The World Cycling Centre Africa MTN-Qhubeka Feeder Team riders will be competing in the KZN Autumns Series. ©craigdutton.com
South Africa’s elite cyclists are gearing up for the start of the KwaZulu-Natal Autumn Series – a series of three UCI Category 1.2 road cycling races – taking place in Pietermaritzburg (on 27 April), Pietermaritzburg to Margate (1 May) and in Margate (3 May).
World Cycling Centre Satellite-Africa Director, Jean-Pierre van Zyl will have quite a few riders competing in the series, from the WCC MTN-Qhubeka Feeder team as well as riders from the Congo.
“This now is the most important season of the Olympic cycle,” said Van Zyl on the importance of events like these in South Africa.
“The end of December 2015 will show who is at the top. And, the higher you’re ranked, the more places you are able to fill for World Champs and Olympics.
“By competing in events like the KZN Autumn Series, riders across Africa competing against international riders will be exposed to the sort of international standards that there are in European racing. With the African nations scoring points for hosting events such as these as well, it’s a win-win for Africa and SA,” he said.
When speaking about the team’s approach to the KZN Autumn Series, Van Zyl had this to say: “This is what we train for. The team is eager to race, and comfortable with the distance of the races.”
Van Zyl explained that the training standard of the team is similar to that of other international teams.
“The team has been training at European racing standards so that, when they do go overseas to compete, the transition into the longer rides won’t be as drastic. We aspire to be at a certain wattage power-to-weight ratio, and to getting the distance and condition to reach better endurance levels.
“I feel that we are going to be able to be more competitive in a longer race that requires a bit more endurance. Look at Cavendish in The Cape Town Cycle Tour, if he had to do a 250km ride right now I doubt any one of us would’ve been able to overtake him,” he said.
The team is a close-knit one, and Van Zyl is proud of how much respect is shared amongst them all, especially with regards to training.
“Of course the guys have their own individual zones, but they leave from the same place, on the same route, as one, at the same time everyday. And with living and training together we become a family and look out for one another.
“By having such great respect for each other off the bike, it also helps them have respect for their fellow riders as well. It aids to helping them ride more as a team,” he said.
Van Zyl said that the WCC Africa has brought out riders from the Congo to train and compete as well.
“We have 20 riders from the Congo here – 18 of them we have put into three teams to ride. Some of the guys arrived on 12 April and the rest arrived on the 22nd.
One of the most trying, sometimes frustrating, but mostly entertaining things about riders from all over Africa, Van Zyl mentioned, is that often there are a few language barriers.
“There is not one rider that speaks English, a lot speak French, so that I can more or less speak and understand, but some only speak their native tongue.
“When the guys first arrived, I thought that they were yelling at each other. After listening to them for a while I quickly discovered that this is their language. It’s just a little bit louder and more expressive.”
On the team’s participation in the UCI 1.2 Category racing, Van Zyl said: “They are absolutely thrilled and so excited to race. They don’t have races like these over there, so to have small European training standards and training with pro teams, it’s excellent. The guys went out training today with the MTN-Qhubeka Feeder team, and the smiles on their faces and looks of encouragement amongst the group were just priceless,” he said.
“We’ve been able to take them to the University to test their strength, flexibility and power. This way they are able to push themselves to the max and see what they are truly capable of. We need to build Africa, and this is the way to do it,” said van Zyl.
He also mentioned that the team would be competing in the aQuelle Tour Durban on Sunday 26 April. “They really want to win. It’s going to be fun. Dean Edwards (Team Abantu Team Principal) and I are really good friends, and the friendly competiveness between the team managers is almost as enjoyable as the racing itself,” he laughed.
Cycling South Africa and its partners and with the support of KwaZulu-Natal Sport and Recreation launched the KZN Autumn Series.
All races except one will accommodate Elite Men and Women riders and as per the local regulations, the team sizes will be restricted to six riders per team for each of the races.
The KZN Autumn Series is listed on the Continental Calendar of the Union Cycliste International (UCI) as a Category: ME (Men Elite) & WE (Women Elite), 1.2. / UCI Africa Tour event.
For more information about the KZN Autumn Series, click here.