With open arms, Africa’s Bike City anticipates welcoming some of the world’s best athletes as the City of Pietermaritzburg is making final preparations ahead of the UCI Para-cycling Road World Cup, from 11-13 September 2015. Among the international and national Para-cycling heroes that will be competing is Swiss wheelchair-athlete-turned-Para-cyclist, Heinz Frei.
Frei (57) switched from the athletics discipline of wheelchair racing to the cycling discipline of Para-cycling at the age of 46, where he fell head-over-heels for the sport. He has added multiple accolades to his name, including 14 Winter and Summer Paralympic gold medals, three London Marathon wheelchair victories, and numerous Para-cycling World Cup gold and silver medals. The most recent UCI Para-cycling Road World Championships in July saw him claim a silver medal in both the time trial and road race events in his category.
The H3 category hand cyclist is excited about returning to South Africa, having been here once before a very long time ago. “I was in Cape Town in 1996, just before the Paralympic Games in Atlanta, for a training camp. At the time, I was an athlete in a wheelchair and so I competed there with athletes like Krige Schabort and Ernst van Dyk. Oooh, it’s been a long time since then,” he said.
At the end of the training camp in 1996, Frei competed in the Cape Town Marathon and won. “The race started at 6am in darkness – it was a wonderful experience in my young career,” he said.
On staying motivated from day to day, Frei had this to say: “I just love the benefit of fitness and power within sporting activities! With some power and endurance, my life as a disabled person is so much easier. I’m also a real “sport” person – I love to be with nature and outside in the fresh air, especially on a bike. We can do such lovely routes, meet other people and see incredible sights!
“When comparing it, I think the Pietermaritzburg World Cup will be similar to other races around the world, except that the people, culture, and the countryside will be different and very interesting for me. I also don’t know much about the weather; it must be close to spring time and here we have autumn now,” he said.
Frei is happy with his successes over the years, and has the same mindset going into a new race as he’s always had. “I try to do my best in all of the races that I do, but I’m 57-years-old now, and can’t always be faster and faster. I’ve had a wonderful season though, coming close to a gold medal at the World Championships in Switzerland (two silver medals), victories at the World Cups in Yverdon and Elzach, and other great performances. What more could I wish for?
“I will get to the start line in South Africa with all my power, enthusiasm, fun and coolness. I hope it works – why not go for gold?” he laughed.
The 2015 UCI Para-cycling Road World Cup – Pietermaritzburg (11-13 September 2015) will have two competition venues with the time trial competition being staged in the Midmar Dam complex on Friday 11 September and the road races in the city of Pietermaritzburg using Alexandra Park as the official competition venue on Saturday 12 and Sunday 13 September. For more information, visit: http://www.cyclingsa.com/2015-uci-para-road-world-cup/