UCI star heads to KZN

2013-10-02 00:00

SOUTH Africa’s newest cycling world champion, Neville Ackermann, will proudly don his UCI rainbow-striped jersey at the Msunduzi Road Challenge, which will take place on October 26 and October 27.

After winning the time trial world title in Trento, Italy, last month, the Highveld star tackles both the time trial and road race in his men’s 55-59 year category in the Msunduzi Road Challenge.

It was a great win for the South African, who was elated that his hard work and dedication to the sport had paid off, and he could leapfrog silver into the gold medal spot in 2013, after he won the bronze in the UCI World Cycling Tour final in Pietermaritzburg in 2012.

“It was very gratifying to be crowned world champion,” Ackermann said.

“A lot of time, effort, sacrifice and money goes into chasing your dreams.

“Cycling has never been cheap or easy, so winning really just makes it all worth it,” said Ackermann, who will use the Msunduzi Road Challenge as a platform to hone his skills ahead of next year’s finals in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

On what proved to be a difficult course, Ackermann was able to hold off the rest of the field on what was a great ride from him.

“It went well on the day for me, and I had worked to a race plan and gave it my all.

“The time trial course was a surprise to most, as it was pretty technical and challenging, and some decided not to ride.

“I practised the course twice, and tested wheels and gearing — and then devised a race strategy.

“In a time trial, there is usually some strong competition for the podium, as well as other people who ride just for the experience.

“But I feel satisfied that I had a good ride and was expecting a good result, but you never can be sure until the results are up,” he said.

Ackermann has battled a lot this year in terms of injuries and illness.

Therefore, being able to put on the world championship jersey has given him that extra bit of satisfaction.

“For me, personally, it is really satisfying as it has been a very difficult year with crashes, injuries and illness.

“I got measles twice, before and after the Cape Epic, thanks to the grandchildren.”

Looking forward to the Msunduzi Road Challenge, Ackermann will be under less pressure — and will be secure in the knowledge that he does not need to qualify as he automatically qualifies for the 2014 time trial final after winning in Trento.

“In the time trial, I get to ride in my rainbow jersey and, hopefully, I will do it justice.

“In a road race, winning is not everything for me.

“Mostly, I use it as a training ride for the time trial, doing as much work in the front as possible and making it as hard as possible for myself and others — and gaining valuable experience at the same time.

“I find negative race tactics very frustrating and prefer a smaller, harder working group in a fair race for the line,” he said.

Ackermann is looking forward to tackling the new route, after it was changed in order to prevent congestion going into and out of Wartburg.

Ackermann feels that he will benefit from the change in route and it will play to his strengths more than the route from last year.

“Last year, I managed a bronze medal in the time trial at the UCI World Cycling Tour final and the course did not really suit me.

“So I am looking forward to the course that they have got laid out for us this year and, hopefully, it will be more suited to me as I prefer a flatter course with short power climbs or drags,” Ackermann said.

The 2013 Msunduzi Road Challenge is based in Noodsburg, north of Pietermaritzburg.

More information can be found at www.msunduziroadchallenge.co.za

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