (RSA) +3:42.95

Summary of results – UCI Para-cycling Road World Cup – Road Race (10 May)

Men H5 (9 laps - 73.2 km)

1 Alessandro Zanardi (ITA) 02:07:28
2 Jetze Plat (Independent) +0:00
3 Ernst van Dyk (RSA) +0:00

Men H3 (8 laps - 65.1 km)

1 Riadh Tarsim (Independent) 01:44:52
2 Jean Deberg (BEL) +0:00
3 David Frenek (FRA) +0:00
7 Stuart McCreadie (RSA) +00:01:02

Women’s H2 (3 laps - 24.6 km)

1 Justine Asher (RSA) 01:02:35
2 Gilmara do Rosario Goncalves (BRA) +00:19:11

Men H1 (7 laps - 57.0 km)

1 Patrik Jahoda (CZE) 01:45:46
2 Pieter du Preez (RSA) +00:03:46

Men T2 (3 laps - 24.6 km)

1 Nestor Ayala Ayala (COL) 00:45:49
2 Giorgio Farroni (ITA) +0:00
3 David Stone (GBR) +0:00
DSQ Yusthin Lintnaar (RSA)

Men T1 (3 laps - 24.6 km)

1 Quentin Aubague (FRA) 00:51:46
2 Gerald Rex (RSA) +00:04:19
3 Aitor Oroza Flores (ESP) +00:06:35