A busy start to the 2015 cycling season in South Africa has seen the UCI World Cycling Centre (WCC) Africa’s cycling team reap early rewards and stay on the path towards their season goals.
The WCC Africa, based in Potchefstroom in the North West Province, has been successfully identifying and developing African cycling talent since 2005. The MTN-Qhubeka WCCA Feeder Team is the high performance team of 10 cyclists comprising seven South Africans and three Eritreans, who have all passed through a definitive training schedule to be representing the team today.
WCC Africa Director, Jean-Pierre van Zyl, sources potential team riders from the biannual training camps that are hosted during the course of the year. Camps are aimed at specific preparation for events such as African Continental Championships, as well as identifying talented athletes for long-term development. Early this year, prior to the African Track Cycling Championships and the African Road Cycling Championships in KwaZulu-Natal, 55 cyclists were in attendance at the training camp held in Potchefstroom. Of those, 18 were women and the remaining 37 were junior, under-23 and elite men.
“From there, we select two to three riders to stay at the WCC Africa for two months, where they will ride, race and learn about nutrition and the various aspects of professional racing,” said Van Zyl. “After six weeks, we then conduct a power test and decide if those riders stay on until the end of the year, or if they will be part of the 2016 cycling team.”
A string of high-calibre UCI rated road cycling events has given the team sufficient time to test their strengths against other international-level riders. The SA Road Cycling Championships followed by the African Road Cycling Championships in early February tested the team’s output against some of Africa’s best competitors.
“The SA Champs and African Champs were our main focus,” said Van Zyl. “We claimed the first three positions in the u23 road race (1. Jayde Julius 2. Stefan de Bod 3. Oliver Stapleton-Cotton); and 2nd (Nicholas Dlamini) and 3rd (Gustav Basson) in the u23 Individual Time Trial at SA Road Champs. At the African Continental Champs, Nicholas Dlamini was part of the four-man team that claimed a silver medal in the TTT, while Jayde Julius won the u23 road race.”
Most recently, the Tour de Boland from 2-6 March saw Eritrean Tesfom Okubamariam in with a chance, but unfortunately he dropped his chain on the final day in an attack against Dylan Girdlestone. By the time he was ready to join the race, all the main players were out of sight. MTN-Qhubeka WCCA Feeder Team claimed the Team competition and finished the tour with two u23 riders (Gustav Basson 6th overall and Stefan de Bod 8th overall) in the top eight.
During the Cape Rouleur in the same week – from 1-5 March – Nicholas Dlamini won the overall GC hands down with over four minutes margin on his closest rival, with teammate Graeme Ockhuis finishing third. Dlamini walked away with the yellow leader jersey and the red climbers jersey, while Ockhuis claimed the green sprinters jersey in the pro category.
“In terms of development, we are certainly reaching our goals,” continued Van Zyl. “Our team has performed against the top elite riders and the talent is definitely coming through. Stefan de Bod won the Lights by Linea criterium races at the weekend – we know that these guys have the talent and now they’re winning against our top elites.
“To look at how far we have come in developing cycling talent, it is exciting to see a rider like Merhawi Kudus ride away from some of the world’s top pros. Merhawi was an uncut diamond with massive potential when he arrived at the WCCA, and now he is the talk in the pro-peloton and a rising star of Professional cycling in Europe.”
Van Zyl coaches and trains the cyclists about all aspects of cycling and racing so that they are well prepared for the world of professional cycling when they leave the WCC Africa.
“My way of coaching them is to let them know that they’re doing this for themselves. They need to be professional and they need to train like I am not there. The riders need to be self-sufficient and have the ability to adapt their training and mental approach as if they were already in the professional environment.”
The team looks ahead to compete in the upcoming KZN Autumn Series road races at the end of April, comprising three races each with a UCI Cat 1.2 rating. The under-23 boys will then head to Switzerland to the UCI World Cycling Centre in Aigle, to train and race for two to three months.
2015 MTN-Qhubeka World Cycling Centre Africa Feeder Team
Tesfom Okubamariam (ERI)
Metkel Eyob (ERI)
Meron Teshome (ERI)
Oliver Stapleton-Cotton (RSA)
Jayde Julius (RSA)
Gustav Basson (RSA)
Graeme Ockhuis (RSA)
Clint Hendricks (RSA)
Nicholas Dlamini (RSA)
Stefan De Bod (RSA)