THE cycling season gets under way this weekend when the first leg of the Windhoek Pedal Power (WPP) cycling series, the 'Mannie's Bike Mecca Döbra Loops', will be held on Sunday morning.
The organisers, WPP, are expecting about 100 cyclists and have shortened the distance for the Elite riders, who will now cover 90km along with the Under-23 and Junior Men.
"In consideration of Christmas turkey and the odd Tafel Lager you might have over-indulged in over the last couple of weeks, we have shortened the race distances, just so that we can ease into our road-racing calendar," the secretary of WPP, Marlene Pretorius, said on their website.
"There will be music and food and drinks as well as some special lucky draw prizes. Mannie [Heymans] will also provide free samples of a new sports drink and you are welcome to fill your water bottles before and after the race," she added.
With several top cyclists not available for the new season, the field will be wide open and the winners will be difficult to predict.
Costa Seibeb, who won the Nedbank Cycle Classic and Till Drobisch who won The Namibian Cycle Classic last year, will both be missing from this year's circuit after they joined the UCI African Cycling Centre in Potchefstroom earlier this week.
Besides them, Namibian professional cyclist Dan Craven will also not be competing on the local circuit, while the defending national champion, Lotto Petrus, was unsure whether he would compete on Sunday.
"I'm not racing fit at the moment, and I must still decide if I will race on Sunday. If I do, it will just be a training ride," he said.
In their absence the favourites could come from Adriaan Maartens, who won the WPP series last year, Gerhard Mans, Ingram Cuff, Jacques Celliers or Hendrik Verdoes, who has returned from studying in Stellenbosch.
The women's series should also be wide open as the defending WPP series champion as well as national champion Vera Adrian will not be back to defend her titles, due to study commitments in South Africa.
But another former champion, Heletje van Staden, who also won the Namibian Sportswoman of the Year title in 2010, has completed her studies and should be among the favourites if she competes again this year.
Among the juniors, Martin Fryer has returned from schooling in South Africa and he will be battling it out for honours with the national junior champion Thorsten Kreft and the defending WPP series champion Michael Pretorius.
Then the talented Tristan de Lange and Herbert Peters should provide another fine showdown in the Under-16 category.
According to Pretorius, the WPP series will provide a big incentive for the country's top junior cyclists, since WPP will select the top four cyclists in each category to compete in the Trac National Under-23, Junior and U16 Tour in Nelspruit, South Africa from March 21 to 24.
Pretorius said that social cyclists are also welcome to enter Sunday's race. The registration for the race will start at 06h30, while the race will start an hour later.
Cyclists can enter various age group categories ranging from the Elite and Junior men who will cover 90km to the Under-10 boys and girls who will cover 15km. The casual or social cyclists will not be timed and can cover any distance they like.