Women’s cycling on the rise in Africa

With the 2015 Momentum 947 Cycle Challenge women’s race being granted UCI 1.1 status by the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), even more of Africa’s top women will take to the tarmac and use the opportunity to shine and show the continent just how far women’s cycling has developed on Sunday 15 November.

World Cycling Centre Africa (WCCA) Director, Jean-Pierre van Zyl, is thrilled to have had the experience of working with women cyclists from around Africa over the past weeks in the build up to the momentous race. “It’s been really, really good. These women are going to have a huge impact on this race. It’s the calm before the storm. I hope South Africa is ready for what’s coming.”

WCCA hosted women cyclists from all over the continent for the month-long Women’s Development Training Camp, including Eritrea, Rwanda, Ethiopia and Botswana. The riders have been assigned to two invitational WCCA teams, which will be competing in the Momentum 947 Cycle Challenge UCI 1.1 women’s race next weekend alongside leading international women’s cycling teams such as Bigla Pro Cycling Team, Team Liv Plantur and Team Tibco SVB.

In addition, South Africa’s Activate/Demacon, Time Freight eTeam, BestMed ASG Women’s Cycling and Clover Prestigio as well as composite invitational teams from South Africa, Botswana, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Israel, Namibia, Rwanda and Mauritius will be competing for the 2015 title.

Van Zyl chatted about what a race of this stature means to women’s cycling on the continent: “In terms of a race like this – this is just the start. It’s exactly the right stepping stone we’ve needed to get women’s cycling on the go. In the last two to three years alone, the number of women entering and cycling these sort of races has doubled.”

Van Zyl could not reiterate enough the humbleness of the countries he has been working with. “The women I have had the pleasure of assisting over this time are incredible. I have never before met a greater bunch of calm, loving, respectful ladies that are so willing to learn. They all get along so well with each other. These women know the struggles that each of them has gone through to get to where they are today. These women expect nothing, and are so unbelievably appreciative of everything. There are a few language barriers, but at the end of the day they are all laughing, smiling and joking around with common words and phrases that they all know. And they work so hard.”

He mentioned the great efforts he had witnessed in training the ladies, and the determination and passion for cycling he saw on their faces. Cycling South Africa Women’s Commission Director, Lise Olivier, also took part in some of the action, and Van Zyl said that the abundance of women power with the cyclists has been magical to watch.

“I have literally just sat back, observed, and said to myself, “wow”. It’s wonderful to be a part of it all. Men in Africa have had some time in the sun, but now its time for our women to shine, and get these opportunities that they so rightfully deserve,” he concluded.

For more information about the World Cycling Centre Africa, click here: http://www.wccafrica.com/

For more information about the 2015 Momentum 947 Cycle Challenge, click here: http://www.cyclechallenge.co.za/