Riders in the 25 Mile at last year’s Helivac Paarl Boxing Day UCI Track Challenge in front of a capacity crowd in the Faure Street Stadium.

The 122nd staging of the Helivac Paarl Boxing Day UCI Track Challenge next month received the highest accolade the sport when world cycling’s governing body announced today that it is affording the event UCI status.

The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) is the sport’s governing body globally and the Boxing Day organisation put forward a presentation earlier in the year for the event to be acknowledged and classified on the international track cycling calendar.

UCI classification means the event will now attract a strong international field and significantly more international media exposure, according to event organiser Wynand de Villiers.

“It means riders will now earn UCI points at the meeting, which enables their respective countries to qualify more riders to take part in the Olympic Games and World Championships.

“It’s crucially important because the Olympic Games are scheduled for next year,” said De Villiers.

According to UCI Africa delegate, JP van Zyl, Boxing Day’s UCI classification will attract riders from all over Africa and Europe. “It’s one of the last opportunities in which riders can earn UCI points for the Games. This is amazing for South African sport and a huge moment for track cycling in the country,” he said.

De Villiers said they were extremely grateful to Van Zyl as well as former Cycling South Africa chairman William Newman and the Cycling South Africa executive for their support of the event’s presentation to the UCI.

“The deadline for UCI applications was last year in December and I only assumed the organisational role this year.

“We nonetheless did the application because there are instances in which the UCI can make exceptions.

“We were hoping that our application will be viewed in a positive light. With the support of these guys the event got the nod in the interests of growing the sport on the African continent,” said De Villiers.

Newman, who serves as president of the Track Commission on the Confederation of African Cycling (CAC), immediately sent a congratulatory message to the organisation. “Well done on achieving this significant milestone for the historic Boxing Day event.

“This is great for Africa. I certainly am looking forward to being present at the event,” said Newman.

Along with a host of South Africa’s best professionals, more than thirty quality track cyclists from all over Africa have already confirmed their participation in the 2019 Paarl Boxing Day meeting, which is presented in association with Alfa Bodyworks and the City of Drakenstein on 26 December.

According to Van Zyl, who manages the World Cycling Centre Africa (WCCA) in Paarl, Paarl Boxing Day is perfectly placed on the calendar to enable international participation in the South African summer.

“We already have thirty riders from African federations training at the WCCA in Paarl over December and they are elated that they have the opportunity to take part in Boxing Day.

“Boxing Day is renowned world-wide, courtesy of the huge spectator contingent annually at the Faure Street Stadium and the consistent quality field.

“Among these African riders are some world-class juniors and the Boxing Day organisers have given the approval for these juniors to race against the elites and under 23s. It’s going to be very exciting,” said Van Zyl.

“The stature of the meeting has in my view justified its listing on the UCI calendar for quite some time,” said De Villiers. “It’s the oldest and one of the biggest track events in the world. It was staged for the first time in 1897 and hasn’t missed a single year.

“Besides for the annual SA Track Championships, I think the last time South Africa hosted a UCI track event was back when Chris Willemse hosted a 3-Day in the Bellville Velodrome 16 years ago, so it’s going to be a very special occasion,” he said.

Paarl Boxing Day is revered worldwide in the sport of track cycling. There is a saying in Paarl that you might be the best track cyclist in the world, but it means nothing if you’re second best in Paarl.

Paarl is undoubtedly the cradle of track cycling in South-Africa and quite a few local track cyclists annually make it into the final 25 Mile event. Boxing Day attracts more than 5000 spectators to the Faure Street Stadium.

It is the oldest event in all forms of cycling in the world still in existence, having not skipped a year since its inception in 1897.

“Bringing cycling to the people is the motto of Paarl Boxing Day and we really want to do justice to the event’s reputation this year,” assured De Villiers.

The meeting concludes with the famous 25-Mile and the winner of the final event is regarded as the winner of the day. In addition to a generous prize purse, the floating Minnaar Trophy, which dates to 1908, is also up for grabs.

Cyclists with an international or domestic racing license are permitted to take part in the historic meeting.

For entries go to www.hecticpromotions.co.za

For ticket sales go to www.itickets.co.za