Cycling South Africa along with its parent body SASCOC (South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee) are proud to announce the largest ever contingent of South African cyclists (since our readmission to world sport in 1992) that has been selected to attend the 2012 London Olympics.
For many of the cyclists it has been a triumph over injury, or a significant personal improvement, or even a last-minute accomplishment with Olympic spots been awarded very close to the end of May deadline date for qualification, that has brought them thus far.
ROAD – Women
- Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio
- Joanna van de Winkel
- Robyn de Groot
ROAD – Men
- Daryl Impey
MOUNTAIN BIKE – Women
- Candice Neethling
MOUNTAIN BIKE – Men
- Burry Stander
- Philip Buys
BMX – Men
- Sifiso Nhlapo
TRACK CYCLING – Men
- Bernard Esterhuizen
ROAD CYCLING: Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio; Joanna van de Winkel; Robyn de Groot; Daryl Impey
The launch of the five-year European feeder program in 2009 has seen a greater amount of SA road racing cyclists competing on the world stage. With the sights set on the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, South Africa’s women cyclists have already showed depth in the infancy of the project, earning 3 places in the 2012 London squad.
Racing for the experienced Belgian Lotto Belisol team in Europe for the greater part of the season has seen young women such as Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio, Joanna van de Winkel and Robyn de Groot become household names in South Africa following their excellent steady progress over the past three years.
An in-form Moolman-Pasio has been increasing her world ranking with each event and her stage win at the final stage of the Tour de Free State last month, and third place overall in the General Classification, is what secured the third woman rider for Olympic team qualification. Moolman-Pasio was always going to be a hot favourite for team inclusion.
Joanna van de Winkel (30) and Robyn de Groot (29) will join the 26-year old as part of the women’s Olympic road cycling squad. With climbing being one of her attributes, Van de Winkel will be well suited to the road race route that reflects a profile with 14 metres of climbing for every kilometre covered. De Groot, who assisted Moolman-Pasio in her Tour de Free State stage victory, has also gained valuable UCI points towards the women’s ranking and her all-round ability and readiness to sacrifice herself for the team will be a great asset to the cycling team in London.
To select one male road cyclist to represent SA at the Olympics was never going to be an easy task, but Daryl Impey’s great form has seen him fill the coveted male road racing Olympic spot.
Impey, who races for the Australian Orica-GreenEDGE professional cycling team, has achieved great results in the World Cups in Europe, winning stage 2 at the Pais Vasco, his first ever World Tour win, and participating in his first Grand tour, the Giro d’Italia this year. London 2012 will be Impey’s first Olympic Games appearance, and at 27 years of age he will be leading the way looking ahead to fulfil Cycling SAs 2020 Vision, whereby he could be preparing himself for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games as well.
MOUNTAIN BIKE: Burry Stander; Philip Buys; Candice Neethling
As with the women’s road cycling qualification spots, the Olympic qualification process for the mountain bike cross-country (XCO) contenders has been a nail-biting affair, right down to the wire.
Twenty-four year old Burry Stander, who finished in 12th place at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, was always going to be in for the running for the 2012 London Olympic squad.
Racing XCO as a professional rider and consistently ranked in the UCI world top 10, it was a foregone conclusion that Stander would receive automatic qualification. Stander is also listed on SASCOCs OPEX (operation excellence) program, and has had a lot of influence in building the qualification points to qualify a second male rider with his high world ranking.
The tipping point for South Africa’s second male and single female to qualify for the London Games was the 2012 African Continental Championships that was held in Mauritius. Cycling South Africa’s main objective was to push up South Africa’s quota by enhancing our country ranking. The results were outstanding!
The brilliant results achieved in Mauritius coupled with the efforts of the South Africans campaigning overseas in UCI World Cups bettered our nation’s rankings to qualify two men and one woman.
Twenty four year old Buys and 20-year old Neethling, both 2012 African Continental Champions, have been performing consistently well in World Cup races abroad and local National Cup races. Buys has been a very consistent and strong rider for at least a year, with no other possible contenders beating him in XCO competition.
2008 Beijing Olympian Yolande Speedy was ruled out of contention following her unfortunate crash during the practice lap at the Pietermaritzburg World Cup earlier this year where she broke her wrist. Speedy’s start to the 2012 season showed an in-form contender once again dominating the XCO podium races up until the World Cup in March.
Neethling’s consistency has seen her rapidly escalate her position in the UCI world rankings in 2012 as a result from touring in Europe this year. The 2009 Junior XCO World Championship bronze medallist is racing in only her second year in the U23 category yet claimed the 2012 African Continental Championship title, closely followed by 5th and 4th places in the U23 women’s XCO races at the Czech Republic and French UCI World Cups respectively.
These three young riders will form part of a 3-year development process, which will see them in contention for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games and even able to qualify for 2020.
BMX: Sifiso Nhlapo
Gutsy and determined would best describe South Africa’s BMX medal hopeful Sifiso “Skizo” Nhlapo, who is no stranger to the rigours of the preparations for the Olympic Games, especially since he competed in Beijing in 2008 when BMX made an appearance at an Olympic event for the very first time.
Coming close to achieving a medal in Beijing, Nhlapo’s spirits were dashed when he crashed in the second turn, placing him out of contention.
Since then, Skizo has had his eyes firmly set on London 2012, but not without it’s fair share of hiccups along the way. Recovering from a broken neck in 2009 (fracturing his C3 & C4 vertebrae), Skizo spent 10 months in rehab and went on to finish second in the prestigious 2010 World Championships that were held in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal.
Then disaster struck again in 2011, when the 25-year old crashed early in the season, injuring his ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) and undergoing reconstructive surgery. Fast-forward to May 2012, and Nhlapo found himself once again contesting for the World Championship podium in England, with the pressure of knowing that nine countries were still looking to qualify and only seven spots were available. When a rider crashed in front of Skizo in the semi final, he had nowhere to go and came down as well. But our young hero had done enough in Birmingham to qualify for London 2012!
It can be said that London 2012 has always been the inspiration for Sifiso Nhlapo to commit to his rehabilitation programs when injured, and to his rigorous training to get back to the world top level, and continuing to deliver high quality racing that has set him apart from his peers.
Without any other South African elite men riders advancing at international races for UCI points, Nhlapo’s road has been a long and hard one and he has progressed far enough in 2012 to earn his place on the Cycling SA Olympic squad.
TRACK CYCLING: Bernard Esterhuizen
Track cycling phenomenon Bernard Esterhuizen has been based at the UCI World Cycling Centre (WCC) in Aigle, Switzerland since 2009 with the goal of preparing for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. To have qualified for London 2012 gives a firm indication of the athlete within and his ability to deliver a high-pressure performance in what is considered track cycling’s blue ribbon event – the Sprint.
Esterhuizen’s UCI points gained in World Cup and World Championship track cycling events from 2011 and 2012 is what has secured him a place in the 2012 Cycling SA Olympic squad.
Exceptional performances over the past year have seen Esterhuizen break the national record in two separate occasions, and he is currently the fastest South African sprinter. To have qualified for London 2012 at the ages of 18 (in 2011) and 19 years (in 2012) speaks volumes about Bernard’s talent, when the world’s elite track cyclists are all vying for Olympic qualification and the pressure is extremely high.
Esterhuizen won all of his track racing events at the 2011 SA National Track Cycling Championships, but could not repeat his successes this year as it was more beneficial for him to continue with his training commitments in Europe in this Olympic year.
1996 Atlanta Olympian JP van Zyl will accompany Esterhuizen in London to offer his valuable support drawing from his wealth of experience both in preparation and during the London Games.
Cycling SA president William Newman was ecstatic with the SASCOC cycling team announcement and was full of praise for the selected squad members.
“On behalf of Cycling South Africa I would like to congratulate all those riders on making the team. It has been a hard journey and there have been rewards, and you have now achieved the objective. Cycling SA is committed to supporting you all the way. We wish you all the best of luck with your preparations in the lead up and in competing in the Games themselves.”
Cycling South Africa’s 2012 London Olympic squad members have been selected according to the respective discipline selection criteria, and according to merit. Cycling SA extends congratulations and well wishes to all our London 2012 Olympians.