Paarl Boxing Day: Best In The World Means Little If You’re second Best

Bernard Esterhuizen crosses the finish line victorious at last year’s Helivac Paarl Boxing Day Track Challenge in front of a capacity crowd at the Faure Street Stadium in Paarl. Photo credit: Owen Lloyd

Sparks are set to fly at the Helivac Paarl Boxing Day Track Challenge on Thursday, 26 December 2019 with the strongest field for the past ten years lining up at the Faure Street Stadium in Paarl.

A large contingent of powerful Gauteng based professionals are represented by the likes of Dusty Day, Morne van Niekerk, Gert Fouche, Flavio Venceslau, Josh van Wyk and Steven van Heerden.

Along with a host of African riders, Belgian track star Jonas Rickaert, and the local contingent which includes seven-time champion, Nolan Hoffman, Clint Hendricks, Greame Ockhuis, HB Kruger, Bernard Esterhuizen, Jayde Julius and Rudie Kellerman, it’s likely to be one of the most hotly contested 25 Mile races in recent history.

“This is really turning out to be something special,” commented Hoffman, who takes aim at an eighth Boxing Day title on Thursday.

“There are so many strong riders that the race won’t be controlled. It’s going to be a nervous and tension-filled hour of racing,” said the local Boland lad.

The Team ENZA captain has been entertaining capacity crowds in the Faure Street Stadium for almost two decades and he has won the UCI classified historic event a record seven times during an illustrious career spanning 16 years.

The past two years, however, have seen a changing of the guard with victories going to HB Kruger and Bernard Esterhuizen (both Alfa Bodyworks) in 2017 and 2018 respectively.

Hoffman is clearly very focussed this year, but it might be the toughest Boxing Day in which he has ever competed. “The stage is big this year with a sell-out crowd expected at the Faure Street Stadium, so it’s going to be a massive occasion.”

Hoffman won his first title in 2004. He won again in 2008 and then from 2011 to 2013 and in 2015 and 2016.

The Boland is undoubtedly the cradle of track cycling in South-Africa and has produced some of finest sprinters the sport has seen. There’s a saying among the Paarl Faithful that you might be the best in the world, but it doesn’t mean much if you’re second best in Paarl!

The Helivac Paarl Boxing Day Track Challenge, presented by Alfa Bodyworks and the City of Drakenstein, attracts a capacity 7000 spectators to the Faure Street Stadium.

It is the oldest event in all forms of cycling in the world in existence. The meeting has not skipped a year since its inception in 1897.

“Boxing Day is not only the biggest track cycling event in Africa, it’s also one of the most spectated in-stadium sporting events on the continent,” said event organiser Wynand de Villiers.

“Our intent, in conjunction with the Drakenstein Municipality and other event partners, is to reinforce this unique and very marketable event to showcase Paarl.”

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 the generous prize purse, the floating Minnaar Trophy, which dates to 1908, is also up for grabs.

The 25 Mile is special. “The capacity crowd is left in awe as riders complete 87 laps of the track. Tactics unfold as riders try to gain an advantage during the race, which takes approximately 1 hour to complete. It’s scintillating stuff,” said De Villiers.

The past winner’s list at Boxing Day includes all the famous sprinters the sport has produced in South Africa.

Well-known riders’ names who appear on the Minnaar Trophy include NTT team principle Douglas Ryder and SuperSport commentator Andrew McLean. Gary Beneke, Willie Engelbrecht and “The Idol” Alan van Heerden also claimed titles.

Cycling South Africa honorary life president, Gotty Hansen secured victories in 1959 and 1965 while Chris Willemse won the title in 1977.

The Hectic Promotions organising company funds an array of charity projects nationally and with staging of Boxing Day they are extending their reach to Paarl.

“We have identified Huis Mia Paarl as official beneficiary of Paarl Boxing Day. Huis Mia is a temporary safe care facility for new-born babies,” said De Villiers.

Tickets are on sale at or at the gate on Thursday from 11h30.