Pietermaritzburg – Without an official Masters MTB Marathon World Championships in existence, the inaugural Rainbow Challenge seeks to fill the current void on the international masters MTB calendar and, in a move to be as inclusive as possible, the event will include para-cycling with a number of disabled riders expected to converge on the Cascades MTB Park on 28 June.
Although still in its infancy, and with no official UCI standing alongside the more prominent para-cycling disciplines – road and track, local riders have enjoyed good success in the past and Mike Burns is grateful for the opportunity that MTB para-cycling receives from Cycling South Africa.
“Mountain biking is not yet recognised by the UCI as an official para-cycling code,” Burns explained. “However, there is a great deal of encouragement by the UCI for nations to integrate para-cycling into able-body MTB and for this to serve as a catalyst for it to gain the UCI status that it deserves.
“Since 2013, Cycling South Africa’s MTB commission has been extremely accommodating in terms of enabling this process to materialise.”
Following the innovative decision by the organisers for the 2014 Rainbow Challenge, Burns is reserved in his expectations but is confident that being involved in an event like the Rainbow Challenge can only be positive for the discipline heading into the future.
“I do not expect participation by many para-cyclists in the Rainbow Challenge – but whatever level of participation materialises will be hugely significant! “
To my knowledge, South Africa will be breaking new ground globally through this initiative – certainly because it is an international event,” Burns mentioned proudly.
Craig Ridgard is an experienced para-cyclist and represented South Africa at the World para-cycling Road Championships earlier this year. Ridgard will be taking part in the 2014 Rainbow Challenge and he feels that 2014 is a revolutionary year for the sport.
“2014 will be the first time that para-cycling will be incorporated in the SA MTB Marathon Championships on the 8th of June, and then, for a first time internationally, incorporated as a category in the 2014 Rainbow Challenge. “
The significance of this cannot be overstated in terms of recognising para-cycling as well as for SA to be pioneering these events in both cycling and MTB in particular,” Ridgard stressed.
Ridgard has been in the mountain biking wilderness for a number of years and goes into the Rainbow Challenge lacking the confidence he once had on the mountain bike and thus, although he hopes to still be competitive, is not putting pressure on himself.
“I come from a MTB background having participated, as an able bodied cyclist but with a disability, in two Cape Epics (2004 & 2005) and numerous MTB stage races and one day races. However this was a few years ago, and my last competitive MTB race was in 2007.”
“Currently I lack focused MTB training, but have some carry-over fitness from the World Cup road event I recently rode in in Italy, which should see me through the event in June,” Ridgard said.
Former South African and World triathlon champion Oswald Kydd will be participating in the first edition of the Rainbow Challenge at the end of June and the Johannesburg resident will be breaking a substantial drought when he gets on his mountain bike for the race.
“I think this is only going to be my second or third mountain bike race,” he said. “The last one I did must have been about seven years ago!”
Kydd took it upon himself to get in touch with the event organisers to see whether there was a chance that they could accommodate para-cyclists as he is in the process of training for cross triathlon and he explains that the Rainbow Challenge was a good way for him to get back into mountain biking.
“I was planning on heading to Pietermaritzburg for the South African Marathon Championships that are happening a few weeks before the Rainbow Challenge but I am battling to find accommodation.
“I am busy training hard for the EXTERRA type races so I got in touch with Alec Lenferna and asked him if it was possible for us to get involved. ”
“He was very accommodating and created categories for us to take part in and, although mountain biking isn’t internationally recognised as a para-cycling discipline, it is really great that he has allowed us to compete! ”
“I need to get experience on my mountain bike and riding in races is how that happens. Having the opportunity to be recognised as a winner is also another incentive for us,” an excited Kydd said.
Kydd is a leg amputee from above the knee but does not let that affect him when he is on the bike. He uses his disability as motivation when he takes on the abled bodied athletes as he feels they feel more intimidated by him than visa versa.
“I think I am a stronger rider than most and the abled bodied guys seem to be more threatened by me because I am able to ride long distances and after 90km I am feeling a lot stronger than a lot of them,” he concluded confidently.
More information on the 2014 Rainbow Challenge can be found at www.rainbowchallenge.co.za
Source: Gameplan Media