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As the cycling year ends with a calendar jam-packed with events, the student cycling arm of the University Sports South Africa has agreed to stage its annual intervarsity competition at the aQuellé Tour Durban next weekend.
Having lost out during the hard lockdown in 2020, cyclists at varsities and technikons have been denied the opportunity to race in major events, and even with the USSA Virtual Tour held earlier this year, the eager students are keen to represent their institutions, challenge for individual places on the podium and earn points towards the overall team scores.
With a growing interest in mountain biking at all the member institutions, the competition format will include the 40km aQuellé MTB race powered by CycleLab on Saturday 27 November, as well as the roads races on the fast lap of the M4 freeway on Sunday 28 November.
The men will line up with the strong field of elites for the 101km title decider, while the female students will join the junior women for the 90km race that will tag onto the elite races after they have finished the opening 11km lap.
The late decision to adopt the aQuellé Tour Durban as the host event for the USSA competition for 2021 has suffered a few casualties as both the UCT and Maties teams from the Western Cape have not been able to muster teams to travel to Durban, particularly with the Double Century race in the Cape falling on the same weekend.
“It has been a hard two years for student cycling,” said IIE Varsity College’s sport and social co-ordinator Travis Hesom, who serves on the USSA interim committee.
“The lockdown has cost so many events, budgets have been slashed and it has been very tough for the riders to stick to any sort of training schedule without events to target.
“The good news is that the passion to race and represent your institution is still there, and we can expect plenty of energy from the four institutions that have committed to racing the event,” said Hesom.
The annual USSA contest forms a key part of a complex puzzle that helps mould student riders into serious athletes, some of whom quickly race at the highest level and join professional teams, like Tukkies star Andries Nigrini who rides with the ProTouch Continental Cycling team.
Valley Electric rider Tiffany Keep who represents IIE Varsity College has raced at World Championship level, as has Hayley Preen who came through the UCT ranks.
“It will be exciting to see this event staged in 2021, even if we don’t have a full contingent of institutions able to make it,” said Hesom.
“The interim committee of USSA Cycling is working hard at keeping with the times and providing opportunities, and getting the green light to stage the 2021 event at the aQuellé Tour Durban and pulling off the first ever Virtual Cycling Challenge have both been steps in the right direction,” he added.