By Charl Neethling
While most South Africans were stuffing their faces with hot cross buns and chocolaty treats, enjoying an extended break over the Easter weekend, South Africa’s top Track Cyclists were battling it out for national glory. From 27 to 31 March the Bellville Velodrome played host to some world class racing in a cycling discipline that the general public only sees on Television at the Olympics.
To anybody who knows nothing about track cycling, there are two main categories: sprint events and endurance events. Both of these categories are made up of a multitude of races which range in distance and format, the most popular being the Match Sprint, Team Sprint, Keirin, Team Pursuit, Scratch Race and Elimination Race (it definitely is worth the effort of looking all of these up on the internet). Although tracks at the Olympics are made of wood, the Bellville Velodrome is a 250m indoor concrete oval track with 42 degree embankments and seating for around 5000 spectators.
Unfortunately there wasn’t a massive amount of spectators, but those who were present were kept on the edge of their seats with extremely competitive racing, a few spectacular crashes (in one of the crashes a rider’s foot uncleated at full speed sending him hurtling straight up the 4m high, 42degree embankment and attempting to grab the railing on the barrier) as well as provincial and national records being broken in multiple events over the 5 days. Certainly one of the highlights was the team of Jean Smith, Bernard Esterhuizen and Jeanne Nell getting the crowd on their feet by breaking the SA Team Sprint record which previously stood at 47.73 and now stands at 46.31. Like any big sporting event worth its salt, there were also a few interesting situations with seeded teams riding against unseeded teams in the Team Pursuit as well as some confusion for the last three riders of the Elimination race, all of which kept the crowd thoroughly entertained.
Although it is a national event, riders usually represent their clubs and one of the standouts of the event was certainly the club of TRACKCYCLINGSA. This club is less than 2 years old and actually made its debut at SA Champs this year and the impressive part is that its members managed to rack up a total of 17 medals altogether. What makes this such an achievement is that this club’s members are all relative newcomers to the sport, with some of the medal-winners only being on the track for less than 3 months. Considered as a development club, but without official funding, Jaco Scholtz (founder, coach and rider) attributes much of the club’s success to the commitment its members and is hoping that its impressive performance will bring some much needed support for the club to grow even more and get more riders on the track.
Altogether the event turned out to be a great success and a positive boost for a spectacular sport that has unfortunately fallen out of the focus out of the public eye. Track is back and it’s only going to get bigger.jaco@TRACKCYCLINGSA.CO.ZA or check out the website www.TRACKCYCLINGSA.co.za .You can also follow on @TRACKCYCLINGSA or @wptrack on Twitter or check out the Facebook page.