The Botswana Cycling Association (BCA) has sent a team of eleven riders to represent the country at the Africa Continental Championships. The continental championships, which will be held in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa will commence tomorrow (Monday) and end on the 14th of this month.
The team, which is the first ever Botswana Cycling team comprised of athletes aged 23 years and below, has only two seniors. With Botswana having affiliated to the international cycling bodies this past September, the event is expected to test how the country has progressed over the past couple of years.
Speaking in an interview, BCA President, Mmetla Masire said there will be no high expectations on the team which will be making its debut in continental competitions. “While we are going out to compete and our athletes are expected to do the best they can, people must remember that this is the first time we will be competing in a major event like this. For us, this competition will not be all about medals but rather more about development,” Masire explained.
Despite cycling being both an Olympic and Commonwealth Games’ sport, Masire said at the moment, there is no pressure for athletes to try and qualify for the two international events. “Our focus is to compete in the continental events and gain good ranking in the continent first. The strategy is to try and compete in as many continental events as we can before we look at international events,” the BCA President explained.
However, while no medal target has been set, the BCA President said the team is composed of cyclists with great potential who can manage to nick a medal for Botswana in its maiden Continental championships. Among those expected to do well for the country is Spain based cyclist Bernardo Ayuso as well as Thato Madimabe of the Gaborone Cycling Club.
The two, along with the likes of Bakang Ebudilwe, Sethomo Masepe, Losika Kelaotswe, Lulu Tekelelo and James Masimo will represent the country in the under 23 category at the championships. Apart from being the most experienced of the Botswana team cyclists, Ayuso is also the country’s reining national champion in both the Road Race as well as time trials. Madimabe on the other hand is another promising product of the GCC who has competed and done relatively well in cycling races in South Africa. Another of the cyclists expected to hold his own will be Masepe who is the country’s road race and time trials national champion in the under 23 category.
The Botswana Railways Cycling Club is currently training in Potchefstroom, South Africa, at the World Cycling Centre Africa. According to Masire, the inclusion of the experienced duo of Ayuso and Madimabe is expected to provide the otherwise inexperienced Botswana team with guidance during the races.
He said the two cyclists’ advice will come even handier during the course of a race where the coach will not be available to guide the cyclists. Apart from the seven cyclists who will compete in the under 23 category, the Botswana team also has the duo of Promise Ntshese and Jordan Klinck in the Juniors’ category while Christopher Moloi and Boipuso Masepe will represent the country in the senior men’s category. The Africa Continental Championships are sanctioned by the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) and are qualifiers for the Olympics.