By Mark Etheridge
South Africa’s top two track aces are making their way to Minsk, Belarus for next week’s UCI Track Cycling World Championships.
Nolan Hoffman and Bernard Esterhuizen are the only representatives of the team but both bring a fine pedigree to the gathering of the world’s cycling elite.
It was at last year’s World Championships in Melbourne that Hoffman rode the race of his life to win silver in the scratch event, with a bullet-like finish in the final half a lap. In the build-up to the championships, he’s been based in Europe where he has been campaigning mainly on the tough Six-Day road circuit.
Esterhuizen has been on track for the World Cup events and showed that he’s in fine form by breaking his own 200m sprint record in Mexico recently. A few years back he was also crowned junior world time trial champion in Italy.
Manager for the team is George Cornelissen and brings lots of experience to his role. Last year he was manager for the team that headed to the Africa Continental Championships in Ougadougou in Burkina Faso.
“What a privilege to manage these high-class riders,” Cornelissen told Road to Rio 2016 this week. “I’ve obviously kept in contact with them on a daily basis in the build-up to the champs. Nolan tells me that he’s feeling very good now although he had a bit of flu recently. He’s been racing mainly Six-Day racing and he’s feeling really good ÔÇô like a world champ, in fact and says he’s looking forward to a podium position.
Both our riders are fine-tuning their preparations in Spain.
“Bernard is there with his coach Andy Sparks who originally helped him become word junior champion. At 20 he’s still a little young but he’s developing on a daily basis so we’re really working on a vision of the 2016 Olympics.”
Esterhuizen will be doing the one-kilometre event and maybe the Keirin as well while 27-year-old Hoffman will concentrate on the scratch event and, dare we hope, improve on his silver medal last year.
“I’ll hook up with the riders on Sunday and we’ll be able to find out more of their plans and preparations then,” concluded Cornelissen.