The Eastern Cape cycling team came second in the SA Youth Road Championships from June 7-9, held here in East London.
According to Eastern Cape Cycling, this is the closest local cyclists have come to claiming the interprovincial title.
The championships featured more than 100 racers from across the country at U11-U17 level. This is the first time in more than 10 years that East London has won the bid to host the event.
On the last day of the tournament, the Eastern Cape team, featuring cyclists from many different local clubs including Eastern Wheelers, Cambridge Harriers and Madiba Bay Cycling, managed to score a total of 223 points, followed by Gauteng in third place with a score of 208 and the Western Cape claimed first place with a score of 334.
The weekend was packed full of racing in tough conditions, which featured a time trial challenge, criterion race and ended off on Sunday with an endurance road race. These are technically different races that require the execution of different skills.
The road race forces the racers to work together in teams over a long distance, the time trials are an individual race against the clock and the criterion race is tight format racing to test racers technical proficiency with the bicycle.
Ahead of the championships, riders were training up to 15 hours a week.
Though the Eastern Cape racers did not claim any individual podium spots for the road races on day three, they bagged six podium positions and two SA championships for the time trials races on day two. Amathole District Cycling Association chair Steven Salzwedel said the younger riders in particular faired well and with top 10 placings for East London’s Eastern Wheelers cycling club.
Eastern Cape Cycling’s Luca Fanicchi said these results were outstanding considering challenges with infrastructure and insufficient practice space that are experienced locally.
He said: “I am extremely proud of them.
“The Eastern Cape has six to seven riders that were riding on a time trial bike for the first time.
“They were competing against racers coming from Gauteng and the Western Cape who have been racing in time trial races for years. Our youngsters don’t have that opportunity and considering this, the Eastern Cape racers did particularly well.
“Difference between us and the winning team is the support from local government. The Western Cape cyclists performed better because they have a better-funded development plan for the sport at local and provincial government level.
“They also have a great deal more cyclists so we need local cyclists to get involved and participate because the more people are taking part the more likely we are to be better funded by sponsors and local government.
“Through hard work, we have now the beginnings of support from Buffalo City Metro.
“Eastern Wheelers has been standing in the gap to promote development for years.
“We sporadically make progress at developing local cycling but we need more committed administrators.”
Salzwedel said that facilitating the upskilling of cycling administrators was important, especially when it came to making the sport more accessible for riders who are financially disadvantaged and restoring the Amalinda cycling track to its former glory.