South Africa’s national para-cycling team returned from Europe on Tuesday evening having earned a number of accolades in back-to-back UCI Para-cycling Road World Cup races in Merano, Italy and Segovia, Spain.
The team equalled its previous best tour tally of podium finishes with four silver medals and one bronze medal. Medal winners included Paralympian cyclists Ernst van Dyk and Roxy Burns and their rookie team-mate George Rex.
H4 hand-cycle world champion and Paralympic silver medallist Van Dyk demonstrated his road-racing prowess by claiming silver medal finishes in both the Merano and Segovia World Cups.
Pipped at the post
Having positioned himself well to achieve sprint finish wins in both races, he was pipped at the post on both occasions by Paralympic gold medallist Alessandro Zanardi.
While former Formula One driver Zanardi’s stamina and strength made him a deserving winner, his one-of-a-kind, aerodynamically optimised hand-cycle certainly assisted him in clinching the sprint finishes.
Van Dyk was very satisfied with his performances in Italy and Spain, feeling they confirmed his potential to retain his UCI road race world champion status. He will defend the title in Canada later this year.
Announced himself with a bang
George Rex, the 2013 T1 tri-cycling national champion, was selected to the South African team with the aim of introducing him to international racing. He announced himself with a bang, claiming silver medal finishes in both the time trial and road race events in which he competed in Segovia, and set the platform for a successful international career.
Roxy Burns (C4) used the European UCI road World Cup series to prepare for the 2013/2014 track World Championships.
Although track racing is her preferred discipline, her world class all-round cycling capability was proven by the bronze medal finish she achieved in the Merano road race and, more remarkably, by the UCI World Cup leader jersey she won for the overall best-performing rider in the European leg of the UCI Para-cycling Road World Cup series.
Never before had a South African cyclist achieved the feat.
Apart from the medallists, South African riders who performed particularly well in the World Cup series included T2 tri-cyclist Yusthin Lintnaar, who claimed one fourth and two fifth place finishes.
H2 hand cycling time trial specialist Stuart McCreadie picked up a fifth place finish in Spain and H1 hand-cyclist Justine Asher shone before a serious accident during the Merano hand cycle relay race left her with bone fractures in both legs.
“For many of our riders competing in a World Cup in Europe for the first time, the experience was a revelation, and they are motivated to better their current times,” said team manager JC van der Walt.
“Even for those riders who did not win medals, they improved their performances and bettered their personal-best average times. Watching them race was very satisfying and it was a great tour for the team,” Van der Walt said.
The South African team to compete in the 2013 UCI Para-cycling Road World Championships in Canada during August/September will be selected on the basis of rider performances in the just completed European World Cup series.
The announcement of the team is expected by the end of June.
SAinfo reporter andCycling South Africa)