The 2014 Time Freight SA Road Cycling Championships delivered a spectacle of racing hardly seen before in South Africa. Louis Meintjes (Team MTN-Qhubeka) just snuck past Daryl Impey (Orica GreenEdge) after 180km of gruelling racing. It was a massive disappointment to Daryl that his bike developed a mechanical in the sprint finish. Unfortunately, the prize giving was delayed by opinions regarding the result as to who should be wearing what jersey and why.
Firstly, credit must go to the riders who enthralled the spectators with some fascinating racing and showed the public how brutal the sport is. Credit must go to the younger rider, Meintjes, for taking on the likes of Daryl right down to the final sprint. So what is all the controversy about?
The issues raised are around the fact that Meintjes is an under-23 rider and Impey is an Elite (over the age of 23 years). Therefore, one would think that one receives the U23 jersey, the other the Elite Jersey, end of story. Not so. Here in lies the complexity of road cycling. Louis is an U23 rider, and a member of a Pro-Continental Team (Team MTN-Qhubeka), and not a UCI Pro Team. If he were part of a UCI pro-team, he would then be considered as an Ipso Facto Elite (rule 1.1.036), and would not be able to compete for the U23 national, continental or World Championship titles irrespective of his age.
So why not separate the categories and have two clear champions?
One then needs to take rule 2.11.014 into consideration. This rule states that should a national federation have a combined event (u23/Elite), participants will earn UCI points. If a National Federation holds a separate event for U23, no points will be provided for the event.
So why are UCI points so important?
To be able to field a complete 5-man team in the Olympic Games. Cycling South Africa needs to be ranked number 1 on the African Continent, as per UCI Olympic qualification criteria. Therefore, we need both our U23’s and Elites to earn as many UCI points as possible. Furthermore, in terms of qualification criteria for UCI World Championships, we also need our U23’s to earn points at our National Championships, or else we are in danger of not qualifying any riders in this category.
It would have been really great to see our National Championship jersey in the Tour De France for 2014, but as Team MTN-Qhubeka were not invited to participate, the only other option was with Impey, as he is part of a UCI Pro team (Orica GreenEdge), who automatically qualify for the Tour De France. We will still see our SA Elite Championship Jersey in Europe during the 2014 season. Team MTN-Qhubeka has been invited to participate in the many of the one-day classics in Europe, on the shoulders of young Louis Meintjes when he races these for MTN-Qhubeka.
As South Africans, we can all be proud of the depth of cycling talent we have – our athletes are world class.
Daryl Impey’s Orica GreenEdge team has approached the UCI for clarification of the rule, as there is no definitive ruling regarding jersey distribution per se, that we can find in the rule set. As Cycling SA, we will accept any decision of the UCI, provided that the ruling is backed by clear, established rules.