Known as one of the most celebrated cycling galas in the Western Cape and South Africa, the annual Paarl Boxing Day track cycling event attracts between 3000 and 5000 spectators every year and will take place at the Faure Street Stadium in Paarl on Saturday 26 December 2015.
“It’s one of the longest running cycling events in the world, with this year being it’s 118th, first starting in 1897. It continued straight through World War II,” said event organiser, Andre Abrahams.
This historic and well-established event that dates back to the 1900s brings alive the rich culture and heritage attached to track cycling, and awakens in so many folk the joys and triumphs of the winners in past years in the Western Cape.
“This year we have a great sponsor on board as well, Alfa Bodyworks. We now have R100 000 prize money on offer. One of the main events of the day will see R45 000 alone,” said Abrahams.
“The trophy for the 25 Mile race is also a glory on its own, worth close to R170 000 a few years back when it was last valued,” he added.
There’s a real buzz in the crowds on the day as well, and vivacious people from all different directions come to support the event. Abrahams mentioned that the names of the past winners are printed onto the back of the programme, so that the history of the event can be seen on the day and that the legends live on.
“It has definitely been the largest cycling event in south Africa since I have been working with it for the last 18 years. In the past 45 years, I can say that I have only missed three Paarl Boxing Day events,” he concluded.
Team Abantu rider, Morne van Niekerk, took a deep breath before he began sharing his views on the iconic event. “Paarl Boxing Day is such a great event, and the vibe around it is something else. Usually when it comes to track events, there are direct family and friends who are there to support. This however, is purely fan-based and the masses pull in from all over to watch the action,” he said.
The 20-year-old, filled with jubilation and nostalgia at the 2014 event, had this to say: “Last year was the first time that I took part, and I will never, ever miss another. It is a fantastic day. It’s there that we can truly appreciate the effort and support of the crowds. I’ve been to very few events where you actually feel like a professional cyclist, but at this place – you are an absolute hero. Last year it took me 45 minutes to get from the track to the locker room – which was 10 metres away. The supporters wanted to ask questions, and take photos and high five me after the race. And I didn’t mind. It’s those exceptional people and their small moments of appreciation that make the hard training and sacrifices in the year all worth it.”
Van Niekerk said that the “buzz” from last year’s event was still very much alive. “And just as it starts to fizzle out, the next one hits us already, and it all starts again.”
He said that 2015 has been a long, hard season. “It’s strange to say this, but in the confined space of the track – I’ve never felt more free. There’s an indescribable feeling of adrenaline. There should be more events like this around the country. Its great for exposing the youngsters to the sport, even if they’re just watching.”
With such high spectator value involved, everybody whose anybody comes to watch, not only cycling fans. “I can’t think of another cycling event in the country that brings this much excitement and spectatorship to it,” he added.
“Sport has the power to change the world, by bringing everyone together, and this event is a prime example of it. It is such a spectacular day that I actually get goose bumps talking about it,” said van Niekerk.
“I don’t think I’ve missed one of these since I started riding. There is so much heritage and history in this event,” says five-time winner, Nolan Hoffman.
The hometown hero mentioned that from the moment he went to watch his first Paarl Boxing Day, he fell in love with the event. “I will always go back there. It’s great because the locals get to see me riding as well, and I’m a bit of a favourite with them there so there’s some pressure now,” he laughed.
“Non-traditional cycling followers arrive in their masses to show support. It’s one day where Paarl is cycling crazy. And some of these supporters otherwise don’t ever get to see an event like this close up. You only really get crowds like in the biggest track events overseas, so to get it at home – what a pleasure.”
The highlight race of the day is often the 25 Mile (40km+). “I’ve heard that friends and groups of spectators make fun bets as well as to who will take the title – they each have their own favourite,” said Hoffman.
“Another exciting aspect of this years event, is the new sponsor on board, Alfa Bodyworks, and I am proud and honoured to say that I will be their brand ambassador and wearing their kit at their event. This is also why I need to make sure I need to peak at top performance at the event and that I am 100% ready.
“You have to be there to actually witness how great this event is, it’s hard to put it all into words. I promise you – if one event could describe the electricity of track cycling, this would be it. I’m actually getting goose bumps talking about it, its that good. It’s amazing,” he concluded.
The 2015 Paarl Boxing Day Track cycling event takes place on Saturday 26 December. For riders wanting to be part of the action, click here to enter: http://www.cyclingsa.com/s/20151121_PAARL-BOXING-ENTRY-FORM-2015.pdf