Cycling South Africa’s Road Commission launched a long-term initiative in 2009 – a five-year feeder program was put into place to see a greater number of South Africans compete on the world racing circuit. This would thereby increase the opportunities for those riders to earn prestigious UCI points, which tally towards and are vital for consideration into major events such as the World Championship and Olympic Games.
Although the target was for our riders to compete in the 2016 Olympic Games, the women have showed depth in the infancy of this project and will be ready for the 2012 London Olympics. Previous efforts saw only a few of our riders competing on a professional level. But the Road Commission aims to have double the allowed quota ready for the 2016 Rio Olympics.
With limited funding Cycling SA had to be innovative in their approach and a trial was put into place – for 2 years the Road Commission experimented with the notion of establishing a European home base in order to offer valuable experience to promising South Africans selected to race in Europe.
But the exercise was costly as the majority of our cyclists were not yet ready to hold their own against the Europeans.
As a result, a connection was therefore launched with existing established European teams. In this way, our Junior and Elite Women, U23 Men and Young Elite Men would learn and adapt to the racing lifestyle of that of the Europeans. To date, this initiative has been successful and continues to grow in success!
For the women, Cycling SA partnered with Nashua/Toyota in guiding the U21 and older ladies in the team. Nashua/Toyota opened their doors to these women selected into the National squad, regardless of the team they represented, to be included in their sister UCI-listed Lotto Ladies Team competing in Europe.
The success of this program was most recently recognised when four South African women from various local teams were selected as part of the starting line-up in the Giro d’Italia Femminile, the women’s version of the Giro d’Italia, which was held from the 1st -10th July 2011.
There are currently five SA women on the Lotto Ladies Team roster for 2011 that could be called up at any given time to compete as part of their team in cycling Tours in Europe.
Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio is permanently at our women’s base in Aalst, Belgium, while Robyn de Groot, Marissa van der Merwe, Joanna van de Winkel and Cherise Taylor visit Europe on a rotational basis – all to compete on the international circuit.
They will soon be joined by Heidi Dalton (Toyota/CSA U21) and Danni Dalton (USN) who will be looking to gain valuable experience. In an attempt to facilitate and continue supporting this momentum, CyclingSA assists in covering the accommodation costs of the top women from the top SA women’s teams.
Similar partnerships are in place for our men competing in Europe.
Velofutur in Spain, who look after our experienced U23 riders (riders who have been racing in Europe in the Junior category) who are currently racing on a higher level and manage them into teams; and Team Performance Voo in Belgium, who take our young less experienced but no less talented U23’s and expose them to top class Belgian racing. Velofutur have been instrumental in offering an extensive back up service to the athlete, by assisting them with complete travel arrangements as well as offering life coaching sessions to help them plan their lives both on and off the bike.
Chris Jennings, who was with Performance Voo for 2011, has consequently been talent-spotted and moved to a continental team this year.
As for fellow teammate Louis Meintjies, his talents have also been noticed, resulting in a signing with the Continental Team Davo Omega Pharma Lotto for 2012, the feeder- team to the Pro Tour team Omega Pharma Lotto.
Even though he was not involved in the initial selection, up and coming youngster Reinardt Butler will be joining a team in Europe this month. This was after CyclingSA’s Road Commission decided to support this talented athlete.
Besides Nashua/Toyota, MTN Qhubeka must be commended on their efforts of getting local riders abroad. Both their men and women’s teams competed in Europe, gaining valuable exposure in the process. Their men participated in UCI Class 1 and Class 2 races, whilst their young women’s team followed a slightly lighter program.
CyclingSA would like to extend heartfelt gratitude to all involved in supporting the athletes and these initiatives, in particular Jill Bezuidenhout for her tireless commitment and dedication in looking after the U16s and juniors over the past years.
Establishing vital connections in Europe is starting to pay dividends – we appeal to our cycling clubs, provinces and potential sponsors to work with us in this initiative in order to create our own foundation in Europe for promising South African cycling prospects.
A total of 84 SA cyclists are either based in Europe or regularly travelling abroad for participation in predominantly European events – an increase of almost 400% over two years!
Pro Tour: 2
Pro Conti: 2
EU & USA Continental: 4
Jacques Janse van Rensburg
Jay Thomson (based in USA)
MTN Qhubeka: 10
10 RSA riders – participating in Africa & EU
10 RSA riders – participating in Asia & Africa
U23 feeder teams: 3
Louis Meintjes (year agreement)
Johann van Zyl
International Exposure Young Elite / U23 / Junior: 39
Nicolaas Jansen van Rensburg
Jayde Julius (in a Belgium School)
Stephanus Johannes Kotze
Jos Le Roux
Willem Jakobus Smit
De Wet Swanepoel
Stephanus Johannes van Heerden
Morne M van Niekerk
Jean Jacques van Vuuren
Johannes Jaco van Wyk
Women UCI: 5
Robyn de Groot
Merissa van der Merwe
Jo van de Winkel
Women International Exposure: 9
Charlotte van der Merwe