The heart of the Lowveld currently plays host to the 2015 Pennypinchers South African Road, Time Trial and Para-cycling Championships and with a top quality field gathered in Mbombela, the racing is expected to be of the highest order from 3 to 8 February as the nation’s best vie for the coveted title of being crowned national Champion. The six day programme started on Tuesday morning with para-cycling as well as the Under-12 Boys’ and Under-14 Girls’ time trials with the cream of the country’s road cycling crop present for this year’s national championships clash. Current SA Time Trial champ Daryl Impey recently returned from international duty with his Australian based Orica-GreenEDGE team and hopes to add a first ever SA Road Championships title to his trophy cabinet by overthrowing current road race title holder Louis Meintjes who pipped him at the post following a broken chain in 2014.
The ladies charge will be led by Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio who is out to defend both the Road Race and Time Trial titles she won in 2014. The Bigla Pro Cycling Team star will however be pushed hard by a number of others who also have a national title on their mind. A large contingent of para-cyclists is relishing this year’s national contest and with the absence of the most successful para-cyclist in South African history, Ernst Van Dyk, a number of riders hope to be the first in line for this year’s title.
Andries Scheepers has been known as the one rider with the ability to push Van Dyk in the past and with the absence of the 2008 Paralympic gold medallist, Scheepers may well fancy his chances when the road race takes place on Wednesday. Tuesday’s racing was hard fought with a number of para-cycling time trials being contested. Craig Ridgard won the C3-5 Time Trial in a time of 28:57 ahead of Dane Wilson and was impressed with the event’s organisation as well as favourable conditions riders experienced during Tuesday’s time trials.
“The course was pretty technical but it was a great course!” he said happily. “I am busy building towards the road race and I think that the result today was a good confidence booster for me heading into that. You never quite know what to expect from the weather on the Lowveld but we were blessed today with some good conditions and a great course so I am happy!” Wilson is busy preparing himself for the Para-cycling Track World Championships in the Netherlands in a few months’ time.
“There is a lot of crossing over from track to the road and to use a race like this to prepare was great for me as it allowed me to ride for a longer period on an undulating, technical time trial route. Racing in an individual environment is also great for me to prepare!” Wilson added. H2 hand cycling ace Justine Asher was also on the top step of the podium on the opening day in Mbombela and she too was complimentary about the conditions and course.
“Today went really well for me and the lovely weather and smooth roads helped me get the best out of myself today. I think I am more geared to Time Trial racing so it was great to get a win today but I will look to do the same on Wednesday at the road race as I build up towards the World Cup events and the World Champs later in the year,” Asher mentioned. Conditions for the week are forecast to be humid as the Lowveld summer causes some discomfort. However, with many of the races scheduled to start early in the morning, the heat should not play too much of a role in proceedings.
Photo: Following his sound performances at the African Continental Track Championships last month it was a fought opening Time Trial at the 2015 Pennypinchers South African Road, Time Trial and Para-cycling Championships Dane Wilson came in second to Craig Ridgard but was happy with his race on Tuesday.
Photo credit: craigdutton.com