Pietermaritzburg – William Newman, the President of the Confederation of African Cycling's Track Commission, declared the African Continental Track Cycling Championships a big success after the event concluded in very hot conditions in Pietermaritzburg on Saturday.
"From the Confederation of African Cycling's perspective, this has been a hugely successful event. We are very impressed with the way things have panned out. Even the weather has played along over the last four days," he said.
"The racing has been of a high standard, despite a relatively small entry and few nations from elsewhere in Africa. It is definitely something we can build on and work with, and we already have plans in place to have more activity within Africa this year."
This year's Continental Track Championships marked the first time since 2001 that they had been held, but Newman said the future of the event looked bright.
"The event is here to stay. The enthusiasm of the South African riders has been phenomenal.
“Other nations within Africa have embraced the event and I am sure they all want to return and take part in it again next year and in the years to come," he reckoned.
"There is some work to be done, but we are prepared to roll up our sleeves and do it, and make sure that we continue to provide these opportunities for our riders."
With valuable International Cycling Union (UCI) points on offer at the Championships, Newman said the event had provided track cycling on the continent with a welcome boost.
He explained: "Again, the end-goal is to develop the discipline in Africa, and to give opportunities for Olympic qualification. Maybe South Africa will benefit this time around for 2016, but for the 2020 Olympics there should be many more nations scoring points and becoming eligible to compete at Tokyo 2020."
"The encouraging thing about these Championships has been that it has not been only South Africa on the podium," he added. "Egypt and Algeria have been on the podium a few times, and the other nations have ridden and shown that they can race with minimum track training. They've come from a road background, but they have adapted very well.
"I'm impressed with track cycling in Africa. It is so inspiring to know that the work done is being appreciated by the riders. They have our commitment that we will continue to grow the discipline."
Newman also said he was pleased to see strong showings from women cyclists from other African countries. "I saw a few of the African women at the African Youth Games last year and they have now progressed to the elite level where they are now racing against elite ladies, who have been on the track for a long time, and yet they are also getting medals," he said.
"We mustn't underestimate the African women, because they excel in athletics, so why can't they excel in cycling, specifically track cycling? It is our duty to continue to create opportunities for the women. I believe that women's cycling has to receive special focus, and we must continue trying to develop the discipline worldwide and specifically in Africa."
"Again, in addition to developing track cycling, we must develop cycling in general. I think these women will go back home now and spread the word that track is a very good discipline."
Interest in track cycling, from participants and spectators is on the up, and Newman said he would like to see a further increase in spectator numbers. "Track cycling is a very good spectator sport," he said, "and I think we need to get a culture shift into our spectators. For them to come and understand track cycling, a little bit of education is required from our side. The culture of track cycling can't be found in every area in South Africa, but in the Western Cape, for instance, track cycling is huge.
"We have an event on the 26th of December annually. The track is open air and the grandstand is filled. The highlight of the event is the 25-mile race and people come in huge numbers to watch it. There is no reason why every other province in South Africa with a track cannot build up to something like that.
"It is really a great spectator sport and we need to do a little more work in terms of marketing it. I urge people to come along and see track cycling and they will be pleasantly surprised by how entertaining it is."
More information about the event can be found at: