The President of the Botswana Cycling Association (BCA), Mmetla Masire, says major lessons will be learnt from Botswana’s participation at the African Continental Championships. Making its debut appearance, team Botswana had not managed any silverware by Friday, despite having competed in all the races at the championships.
Speaking in an interview, the BCA President says competing in the continental championships has given the BCA and individual cyclists an idea of how far the country is from competing with the best cyclists in the continent. “For most of our cyclists, this was a first time experience and we believe they now know how much effort they need to put forth to compete in an equal footing in the continent. Most of them had only competed and won races locally and these championships have now given them an opportunity to gauge the gulf between them and their continental counterparts,” Masire explicated.
In what has been a chastening experience for Botswana, all local cyclists, save for Bernardo Ayuso, have come in the last three positions in their races. The gulf between the locals and their African counterparts was apparent from the first race when the country’s team in the men’s Team Time Trial came twelfth and last in their race. The team, which was made of the likes of Sethomo Masepe, Gaopalelwe Kelaetswe, Lulu Telekelo and Thato Madimabe, all aged under 23 years, recorded a time of 1 hour 36 minutes and 26 seconds to finish their team trial race. The event was ultimately won by Eritrea, with South Africa and Ethiopia coming second and third in that order with times of 1 hour 3 minutes 39 seconds, 1 hour 3 minutes 42 seconds and 1 hour 4 minutes and 51 seconds respectively.
It was more of the same in the Juniors’ 24 km Individual Time Trials where Jordon Klinck and Promise Ntshese came last in their events. Klinck came 20th in the Junior Men’s category while Ntshese came last in a seven cyclists’ race in the Junior Women’s category. Commenting on the two junior cyclists, Masire said even as they had come last, he was happy with the times they had cycled at the championships, more so as they are still in their early development stage. The BCA President admits that apart from Bernardo Ayuso, all the team cyclists had a tough time in the time trials. Ayuso’s thirteenth position finish from a field of 33 cyclists in the Elite and Under 23 men’s 48 km Individual Time Trials was the best by a local cyclist.
On what could have led to the poor performance by other cyclists, Masire said lack of proper equipment was partly to blame. “In time trials, cyclists need bicycles with aerodynamic carbon wheels as well as pointed helmets. Our cyclists, with the exception of Ayuso did not have those and they were thus disadvantaged as they had to use the normal bicycles. Prior to taking them there, we had debated this issue but felt that it would be of great benefit to them if they competed. We felt that by the time we afford to buy them such equipment, they would have gained insight on what is needed to race in the time trials and that would benefit them a lot in the future,” Masire explained.
The BCA President was however optimistic that the local cyclists were likely to do better in the last events, the Road Races, which they have competed in regularly in the local events. Despite the hard lessons learnt from the chastening experiences at the championships, Masire believes Botswana will be able to compete successfully within two to three years. “If you look at Namibia, they started competing in these events almost two years ago and they are already winning some silverware. Almost half of the cyclists we sent to these championships have been racing for just a year and a half but they have done good times at their inaugural international championships. Should they put more effort and seek to improve when they come back, I believe we will compete effectively in future,” the BCA President concludes.