With a huge field of road and mountain bike riders entered for the aQuellé Tour Durban on Sunday – and weather forecasts pointing to almost perfect weather for the weekend – the country’s top road cycling teams are converging on KwaZulu-Natal, eager to claim podium places in this popular classic.
In recent years the 105km women’s road race has been less reliant on team tactics, but defending champion Lynette Burger comes into the race with her Momentum Toyota team bristling with talent and youthful energy.
The pressure will certainly come from the likes of Cashandra Slingerland, who will be riding without her Team Ferrochrome colleagues, with the strong Mecer Elite women’s team riders sure to add on-going pressure from their numerical presence and balanced team make-up.
“The women’s race has changed a lot,” says Slingerland. “In years gone by women’s teams were a factor but now most of the top women are racing on their own, so it has become more of an individual race.”
Most of the teams will spend time looking at the key sections of the course, and in particular planning their lead-out into the 180 degree switchback over the bridge into the finish, outside the iconic Durban stadium.
The event has seen significant growth in entries year-on-year, partly due to the race’s new status as a seeding event for the Pick n Pay Cape Argus Cycle Tour, but also because it guarantees the cyclists total road closure and the rare opportunity to ride in safety on the city’s highways.
The three routes all start and finish at the Moses Mabhida stadium, with the 105km road race starting at 6:30am, the cyclo-cross MTB race starting at 8am, and the 45km road race starting at 8:15am.
In co-ordination with the Metro Police and municipal authorities, the roads to be used for the race will be fully closed to vehicle traffic, and will be re-opened once the race officials are satisfied that the last rider has passed through that point.
The major change to the race route returns to the descent from Pinetown using the M19 to Springfield Park, which will result in less inconvenience to residents in the Pinetown, Cowies Hill and Westville areas through which the 105km road passed last year.
“This is a landmark event for the City of Durban, and riders come from every corner of the country to take advantage of the opportunity cycle many of the cities attractions in the security of total road closures,” said race director Stu Berry.
“The safety of cyclists on our roads is a major issue, and the closure of some of our roads for a few hours on Sunday morning is very important to the cycling community,” he added.
“The people of Durban through whose suburbs this race passes have been very supportive over the years. They understand the rationale behind it and pro-actively plan their travel plans on that day around these road closures, for which we are very grateful.”
“I trust it will once again be a successful event for the City of Durban, and one that every resident of the city can proudly take ownership of,” he said.
The main roads that will be affected are: • NMR – North and South • Esplanade – West • M4 – South • Edwin Swales – West • M7 – West • Shepstone Road – Pinetown • M19 – East • Inanda Road – Springfield • Riverside Road • M4 – North and South • Argyle Rd – Bottom End
More information about the aQuellé Tour Durban road races can be found at www.tourdurban.co.za
(With editing by gsport)