Pietermaritzburg - With riders from 30 different African nations set to take part in the Confederation of African Cycling (CAC) Road Championships next week, Pietermaritzburg and the small town of Wartburg are bracing themselves to host the biggest road cycling event ever in the country with some high class racing expected over the six days of action.
In what is proving to be the biggest fortnight of road racing in South Africa ever, the elite stars that graced the podium in the Lowveld can justifiably look to take their form to a possible continental crown.
In addition to deciding the CAC road title holders for 2015, the event carries massive extra significance for the Olympic qualification points allocations make it a very high priority for the African road cycling super powers.
Cycling South Africa (Cycling SA) has made no bones about their desire to win the overall team standings, and clinch with it three places at the Rio Games, while the next four ranked African countries secure two Olympic berths.
Cycling SA General Manager Mike Bradley highlighted the CAC Road Champs as a rare opportunity for the elite South African athletes to accumulate the vital Olympic qualification points, as many of them don’t get that chance on the major international tour events.
“There are 22 teams, plus a few Wildcard teams, that participate in the top-tier World Tour events, where they have the opportunity to earn Olympic qualification points at all the events,” explained Bradley.
The road cycling fever continues in South Africa as the focus switches from the South African national championships that wrap up in Mbombela on the weekend to the continental showpiece in KwaZulu-Natal.
“However for many elite road cyclists committed to qualifying for the Olympic Games, there are far fewer opportunities to earn those Olympic qualification points, so events like the CAC Road Championships become very important indeed.”
The toughest competition will come from the well-oiled road stars from Eritrea, Rwanda, Algeria and Morocco.
Wartburg is no stranger to hosting road cycling events having hosted the UCI World Cycling Tour in 2012 as well as the Msunduzi Road Challenge in 2013 so the organisers of the African Championships had a successful blueprint to work with when it came to laying out the routes for the Time Trials and the Road Races.
Another important element to the championships is that there will be complete road closure for the riders with their safety being of the utmost importance to the organisers of the event and having the peace of mind that the roads will be clear is a positive for both the riders and race officials.
With a schedule that sees racing take place after the morning traffic at 09:00am and scheduled to finish before the afternoon rush at 12:30pm organisers are confident that the racing should not impact on the local community and their day-to-day activities.
The event kicks off with the team Time Trials in all of the age categories on Monday 9 February with the elite men’s and women’s individual Time Trials taking place on Wednesday and the Road Races for the elite women on Friday and the elite men on Saturday – which will finish off the event.
With riders coming from 30 different African countries and as remote as the tiny island of Sao Tome the experience could prove to be a bit intimidating for a number of the riders from outside of South Africa however having so many different nations represented is a testament to the event.
The weather is set fair for the first half of the week of the championships but then there is rain predicted for later in the week, which could make riding slightly more difficult.
Entrance for spectators is free of charge. More information can be found at http://www.cyclingsa.com/2015-african-conti-road-champs.
Live streaming for this event will be available at www.streamit360.tv.
PROGRAMME OF EVENTS
Mon 9 Feb - Team Time Trials
Tues 10 Feb - Junior Men and Women Time Trials
Wed 11 Feb - Elite and Under 23 Men and Women Time Trials
Thurs 12 Feb - Junior Men and Women Road Race
Fri 13 Feb - Elite Women Road race
Sat 14 February - Elite and Under 23 Men Road Race
Nations taking part in CAC Road Champs 2015:
Algeria, Angola, Botswana, Burkino Faso, Burundi, Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Lesotho, Libya, Mali, Mauritius, Mozambique, Morocco, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sao Tome, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe.