Excitement is building in KwaZulu-Natal as the province prepares to host the 2016 National Road, Time Trial and Para-cycling Championships from 10-14 February, an event featuring some of the biggest names in SA cycling – like Jacques Janse van Rensburg and Louis Meintjes.
Returning to defend his 2015 national road champion title, Janse van Rensburg, hopes to keep the 2016 jersey in close reach. ‘I will definitely be giving my best to defend the jersey. As long as the jersey stays in the team we will be very happy,’ he said.
The Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka rider has a number of goals set with his team this year. ‘We have big goals for the 2016 season. Being on UCI WorldTour level, we will be participating in all three Grand Tours this season and the Tour de France is our main goal once again, with a stage win, and yellow jersey for a day or two in mind. And also, to finish in the top 15 teams in the world this year,’ he added.
After a sensational 2015 season, Janse van Rensburg is positive about the year ahead and has learnt a great deal about himself on the bicycle. ‘I definitely know I have what it takes to be with some of the best riders in the world in the mountain stages after the Tour de France,’ he said.
Also honing in on the action is former U23 Road World Championship silver medallist and 2014 SA national road champion, Louis Meintjes.
The 23-year-old South African road cycling superstar, who has signed with Italian team Lampre-Merida, has developed tremendously over the past year, especially after being part of Tour de France wildcard team, Team MTN-Qhubeka. ‘I really feel I gained a lot of racing experience in 2015. By doing two Grand Tours in 2015 I really learned to push my body to a new level, so hopefully it all comes in good use in 2016.’
While Meintjes expressed the desire to take the 2016 national title, he also recognised the hard work that his peers have been putting in to prepare for the event. ‘It is always special to race back home and of course I would love to win the national champs. But it looks like a lot of the other guys that are coming to race at nationals already have very good form, so it will definitely be a tough race,’ he said.
Although kicking off the 2016 season with a new team, Meintjes is content and happy with the team dynamics. ‘It always takes some time to get used to all the new equipment and new people you work with. But I have started my season quite early at Tour Down Under and it feels like I have already integrated well into the new team. So far it feels like a very good ‘environment’ to work in, and as I get to know everyone more it should just get better,’ he said.
Two great venues will play host to the event, with the time trial and para-cycling division being held in the Wartburg/ Noodsburg/ Harburg area from 10-11 February, and the road races taking place in Westville/Durban from 13-14 February.
Picture of Janse van Rensburg winning last year’s national time trial event courtesy of Craig Dutton