Pietermaritzburg - South African cycling icon Gary Beneke has set his sights on the UCI rainbow jersey awarded to each age group's world champion in the UCI World Cycling Tour Final from 23 to 26 August.
The 49 year old Gauteng star, who rides in the colours of the Dimension Data/Gary Beneke Sports team, qualified for the amateur road racing masters finals lineup with a powerful showing at last year's Msunduzi Road Challenge, and says he expects the pressure to come from the other veterans and masters rather than the hilly KZN midlands course.
"The course is not the problem. The problem is the nature and the ability of the competitor," says Beneke, who previously raced at the world title decider in Austria in 2006. "Veteran cycling is not an amateur affair, it is a highly competitive event."
"You only have to look to the local events or races in Italy or Britain or France to realise that veterans are in fact wiser, more affluent and more professional," says Beneke. "Of course the speeds may not be that fast but the standard of racing is high."
Road cycling icon Gary Beneke is looking to fine tune his preparations for the 2012 UCI World Cycling Tour Final fully aware that a highly competitive field of veterans and masters will assemble in Pietermaritzburg. "Veteran cycling is not an amateur affair, it is a highly competitive event," says the younger Beneke brother.
Photo: Gameplan Media
Beneke enters the final three weeks before the event struggling to shake off the after effects of flu and a tough winter that has made training difficult, aggravated by the lack of quality road races at this time in the domestic calendar.
"I am struggling to assess and find my form but hopefully things will improve in the final three weeks," said Beneke.
Beneke and his older brother Mark were at the forefront of a golden era in South African road cycling, and after 35 years of racing at the highest level, he shows no sign of his competitive spirit flagging.
"Competing in cycling is what I do. Hopefully my passion for it never dies - what a sport!" says Beneke. "I like to think and visualise of winning. Going into the UWCT Final, I want to make use of this great opportunity on our own home territory."
Beneke and his brother will square up against the cream of the talent from 12 other qualifying events that have taken place worldwide over the past year. To qualify for the finals riders have had to finish in the top 25% of their respective age categories.
The event is strictly an amateur affair but always attracts a top class field of experienced veterans and masters who have retired from professional road racing, and for whom the pride at winning the UCI rainbow jersey by winning their class at the UCI World Cycling Tour final is a powerful motivator.
Programme of events
UCI World Cycling Tour Final 2012
Monday 20th August 2012 - Social Hill Dash Time Trial
Tuesday 21st August 2012 - Social Mt Verde Road Race – 54km
Thursday 23rd August 2012 - UWCT Time Trial Competition
Saturday 25th August 2012 - UWCT Final 61km Race and UWCT Final 96km Race
Sunday 26th August 2012 - UWCT 112km Race
More information can be found at www.uwctfinal.co.za