Team South Africa celebrated two new World Championship titles on Friday when Justine Asher and Pieter du Preez won their respective Time Trial events, while Ernst van Dyk claimed a bronze medal at the 2015 UCI Para-cycling Road World Championships in Notwill, Switzerland.
For H2 hand cyclist Asher, the TT route suited her well and having trained accordingly, she blew the competition right out of the water by claiming the gold medal by 17 minutes on the 14km course over Dutch rider Carmen Koedood.
“I am very proud to be wearing the World Champs jersey and will be excited to wear it in the South African World Cup in September. I’m well prepared for the road race on Sunday, as it is the same circuit as the TT, so I know what to expect. Hopefully I will be well recovered by then,” she said.
Feeling confident ahead of his race, Du Preez was eager to put his training to the test on the gruelling course.
“Over the last two years, my coach Raynard Tissink and I have worked hard, consistently training and building and doing more and more as we go on. I had trained certain intervals on specific routes and could see from my performances there that I’m in the form of my life.”
Du Preez, who completed the 14km route in a time of 41 minutes 59.74 seconds beating Kiwi Timothy Williams by two-and-a-half minutes, is keen to go for the double this year, and is feeling equally confident that he can pull it off. “It is a huge honour for me to wear the rainbow jersey and I know it inspires many people out there. I’m just so proud to be a South African and to represent my country in the World Champs jersey,” he said.
The H1 hand cyclist went on to explain how tough the racing is for his class. “If you really understand how weak our class is in terms of the muscle function that we have, a course like this is really hard for any H1 quadriplegic athlete. We literally only have 15% of the muscle function than an able-bodied athlete would have, so compared to the other athletes we have much less muscle function, and this type of course is tough for us.
“I see myself as being strong on either a flat or hilly course due to my training and I’ll take it as it comes and hopefully get another gold on Sunday.”
Bronze medallist Van Dyk said that the uphill course with a fast, technical descent did not suit him at all. “We do the same course for the road race so it’s going to be very tough for me. I did not lose too much time on [Italian, Allessandro] Zanardi today on the climbs but I did lose a chunk of time on the technical descent. So that will be a tough part of the road race for me on Sunday.”
Van Dyk’s third place finish in the H5 hand cycling class in 29 minutes 21.46 seconds was less than a minute behind gold medallist Zanardi (00:28:29.12) and 13 seconds off the pace of silver medallist Oscar Sanchez (00:29:08.81).
Cycling SA Para-cycling Commission Director, Dr Mike Burns, was ecstatic with the team’s performances. “I’m very proud of the team! This is just the start; it’s going to get even better with the road races. It is all going perfectly according to plan with Justine and Pieter’s gold medals. The bronze is what we expected for Ernst, as he loves to bunch ride in the road races and the TT is not his main event. However he did very well, and this will set him up nicely for the road race.
“If all goes well, Pieter and Justine can both repeat their medals if there are no mechanicals. And I think Craig Ridgard is going to finish in the top five – he’s got it in him. He is super fit, strong and focused and tactically very good.”
The 2015 UCI Para-cycling Road World Championships will finish on Sunday 2 August, with Team SA yet to do the road races, which take place on Saturday and Sunday.
Summary of Results – 2015 UCI Para-cycling Road World Championships (SUI)
H5 – Men (15.5km)
1.ZANARDI Alessandro (ITA) 00:28:29.12
2.SANCHEZ Oscar (USA) 00:29:08.81
3.VAN DYK Ernst (RSA) 00:29:21.46
H2 – Women (14km)
1.ASHER Justine (RSA) 00:37:35.51
2.KOEDOOD Carmen (NED) 00:54:08.16
3.JEON Mikyoung (KOR) 00:58:15.49
C2 – Men (21km)
1.GILMUTDINOV Arslan (RUS) 00:31:08.44
2.LIANG Guihua (CHN) 00:31:48.78
3.HILARIO RIMAS Israel (PER) 00:31:56.93
11.RIDGARD Craig (RSA) 00:33:51.45
H1 – Men (14km)
1.DU PREEZ Nicolas Pieter (RSA) 00:41:59.74
2.WILLIAMS Timothy (NZL) 00:44:35.82
3.FRUEH Benjamin (SUI) 00:44:52.20
T1 – Men (14km)
1.AUBAGUE Quentin (FRA) 00:30:15
2.SEMOCHKIN Sergey (RUS) 00:31:29
3.HINDR Jiri (CZE) 00:32:01
5.REX Gerald George (RSA) 00:36:59
T2 – Men (14km)
1.DURST Hans-Peter (GER) 00:25:00.82
2.FARRONI Giorgio (ITA) 00:26:20.60
3.BOYLE Ryan (USA) 00:26:23.87
6.FUCHS Goldy (RSA) 00:27:26.97