BMX races come to a rousing end

2010-08-02 00:00

IT was an action-packed weekend at the Royal Showgrounds in Pietermaritzburg as the UCI BMX World Championships drew to a close yesterday.

Thousands of spectators came out to show their support on Saturday and yesterday and were rewarded with some highly entertaining racing on both days.

Saturday was the day of the “elite” riders, who battled it out to be crowned world champion. The Elite Men’s final provided the highlight of the championships as the South African favourite, Sifiso Nhlapo, finished second to defending champion Maris Strombergs in a riveting end to the day.

Nhlapo, who finished third at the 2008 event and missed it in 2009 due to a severe neck injury, was more than happy with his silver medal.

After the race, swamped by photographers, Nhlapo collapsed to the ground in an excess of emotion before running out on to the track to show his appreciation to the vocal home crowd who had supported him all weekend.

“It’s just really fantastic to have had this event on home soil and the fans have been amazing,” said Nhlapo after the race.

Yesterday saw two South Africans crowned world champions as Teagan O’Keefe (Elite Junior Girls) and Sharlene McGilvray (45+ Women) won gold medals in their Cruiser Class categories.

For McGilvray, this was the highlight of her career — her first world championships in six attempts.

Event director Max Cluer said he was extremely satisfied with the way the Pietermaritzburg event had gone.

“We’ve had a world-class event and compliments have been flooding in from people involved in the sport. Everybody seems very impressed,” said Cluer. “Some people are even calling it the best World Championships in history.”

He paid tribute to the spectators. “Pietermaritzburgers and South Africans in general have always been fantastic supporters and this weekend was no different,” he said. “They really did create an amazing vibe throughout the event.”

While it has not yet been confirmed, next year’s UCI BMX Supercross World Cup is likely to return to South Africa, with Pietermaritzburg being tipped as an ideal host city.

“We remain hopeful that the city of Pietermaritzburg will put the money into hosting the event,” said Cluer.

The event was hosted in Pietermaritzburg in 2009.

More reports — pages 17 and 20

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