The hopes and dreams of adorning an array of medals became an early reality for the successful South African Para-cycling team, who returned from the 2011 UCI Para-cycling Road World Cup Final in the city of Baie-Comeau Québec, Canada this week.
The three-day event hosted an assortment of categories in the road racing discipline, accommodating handcycling, tricycling and bicycling.
Day one was a huge success with 19-year old Goldy Fuchs earning a bronze medal in the first event, the Time Trial for T2 men. Goldy missed the silver medal by a mere 3 seconds, and his teammates Gerhard Viljoen and Riaan Nel finished fourth and fifth respectively.
Not to be outdone by her male T2 counterparts, Madre Carinus rode the race of her life and won silver in her time trial event - beating the current World Champion by a significant margin (who had to be satisfied with 3rd place).
Extending the successes of his T2 teammates, Ernst van Dyk earned bronze for his time trial. Commenting after the race, Ernst felt that he had selected the wrong gear cluster for the conditions on the day. He found himself short of a gear on the circuit’s long climb and struggled for much of the race against a strong wind.
Success was made even sweeter on the second day when Van Dyk was awarded the gold medal in a nail-biting sprint finish against a Belgian rider in the H4 road race. This race saw reigning World Champion Oscar Sanchez relegated to third place after he failed in his break away bid against van Dyk and the Belgian on the first lap, blowing out in the process.
Cycling in rainy conditions, Fuchs, Viljoen and Nel finished second, third and fourth respectively in the T2 men road race. With two South African flags accompanying the gold medallist’s German flag on the UCI podium, the handover of the silver and bronze medals to Fuchs and Viljoen was loudly applauded by the crowd that has enthusiastically supported the championships.
C4 rider Janos Plekker participated in the gruelling road race event on the third and final day of competition. The circuit included a killer climb (long and steep), providing a huge advantage to climbing specialists. The circuit provided little opportunity for riders to make up time lost on the climb. Riding in an extremely competitive C4 class, Janos achieved the target set for him, which was to finish in 10th place, earning points for team South Africa. Teammate Jaco Nel, who has won two silver and 1 bronze medals in previous UCI events in 2011 unfortunately had to withdraw from the road race due to bronchitis.
At the conclusion of the World Cup, the medal tally for the South African Para-cycling team was 6 medals: 1 x gold, 2 x silver and 3 x bronze - the best performance achieved in many years.
Athletes from 27 countries travelled to Baie-Comeau in the hope of gaining as many UCI points as possible with a view to qualification for the 2012 London Olympic Games. It was also the last occasion for Para-cyclists to confront each other before the World Championships in the Danish city of Roskilde (September 8th to 11th).