From 27 to 31 March 2013, the Qhubeka Academy took part in its first South African National Track Championships at the Belville Velodrome, in Cape Town.
Seven Qhubeka Academy riders rode in the championships: four junior riders; Nick Stein, Nico-Paul Bester, Charles Mathewson and Doug Abbot, and three U-16s; Mitch Sparrow, Jarrod Hattingh and Dylan le Roux.
This was the first SA National Championships event for five of the attending Academy riders. Many of them had also only ridden on track bikes a handful of times before the event and it was a great learning experie nce for the riders.
Management team James Louter and Carri-Ann Botha and mechanic Tim Kock also attended the race to help guide the team through the five-day event.
The junior men riders competed in the omnium and 1500m events on Day 1.
The U-16s excelled and won two gold medals. Mitch Sparrow took the gold in the 500m TT and Jarrod Hattingh the gold in the 20km points.
After their great performance on Day 1, the team went into Day 2 with renewed confidence. The juniors raced the remaining omnium events and were part of the line-up for the team sprint qualifier where they finished second, putting them into the gold/silver medal ride-off the following day.
The U-16s took part in the sprint qualifiers and Mitch Sparrow’s talent shone through as he clocked the fastest times in the qualifying rounds. The team’s results in the U-16 scratch race were less prestigious, but the athletes’ determination and positive attitude remained strong.
The juniors began their racing for the day with the sprint qualifiers. Mathewson, Stein and Abbot all made it through to the next round.
The juniors also raced in the 3000m pursuit and then returned to the quarter-final rounds of the sprints. Both Abbot and Mathewson sat out the pursuit to save their legs for the sprints, which took place right after the event. Mathewson progressed to the sprint semi-final rounds. The juniors also had a gold-medal ride off in the team sprint and claimed silver after a close contest.
To end their long day at the track, the juniors went into the 15km scratch event feeling tired, but they pushed on and performed incredibly well against the country’s best track athletes.
The U-16 athletes exceeded all expectations in their 2000m pursuit with Sparrow coming in first place, Hattingh in third and le Roux with the fifth fastest time.
With three successful days behind them, the team were confident ahead of Day 4 and were determined to take home some more medals.
The U-16s started with the team pursuit, where they won the gold medal.
In the junior 1000m time trial, Stein put in a superb performance to win a bronze medal, after which the teams also took bronze in the team pursuit event.
The juniors then took to the track again for the 20km points race. An unfortunate incident saw both Stein and Bester crashing out the event leaving Abbot and Mathewson to fight it out, and they were ultimately beaten by another team.
Bester and Stein were still recovering from their Day 4 crash and exited the elimination race early on, while Abbot and Mathewson raced on. Mathewson advanced to the final round of the Keirin-sprints event where he finished just short of a medal.
The day ended off with the U-16s in the 1500m. Both Hattingh and le Roux put in superb performances and showed great strength and talent.
“The 2013 SA Track Championship represented a milestone for the Qhubeka Academy,” said James Louter, Qhubeka Academy Director. “Our strategic focus on the development of African talent to the highest level through track is confirmed by how rapid the progress has been of the current intake for the Academy. The focus we place on track is paying dividends as we have proudly watched our riders grow in confidence and maturity.
“Track will continue to be a major part of the Academy programme as it provides a cost-effective method of identifying, developing and mentoring talent.”
“I was proud of every single athlete who took part; each showing their unique talent. Every rider put everything into the experience and completely blew us away with their achievements and dedication,” added Team Manager Carri-Ann Botha.