Cycling South Africa‘s national para-cycling team departs for Europe on Sunday to participate in two UCI Para-cycling Road World Cup events – in Merano, Italy (7-9 June), and Segovia, Spain (14-16 June).
The team, which includes H4 hand-cycle world champion and Paralympic silver medallist Ernst van Dyk and three of his Paralympian colleagues, Stuart McCreadie, Roxy Burns and Gerhard Viljoen, also includes a number of riders who will be competing internationally for the first time.
Mike Burns, Cycling SA’s director for para-cycling, said the team selection strategy is aimed at using the two World Cup events (which do not yield nation points for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games) as an opportunity for riders who are inexperienced in international competition to show what they are capable of.
He explained that if South Africa is to claim three medals at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, to improve on the well-deserved single medal earned at the London Paralympics, the country’s pool of internationally competitive para-cyclists must be increased.
Burns believes that although each rider in the team has the potential to achieve a podium finish in one or both of the World Cup events, he has great hopes for the two women hand-cyclists, Justine Asher (H1) and Hilary Lewis (H2), who will both be competing internationally for the first time. Their H1 hand-cycling teammate Pieter du Preez, having just returned from competing in a half iron-man in Australia, is also expected to perform well.
Burns is also confident that the team’s tri-cyclists will be competitive. George Rex and Yusthin Lintnaar, both T2 riders, will be competing internationally for the first time.
Tactical team racing skills
The European tour will be used to test the tactical team racing skills of Ernst van Dyk, who will be riding with H4 teammate Andries Scheepers. This will be a big change from the norm where Van Dyk usually is required to cover all of his opponent’s race tactics alone. Scheepers, who won the 2013 South African National Championships, is looking particularly strong at the moment and is expected to do well, especially in the time trial.
Also looking strong is H2 rider Stuart McCreadie, who has been inching his way towards an international podium finish over the past three years and is expected to achieve this milestone in 2013.
Burns is very excited about the prospects of a South African team competing for the first time in the World Cup hand-cycle relay. With Stuart McCreadie likely to be the H2 anchor rider in the relay team, the two other slots will be decided on the basis of how well Van Dyk, Scheepers, Asher, Lewis and du Preez perform in their time trial events.
The technicalities of the relay circuits that will be ridden will also influence the team selection and the two World Cup events offer some opportunities for experimentation in this regard.
SOUTH AFRICAN PARA-CYCLING TEAM
Men:Ernst van Dyk – H4, Andries Scheepers – H4, Stuart McCreadie – H2, Pieter du Preez – H1, Yusthin Lintnaar – T2, Gerhard Viljoen – T2, Goldy Fuchs – T2, George Rex – T1
Women:Hilary Lewis – H2, Justine Asher – H1, Roxy Burns – C4