The best amateur road racers in the world will square up against one another and a tough hilly course that starts and finishes at Alexandra Park in Pietermaritzburg and traverses the undulating terrain around Albert Falls Dam, Wartburg and Harburg to decide the holders of the coveted rainbow jerseys at the UCI World Cycling Tour Final.
In all, world champions will be crowned in fifteen veterans and masters classes for men and women, outside of the talented riders competing in the 16-29 year age group Challenger class that does not qualify for world titles at the event, formerly known as the Masters World Championships.
Local riding fans will rally around established South African stars aspiring to win world amateur titles in their own backyard, with in-form icons like Lynette Burger and Andrew Mclean bearing the bulk of the pressure to rack up hometown victories.
“I am here for the road race firstly,” said reigning African champion Burger after winning her time trial on Thursday.
“Winning the UCI rainbow stripes has been the sole focus of my attention for the past three months and my build-up has been perfect. I have won the SA stripes as national champion and now I really want to add the UCI stripes.”
Mclean has his sights set on the rainbow jersey in the tough men's 45-49 age group 96km race on Saturday afternoon. “It is a good, fair course and chance for revenge!” said Mclean.
Mclean was pipped to the time trial honours by just two seconds on Thursday and will be hungry to make amends on the road. “This event is a wonderful opportunity to race against some of the very best riders in the world and I am really looking forward to it,” said Mclean.
Mclean added that the calibre of the entry was exceptionally high because only the best riders had been able to make the trip to South Africa for the Final. “Only the cream of the crop are here,” he said. “The guys on the start line are the very best riders, there are no pack fillers and back markers. The field is slightly smaller but the quality is very high.”
On the starting line-up will be four men out to defend the title they won at last year's worlds in Belgium, starting with Belgian local Simon Collard, who kicked off his South African campaign with an impressive win in Thursday's time trial in Wartburg.
The other defending champions are Italians Wladimiro d'Assenzo (40-44) and Giovanni Lattanzi (45-49) and US rider James Mattis (35-39).
Five women and three men will start their road races boosted by victories in the time trial at Wartburg on Thursday. Megan Cea (USA, 16-29), Lynette Burger (RSA 30-34), Molly van Houwelling (USA, 35-39), Sissel Vien (Norway, 50-54) and Ann Miller (USA 55-59) will join Collard, Igor Kopše (Slovenia, 35-39) and Randfontein master Christiaan Rossouw (RSA 60-64) as new rainbow jersey holders on the start line in Alexandra Park.
On Saturday morning the 61km race will decide the titles for the women's 45+ and men's 65+ age groups, with the 96km route set aside for the women's 30-34, 35-39 and 40-44 age groups and men in the 45-49, 50-54, 55-59 and 60-64 categories.
Sunday sees the focus shift to the tougher 112km road race, which will decide the rainbow jerseys in the men's 16-29 Challenger class, 30-34, 35-39 and 40-44 year age groups, starting at 10am.
Of the total entry of 343 riders from 32 countries, 169 South African riders will start the three road races, along with 43 Australians, 18 Italians, 17 Americans, 14 Brazilians, 7 from Belgium and France, 6 from Canada, Denmark and Norway, and 5 from Germany, Great Britain and Swaziland.
More information can be found at www.uwctfinal.co.za.
Photo: Craig Dutton/Gameplan Media