15 of Zimbabwe’s top mountain bikers travelled to Cape Town for the African Continental Championships on 25 and 26 January. The top results were in the Youth Women category, with a 3rd by Rachel Jeans and 4th by Cameryn Davidson.
The team, representing multiple age categories in the cross country olympic (XCO) format, was selected from a series of local qualifying races held over the last few months. Most of the riders have been groomed through the Spur Schools racing series, with some having competed at regional competitions and the 2013 World Championships in Pietermaritzburg.
But there were a few new faces on the scene. Nicholas Warren and Scott Donaldson both come from a BMX background, and their experience racing up to world championship level in the more extreme discipline gave them an edge on the highly technical Cape Town course.
For Albert Kirevha (23), Zimbabwe’s only Elite rider to travel, the event was his first trip outside Zimbabwe and his first race against international competition. He was disappointed with his 18th place finish, but team coach Linda Davidson had nothing but praise for him.
The biggest challenge for the riders was the extremely technical man-made track, something they’re not used to from the mostly natural terrain they ride in Zimbabwe. The short, multiple-lap racing format makes it very spectator-friendly, and the rock gardens, drop-offs and gap jump provided much entertainment for those watching. One of many caught short was Sub-Junior Brett Elliott, one of Zimbabwe’s most promising talents, who broke his collar bone during practice.
Though Davidson concedes the team needed more technical training, she said they performed very well on the demanding climbs, and managed to stay with the pace for the first few laps. In an event where much of the South African competition is sponsored and on cycling scholarships, Davidson is keen to emphasize the significant successes in getting the Zimbabwean team to a competitive level.
Kefalos Cheese and Group 5 contributed generously to the team’s expenses.