MTB World champs: MEC welcomes cyclists

2013-08-28 00:00

“WELCOME to Pietermaritzburg and we hope you enjoy the city and the entire province.” This was Finance MEC Ina Cronjé’s message to the cyclists taking part in this year’s UCI MTB World Championships, which officially get under way today.

“Thank you for making our city of choice your city of choice,” Cronjé said to the cyclists as they gathered at Cascades MTB Park for yesterday evening’s opening ceremony that was attended by most of the teams present.

She said most B&Bs in Pietermaritzburg were packed to capacity, and this in turn resulted in revenue for businesses in the city. “We hope you packed a little bit of extra clothing to enjoy Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal and South Africa,” she said.

Cronjé also reminded the crowd of participants and spectators from around the world that Pietermaritzburg is the place where former president Nelson Mandela made his last speech before his arrest, and encouraged the foreign visitors to make a stop at the capture site just outside Howick.

She added that cyclists should spend a moment to remember the late world champion cyclist Burry Stander, who was killed after being hit by a taxi earlier this year.

Event director Alec Laferna introduced the international teams taking part, and even had time to get the crowd singing happy birthday to a member of the Czech team.

The loudest cheer was reserved for the last team to come out, South Africa, which features Pietermaritzburg’s favourite son in world champion downhiller Greg Minnaar.

Local lass Ashleigh Moffatt (20) is a member of the team, and she told The Witness she was “super excited” to be taking part in the world championships.

“Racing at home just gives you a huge advantage. Knowing that people will be cheering for you gives that extra bit of wind,” said the cross country cyclist.

She will compete in her first race at 1 pm on Friday, and also takes part in the cross-country eliminator on Sunday.

United States-based Johannesburger Sarah Hill had good things to say about the course.

“It’s one of the most challenging courses I’ve been on. The gap jumps are awesome, they’re so much fun,” she said, adding that the competition would be the highest she’s ever competed in.

One of the larger teams at the opening were Australia, and elite cross-country cyclist Paul van der Ploeg told The Witness they brought a good junior team that people had to look out for.

“Team atmosphere is good. We have some good athletes … We’re really excited,” he said.

Having competed in the Masters World Championships last week, Canadian Joe Bauckham said he was expecting “a whole bunch of craziness” from the competition.

The cyclists he wanted to see the most was fellow Canadian Steve Smith and Maritzburg’s Minnaar.


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