The men’s and women’s team pursuit riders provide the first track cycling action for Team South Africa on Thursday’s first day of competition at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, writes MARK ETHERIDGE in the Gold Coast.
They’ll take to the impressive, steeply banked (43.9 degrees) Anna Meares Velodrome and it’s ladies first as Ilze Bole, Charlene du Preez, Adelia Neethling and Elfriede Wolfaardt line up for the 4000-metre team pursuit. Young Danielle van Niekerk is the reserve.
Track coach/manager Annerine Wenhold says the women have been improving daily. ‘We had our last hard training session on Monday and it went well, they’re starting to bond very nicely and are hitting close to their splits. Their pacing and formation are also looking good.
‘With Charlene based in London and Adelia in Perth, it’s been hard to get them together but they had some quality training time in Malaysia toward the end of last year and again here.’
Qualifying sees teams riding against the clock with the four fastest countries progressing to the medal events, the first and second fastest ride for gold while third and fourth will battle it out for bronze in the evening session.
South Africa’s chances? ‘We’d love a medal but that would put added pressure on the girls. They’ll push themselves to the absolute limits and trust in the other riders… and the trust and bonding have come along remarkably already.’
If they don’t get to the medal stages, then there’s always the consolation of an SA record and right now that looks a distinct possibility. That mark was set in 2015 and stands at 5min 22.47sec.
All indications point to that mark being improved on, come Thursday’s action.
Riding for the men will be Steve van Heerden, Gert Fouche, Nolan Hoffman and David Maree with Joshua van Wyk in reserve.
Hoffman will also be in road bike action later in the Games.
‘The guys have had more time to train back in South Africa,’ says Wenhold. ‘Their challenge was getting used to the track. It’s much faster than back home, so they have got all the power but had some technical adapting to do.
‘Steve came down with a bit of a flu bug soon after arriving but was put on antibiotics and has got stronger day by day.’
The men will also be targeting a spot in the finals although, like the women, realistic expectations will be a new national mark. In their case, that was the time of 4:18.194 set four years ago in Glasgow, where Hoffman was part of the record-setting team.
It’s been confirmed that road cyclist Ashleigh Moolman will not join the team as she has not been released by her UCI team, Bigla.
Team spirit is high in the village as the mission to improve on their seventh place on the medals table at the last Games in Glasgow, Scotland four years ago gets underway.