Dual track champion Steven van Heerden will be aiming to translate his recent success into a triumph on the road when he competes in the Emperors Palace Classic feature race in Johannesburg next Sunday.
The 23-year-old BCX pro attracted plenty of attention this month when he was crowned points champion at both the African Continental Championships in Durban and national champs in Cape Town.
With the road race taking place in his stamping ground of Kempton Park, Van Heerden is keen to use local knowledge and his track form to steal a march on his rivals in the 98km showdown.
“Being in our home town, it’s a big race for me and the team and we would like to pull off a win,” he said.
“As it is a slightly shorter race than some of the longer road events, it suits me a bit more.
“Obviously it’s different to the track but the speed you build up in track training can complement your road preparations, although you still need the road background and the miles to pull it off.”
Van Heerden was racing in last month’s ill-fated Cape Town Cycle Tour when the race was called off due to heavy winds and he felt Emperors would provide an ideal opportunity to make up for that disappointment.
“Emperors has been going for 10 years and it is one of the big races on the calendar, coming near the end of the summer season,” he said.
“With many riders having lost out after training hard for Cape Town, this is definitely a chance for them to prove a point.”
Considering the winds which he said had been prevalent in Johannesburg recently, he thought the weather could again be a significant factor.
“It is a very fast course and I think the wind could play a big role going out towards Heidelberg. That could affect the bunch so it’s something to keep in mind.
“Then, coming back through the Boksburg area, it’s very fast and things can get pretty nervous as the guys start jostling for position before the finish.”
While he was happy with his form, Van Heerden said he realised there would be plenty of competition for the title held by RoadCover’s Bradley Potgieter.
“Our team is a strong one and we did well at the SA and continental champs, but there are some good riders out there.
“Bradley is a very strong rider and they also have Clint Hendricks, who is both fast and good up the hills, so it should be very tight at the end.”
The Emperors Palace Classic racing weekend starts off with 25km and 50km mountain bike events on the Saturday before culminating with 48km and 98km road races the next day.
Visit www.emperorsclassic.co.za for more information.