The African Continental Track Cycling Championships got off to a tragic start in Durban on Monday with the tragic death of Egyptian cyclist Eslam Nasser Zaki while participating in the Elite men’s Omnium-Tempo race
The 22-year-old was riding on his own when he suddenly fell off his bicycle and after prolonged attempts to resuscitate him, he was declared dead and the afternoon’s events were suspended.
Earlier, the morning session of Day One kicked off with a team presentation ceremony around the track followed by the host nation’s national anthem at the Cyril Geoghegan Velodrome.
The first event of the day was the Elite Men’s Omnium-Scratch event, which saw Nolan Hoffman and Calvin Beneke lap the bunch of 16 riders following, to take first and second respectively. Algeria’s Yacine Chalel snatched the third place.
In his welcome address, Cycling South Africa’s President, William Newman, said: ‘We have a big number of countries compared to the two previous editions. I can assure you that Track Cycling will grow from strength to strength. To all the riders, thank you very much for coming out here, and we wish you a great four days of competition.’
Mr Newman also extended a warm welcome to the President of the Confederation of African Cycling and UCI Vice President, Dr Wagdi Azzam who expressed his gratitude to the host nation and wished the riders well for the week of racing.
Hoffman felt great and was off to a good start after claiming the first bunch of points on offer in the Omnium-Scratch event. ‘I really didn’t expect that the legs would be turning as well as they have been, so I’m happy to take that,’ he said.
Hoffman said that the new format of the Omnium event (four races per event instead of six) is an intense one. ‘It’s really made for intensive aggressive racing and it looks like I’ve been handling myself quite well. I’m looking forward to going into the second part of it,’ he said.
Hoffman was excited to chat about the new format for the Omnium-Tempo event (a brand new concept where, after five laps, the first rider across the line after each laps gets one point thereafter. He said: ‘For the riders it’s a bit of a mess – you really have to focus on what you’re doing, but I think it’s definitely a spectator-friendly event. It’s absolute flat-out, aggressive racing from the start.
‘You have to really concentrate and think as to where you’re going to put in your effort otherwise you end up exploding and completely lose count of where the points are and whose been scoring them. I think it’s a nice new concept and it’s definitely made the Omnium a lot more exciting.
Riding in the Elite category for his first year, U23 rider Joshua van Wyk says that he will be focusing on the endurance events, and aims this year is to get noticed as an U23 rider. ‘So far its been going well. I qualified third in my Individual Pursuit. And will be riding tomorrow against Morocco,’ he said.
Van Wyk currently lies in third place tied with Clint Hendricks and Evan Carstens in the Elite Men’s Omnium points so far. ‘I’m really chuffed because in the Omnium Event with four events and judged on points at the end, the overall winner will get the gold medal, and I’m really hoping that I will be able to make more points and get into a podium position. It’s been exciting, and I’m really looking forward to racing tomorrow and the rest of the week,’ he said.
The Elite Women’s Individual Pursuit also took place in the morning session, which saw Egypt’s Ebtissam Zayed ahead of Charlene du Preez and Danielle van Niekerk in second and third place respectively.
Photo of Hoffman in action courtesy of Andrew McFadden/BOOGS Photography