South Africa’s national team maintained their focus on their specific objectives on the final days of the 2015 UCI Para-cycling Track World Championships in front of a partisan Dutch crowd cheering on their compatriots.
As in the time trial, Roxy Burns was the first of the South African riders to tackle the pursuit event. Riding a good race, Burns almost succeeded in lapping her Dutch opponent – much to the dismay of the spectators. After finishing in fifth place overall, Burns expressed confidence that, for this important race on the Rio 2016 programme, she will be able to close the gap to claim an international podium finish before year-end.
Competing in his first international pursuit event, as probably the youngest rider entered for the World Championships, Juan Odendaal rode a very good race technically. He had clearly learned a lot from his time-trial experience earlier in the championships programme and fully met the expectations of the team management in terms of getting the basics right for the pursuit.
His 16th place finish is in line with what was anticipated for him – with his main objective being to gain an appreciation of what is required in order to climb the performance ladder in international track cycling – racing technique, physicality and absolute commitment to training for the big occasions.
Also competing in his first World Championship pursuit event, Craig Ridgard drew from his extensive road-racing experience to climb five positions, relative to his earlier time trial ranking, over a race distance which more suited his cycling strengths. Maintaining his split targets for each of the 12 pursuit laps ridden, he achieved the exact race target that he had set himself. With the confidence gained from his 13th place finish, Ridgard is certain that he will inch his way up the rankings to achieve a podium finish in due course.
Dane Wilson was unfortunate to have his legs give up on him on his pursuit race day. Within the first five of the 16 laps ridden, he knew that he would not be able to deliver what he had trained hard for and what he knows he is easily capable of delivering. Considering his 11th place finish as a poor indication of at least the top-five finish potential that he knows he can achieve, he will now establish what aspect of his training and race preparation might have compromised his prospects on the day.
The South Africans rode the team sprint mainly for the icebreaker experience it offered, particularly to Odendaal and Ridgard, for the programme’s tactical bunch racing later in the programme. For Ridgard and Wilson, the team sprint was especially important in terms of sharpening their senses for the scratch races scheduled as the grand finale of the World Championships.
Ridgard performed very well in the scratch race, finishing third in his C2 category. With the three categories (C1-3) racing together, Ridgard finished nicely in the middle of the peloton. With slightly heavier gearing and by positioning himself towards the front of the bunch earlier in the race he would perhaps have saved a lot of the energy he expended keeping in touch with the group in which he finished – nevertheless, he gained tremendous experience for the journey going forward.
Wilson rode very well for most of the gruelling C4-5 race, in which two Australians and a Brazilian claimed the podium positions.
With a great track championship tour now behind the national Para-cycling team, the scene is now set for the 2015 UCI Road World Cup series that commences in June.
Pictured is Roxy Burns with coach Corne Bence.