Team South Africa is gearing up to take part in the first leg of this year’s UCI Para-cycling Road World Cup in Pietermaritzburg, from 6-8 May 2016. The National Team taking part this year includes new and not-so-new faces. In this mix is, is former mountain bike enthusiast and adrenaline junkie, Nic Whiteing.
Whiteing grew up on a smallholding in Lions River, KwaZulu-Natal, where he learnt a lot about his passion for the outdoors and being surrounded by nature. “I also spent lots of time on my mountain bike in the forests and on dirt roads, always finding the biggest hills to go down as fast as possible,” he added.
The 26-year-old says that a bicycle has always been a huge apart of who he is. When he moved with his family to Howick, it was a major adjustment, as he was more used to the larger open spaces and forests where it was quiet and away from the town. “I found that I would escape on my bicycle, learn about my new surroundings and every trail and road there was for miles and miles,” he added.
Describing himself as always being somewhat of an adrenaline junkie, Whiteing found himself taking up Downhill riding: “Downhill was my passion. I used to cycle 35 kilometres, six days a week to stay fit and I did downhill rides on weekends. I would even bunk school and go into the forests to create and touch up my downhill trails. I finished school and decided to follow my passion even through employment as I began working at Greg Minnaar Cycles. I learned so much about all kinds of cycling and the mechanical side behind it all. I think my passion helped on the sales floor as well, as I knew what people expected from riding.”
In 2010, Whiteing was involved in a car accident at the young age of 20 when he was studying in Cape Town. The accident left him paralysed from just below the chest. He soon sold both his Downhill and Cross-country bikes, as the sight of them played on his emotions too much. “I missed the freedom of the mountains under my wheels, I still do to this day,” he said.
He was introduced to hand cycling in 2013. He mentioned that the moment he received his first hand cycle of his own, he instantly fell in love. “It was so challenging but so speedy and so low to the ground. I began to get fit and strong and my physical routine of hard, solid gym sessions helped a huge amount,” he said.
Whiteing has been participating in many long distance races around the country and has loved the challenge that each has had to offer. “Even though it is tar roads and does get boring, the thrill comes from the challenge on the mind and overcoming the pain by getting fitter stronger and faster. I love this sport and my trike hand bike,” he said.
Feeling incredibly grateful to be part of the South African team for the first leg of the Para-cycling Road World Cup, the H3 hand cyclist says: “I’m extremely excited and ridiculously honoured to be riding for my country, but I won’t lie, I am extremely nervous. I have very high expectations of myself and have been training very hard. This is my first time racing a World Cup and an international Para-cycling race. The levels and speed of these athletes is going to be an eye opener and it is rather scary, but very exciting.”
When asked about what the sport of cycling does for him, Whiteing said: “Cycling is my freedom, my counselling, my escape, and the one place where I feel at peace with myself.”
Whiteing has set himself some personal goals for the season, his two main goals are to become faster and fitter, and the second is to improve his times for both the Amashova and Momentum 947 races.
Whiteing ended on a few words of encouragement for those wishing to take up either cycling or Para-cycling: “To anyone young that wants to try this sport or any cycling of any kind, I say to them it is a definite must. Cycling is one of the best workouts one can get, and is psychologically stimulating, helps to sooth the mind and creates a healthy body and lifestyle. It also creates a positive attitude – a person learns more about themselves through physical and mental challenges.”
The opening round of the 2016 UCI Para-cycling Road World Cup takes place at Alexandra Park in Pietermaritzburg from Friday 6 to Sunday 8 May. More information can be found here: http://www.cyclingsa.com/2016-uci-para-road-world-cup/. Spectators are welcome to come and support the local and international riders that will be participating, and the pit area is open for people to meet their cycling heroes.