South Africa’s second UCI Tour, the Tour de Limpopo (UCI 2.2) took place from the 15 – 18 May 2019. Dimension Data Continental Team’s U23 rider Samuele Battistella took the overall honours beating ProTouch Continental’s Kent Main, by a tiny margin of only 1 second. He was followed by Dimension Data’s Connor Brown, who also won the King of the Mountains Jersey.
As we all know, our local racing calendar is typically designed for mass participation and, not preparation for our top riders to perform at international levels. It is interesting to note that seven of the Top 10 General Classification riders were all local South African-based riders who, competed incredibly well against the Italian-based Continental Team.
|Samulle Battistella||Dimension Data Conti||11:38:43||Time Gap|
|Kent Main||ProTouch Conti||11:38:44||00:00:01|
|Connor Brown||Dimension Data Conti||11:39:07||00:00:23|
|Dylan Girdlestone||Office Guru Racing||11:39:17||00:00:34|
|Steven Van Heerden||Enza Proud Beginners||11:41:07||00:02:23|
|James Jobber||Dimension Data Conti||11:42:09||00:03:02|
|Jason Oosthuizen||TEG Conti||11:48:22||00:09:05|
|HB Kruger||Alpha Bodyworks Giant||11:49:59||00:08:52|
|Clint Hendricks||ProTouch Conti||11:50:44||00:08:35|
|Jayde Julius||ProTouch Conti||11:51:05||00:02:43|
The level of South African racing is definitely improving and a big reason for this can be attributed to riders being exposed to higher levels of racing in Africa, Asia, Europe as well as the USA. Team ProTouch Continental, who is lying 2nd on the UCI Africa Tour Rankings, has raced against top international teams likes of Astana, Arkea-Samsic, Total Direct Energie, Floyd’s Cycling and Vital Concept this year. It is exciting to see that South African teams are providing platforms and conduits for better opportunities for our local riders to access these UCI events and start to perform on the international stage.
BUT WHAT IS THE ACTUAL SIGNIFICANCE OF THESE UCI RACES?
All UCI events are by invitation only. Only registered Continental, Pro- Continental and World Tour Teams are able to qualify for invitations. So, why are these UCI-graded events so important for cycling and more specifically South African cycling?
To understand this fully we need to break down exactly how the world of professional cycling actually works. UCI stands for Union Cycliste Internationale and is the world governing body for the competitive sport of cycling, based in Switzerland. There are five main regions making up the UCI Tours: Africa, America, Asia, Europe, and Oceania [Australia and New Zealand] in addition to the World Tour.
In each of these regions, as well as the World Tour there are two types of events, namely one-day and multi-stage races, Hors Category [HC] and World Tour [WT] events. The prefix, after the name of the race indicates the level of grading the event has, prefix 2 being the lowest grading, followed by prefix 1 and then HC and WT. The grading determines also a number of factors such as: value of prize money, how many participants may earn prize money (Top 20 etc.), the number of UCI Points that may be earned (Top 10 vs Top 20), level of teams that qualify to participate (i.e. Club, Regional, National, Regional, Continental, Pro-Continental or World Tour Teams), the level of contribution for transport, accommodation, subsistence etc. back to the participating teams from the organizers etc.
So, let’s take the Tour de Limpopo as an example. It is currently a UCI 2.2 event. This tells us straight away that it is a multi-staged race and that the grading of the event is 2. As the event is hosted in South Africa, it falls into the UCI African Tour.
At all UCI-graded events, participants have the ability to earn UCI Points. UCI points are extremely valuable for Athletes, Teams and Nations. These Points are accumulated throughout the year of racing and, based on a points system, riders are ranked – individually, by Team and by Nation, based on which country they are registered in as well as the regional Tour or World ranking.
So why is participating in UCI-graded events so important, for South Africa and South African riders?
The more UCI Points that South African riders can earn, the more these contribute to South Africa leading the Africa Tour as a Nation. Currently South Africa has three UCI events in addition to the South African National Championships, where South African-based riders can earn Points. In addition to this, South African riders who are able to be part of teams that can gain invites to any other UCI events can earn points. Riders currently contracted to ProTouch and TEG Continental Teams (as well as other internationally based Continental, Pro-Continental and World Tour Teams), along with riders selected to participate as part of the National Team have a better chance of UCI tour participation as their continental status gives them preference over a club team when considered for UCI race invitations.
South Africa is currently ranked first in the Nation rankings in Africa with 2 691.61 Points. 637.11 points ahead of Eritrea in 2ndand Algeria in 3rdPlace. A Nations Points are calculated, based on the Top 8 riders with UCI Points registered with that nation. Riders from South African-based Continental Team, ProTouch alongside WT riders from Dimension Data and Mitchelton-Scott currently contribute to our African Nation ranking.
With South Africa currently on the top of the list on the Africa Tour ranking, we would qualify for up to 6 invitations on the start list and assisting us in becoming much more competitive against the more dominant cycling nations at prestigious events like the Olympic Games, Commonwealth Games and the annual UCI world road cycling championships.
Understanding all of this, it starts to make sense why some team owners [who are focused on athlete development at these high-performance levels] would pursue investing in a Continental outfit.
In South Africa 2 teams have taken this step and registered themselves as continental teams for 2019. Team ProTouch and Team TEG. Team ProTouch have managed to participate in 8 UCI graded events this year and in doing so have managed to gain enough UCI points to currently rank 2nd in the UCI Africa Tour continental team rankings with 357 points. Currently 48,75 points behind the Rwandan Benediction Excel Energy Team. TEG have not managed to participate in as many UCI tours as ProTouch has so far this year and are currently ranked 4th in the UCI Africa Tour continental team rankings with 91 points. It is exciting to see some of these athletes being recognised for their achievements and laying the foundations to migrate onto the international stage – paving a way for younger aspiring South African riders to move into the locally-based team structures.
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Till next time,