With South Africa set to host the Confederation of African Cycling (CAC) Road Cycling Championships outside Pietermaritzburg from 9 to 14 February, the importance of the continental championships as a springboard to Olympic qualification has been brought into sharp focus, with Cycling South Africa eager to take full advantage of its homeground advantage. The international governing body, the UCI, and the International Olympic Committee have changed the Olympic qualification criteria in recent years to enable more nations to qualify riders for the Games, and shift the balance of power slightly away from the largely European teams that dominate the events on the World Tour. World Tour events carry significant Olympic qualification points, with a weighting that favours the individual riders set up by their teams to win these road cycling “majors” while compromising the talented professional who play a pivotal supporting role in their teams performance but for whom overall positions, and therefore Olympic qualification points, are not a priority.
Not every cycling team is able to simply enter a World Tour event, as these are limited to registered World Tour Teams only, with a few “Wild Card” places left for pro-Continental Teams, like South Africa’s MTN-Qhubeka. The UCI has sanctioned continental tours where Olympic qualification points can also be earned, and each federation’s national championships also carry specific Olympic qualification points. However the continental championships carry significantly more weighting – the winner of the CAC Road title will earn 100 points while the winner of the SA National Road title earns 40 points – making it a priority for Cycling South Africa.
“The revised Olympic qualification criteria make provision for a country to enter three riders from the nation ranked number one in Africa, with the next four African nations earning two Olympic places,” said Cycling South Africa’s General Manager Mike Bradley. “The nature of road racing makes it extremely important to have a strong team in place, and every extra place we can secure will be extremely important. Furthermore, the Olympic qualification period for Road Cycling is limited from 01 January 2015 to 31 December 2015, whereas all other cycling sports have until May 2016 to improve national rankings. There are 22 teams, plus a few Wildcard teams, that participate in the top-tier World Tour events, where they have the opportunity to earn Olympic qualification points at all the events,” explained Bradley.
“However for many elite road cyclists committed to qualifying for the Olympic Games, there are far fewer opportunities to earn those Olympic qualification points, so events like the CAC Road Championships become very important indeed. There are some very strong road cycling nations in Africa that will be out to win the 2015 African Road title, like Eritrea, Algeria, Morocco and of course Rwanda. Fortunately almost all of our elite riders will be here as our national championships are in Mbombela the week before, so we hope to go all out to secure as many points as we can,” said Bradley.
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