This weekend sees the opening round of the 2012 RockyRoads UCI MTB World Cup Pietermaritzburg presented by Shimano, from 16th to 18th March at Cascades MTB Park.

With riders earning UCI points in the three Momentum Health XCO Internationals, held in KwaZulu-Natal preceding the World Cup, our local SA riders are starting to climb the rankings and move South Africa closer to final qualification for the 2012 London Olympics.

But, as much as our riders are earning international points, so are other countries and the race to place in the top 13 for men is within South Africa’s grasp. If we rank 13th or better, South Africa qualifies to send two male riders to London.

UCI WC Burry Stander Rock Garden Momentum XCO.jpg

Burry Stander in action in the Tree House rock garden ahead of this weekend's 2012 RockyRoads UCI MTB World Cup Pietermaritzburg © Darren Goddard/

Currently SA’s men are ranked 14th, a mere 16-points off Japan in the coveted 13th place. The ranking of a nation is determined by the sum of a country’s top three ranked riders points, calculated from 23 May 2010 to 22 May 2011, and then 23 May 2011 to 22 May 2012. As it stands, our top three ranked riders per the UCI 28th February listing are Burry Stander, Philip Buys and Rourke Croeser.

Our women, by comparison, are ranked at 30th place, but have jumped 5 places since October. Returning back from injury, Yolande Speedy has spearheaded the points charge in the Momentum Health XCO Internationals, with Samantha Sanders adding great value following fantastic race results in these UCI-rated cross-country events.

South Africa’s women are a mere 620 points off 18th position. This has been due to two of our top girls, Mariske Strauss and Candice Neethling, earning fewer points in 2011 than their Elite counterparts by virtue of being U23 (U23’s earn less points), whilst Yolande Speedy was recovering from surgery during 2011.

Having watched the practice and race runs of the downhill crew, the SA riders are looking quietly confident in the newly prepared downhill course. The speeds will be higher than last year, and the dreaded pedalling section is rolling much faster. The question is: will the course produce a sub-4-minute run? If so, this will confirm the course, designed by Nigel Hicks, as the fastest in the world.

Mike Bradley, Cycling South Africa’s Director of Mountain Biking, is confident that we can still achieve the goals to qualify two men and a woman mountain biker in London 2012.

“Our riders are in great form and they have all put in a great effort,” says Bradley. “The atmosphere in Pietermaritzburg over the past 10 days has been incredible, and crowds were entertained by fantastic racing in the final round of the Momentum Health XCO Internationals as well as the KZN Provincial Downhill Championship.

“What we need now is for as many South African supporters to come and cheer on our riders to attain the best possible results and ranking at this weekend’s World Cup. The riders have done the work, now they need your support. Tickets are still available at the gate for both the XCO and the Downhill.”

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