KZN Autumn Cycling Series underway, heading to Margate

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The UCI Category 1.2 races will see some of the country’s and Africa’s top cyclists battle it out for UCI points. craigdutton.com

The 2015 KwaZulu-Natal Autumn Series got underway in Pietermaritzburg today (Monday).

The series events take place in Pietermaritzburg, Pietermaritzburg to Margate, and in Margate on Monday 27 April, Friday 1 May and Sunday 3 May respectively.

The UCI Category 1.2 races see some of the country’s and Africa’s top cyclists battle it out for UCI points.

Teams competing include the best in South Africa and Congo along with new teams, top riders from other disciplines, remarkable women, and promising young stars.

Team Abantu Elite Men’s rider Nolan Hoffman, who went down quite hard in a crash along with fellow teammate HB Kruger at the SA Track Champs earlier this month, is healing quickly and felt good about the series.

“I’m still pretty bruised, it was quite a hard fall, but its part of the game,” he said pre-race.

Hoffman was eager to race again, and was confident in his team, despite the fact that he knows he can’t push it too hard.

“I can feel when I have to go really hard, I can’t give 100% of my old self, but these things take some time,” he said.

When chatting about the KZN Autumn Series, Hoffman had this to say: “We’re very nervous – it’s the first of its kind since 2007/8. The last time that we had this sort of level of racing here in KZN was 1.1 Category racing in World’s View.

“We are looking forward to these races, but the terrain takes no prisoners – there’s nowhere to hide. The cream is going to rise to the top of the crop and we’ll be seeing all the best guys battling out for the win. It’s a true circuit. The prestige of winning will be up there with that of some of the great SA races.”

Another rider on the road to recovery was Under-23 Women’s XCO star, Bianca Haw.

“I was supposed to race at Mankele this weekend, but I unfortunately broke my elbow on a practice round over the Easter weekend. So I’m so thankful that I can ride,” she said.

The Red Bull rider’s major discipline lies in cross-country, although she has had many successes in road racing as well.

“I am meant to be out of action for eight weeks, but the doctor has allowed me to do this race as it is a road race and there are less jolts and bumps. So road for me is really good right now,” she said.

Haw competed in the Freedom Day Classic and then heads off to Cape Town for another race.

Team Europcar Under-23 rider Ryan Gibbons said that they were all ready to go, and discussed the dynamics of the team.

“We are nervous because we know there are a few national teams competing and these points are important, but we are excited. We do have a goal in mind. UCI points for a team don’t mean as much for a team as it does for individuals.

“So that’s where our focus is – to try and get the younger riders and U23 guys individual points. The senior guys in the team are also so committed to helping us as well, so there really is a great sense of positivity and excitement from the team.”

For some teams it works, and for others, a much more professional approach is required, but Team Europcar seems to be doing something right in terms of dynamics.

“We are all friends before we are teammates, if that makes sense,” he said.

“We go out together for dinners and meet as mates and discuss our rides. It’s a much more relaxed and atmosphere and this way we are more approachable with each other.

“We all stay within close proximity, but the coaches and managers stay a little bit further out of the way, so sometimes when they can’t meet with us, we still meet up and have a good time, as friends.

“Of course it’s not an entirely professional approach, but we gel, understand, and respect each other, and have goals and focus,” he added.

Gibbons recently took the Mayoral Cycle Race victory in Polokwane  – adding to many of his 2015 season successes so far.

The Cycling South Africa Women’s Commission has put together two teams that will be participating in the Freedom Day Classic and the Hibiscus Coast Cycle Challenge (3 May).

Commission Director, Lise Olivier, was overwhelmed by the response from fellow women cyclists, teams, and sponsors who have come on board to support the medium to long-term approach to getting more women on the bike.

“It’s been something that we have been trying to implement for a long time now, and we are so ready,” she said.

Olivier said that the commission was always ready to get more women involved in cycling in the country, across all disciplines, and was very happy to see women from other disciplines entering road events.

“A lot of cyclists start out in one discipline and move across to another later on, so it’s really great to see so many other disciplines coming to try road out,” she said.

“We’ve had an incredible response, and not just from the top riders, but from lots of women who are keen to come and race.

“KZN as a province has been so incredibly supportive and to have races like these UCI 1.2 category ones is something very special. We saw it as an opportunity which may or may not come around again anytime soon, so we had to get involved,” she said.

“At the end of the day the girls love having fun, and if others on the side-lines see us having a good time then hopefully it encourages them to come and want to have fun as well,” she concluded.

For more information about the KZN Autumn Series, click here.

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