The South African Para-cycling team has departed from Italy, having performed very well in the UCI Para-cycling road World Cup (7-9 June), hosted by the city of Merano.
The team’s proud medallists include Ernst van Dyk and Roxy Burns, who won silver and bronze respectively in their road race events. Van Dyk, who is not a time trial specialist, is very happy with his 4th place finish in the H4 time trial, whilst C4 rider Burns, who had hoped to medal in her time trial, saw this possibility evaporate as she fell twice whilst taking difficult corners on the technically complex racing circuit.
The routes selected for both the time trial and road race in Merano were typically Italian, insofar as technical conditions dictated their degree of unfamiliarity for the South Africans. Narrow roads, cobblestones and awkward cambers on sharp corners placed the team at a considerable disadvantage relative to their European continental competitors; however, the riders adapted well and the week of training and racing experience in Italy will stand them in good stead for this weekend’s Spanish World Cup.
Merano’s weather, although mostly warm and sunny, added complexity to the racing conditions during the World Cup, particularly on Day 3 when heavy rain made for treacherous riding. South African hand-cyclist Justine Asher was an unfortunate victim of these conditions when, during the relay event, the related failure of her brakes and a wet road caused her to crash, resulting in bone fractures in both of her legs. This is extremely unfortunate since Asher proved her potential as a world-class hand-cyclist in both the time trial and road race events that preceded the relay. At the time of the accident the SA team of Asher, van Dyk and McCreadie were positioned 4th and could have clawed their way up to achieve a podium finish.
All of the South African team members gave their very best in their races and, without exception, deserve to be credited for this. Three of the riders competing internationally for the first time deserve particular mention: Justine Asher, Yusthin Lintnaar and George Rex. T2 tricyclist Lintnaar finished in 4th place in the time trial, behind three significantly more experienced riders, including the current World Champion, Hans-Peter Durst, and London 2012 Paralympic Gold Medallist, David Stone. Lintnaar was unfortunate to be involved in an accident during his road race, when he was in 2nd position; however, the fact that he picked himself up and completed the race shows the determination of this young rider.
T1 tricyclist, George Rex, finished in 4th place in both the time trial and road race and, like Lintnaar, cannot wait for the forthcoming Spanish World Cup to convert his potential into podium finishes. Asher will hopefully recover to be able to compete in the World Championships to be hosted by Canada later in the year, where she too has the athletic talent to claim one or more medals. Additionally, she has the potential to enable the SA hand-cycle relay team to claim a World Championship medal for this prestigious event.
The SA Para-cycling team have spent this week preparing for the UCI Spanish World Cup (14-16 June). The team will be extremely happy if they can double their Italian World Cup medal tally and have set their sights on achieving this aim.