19 February 2013

Namibia: Cycling Heading for a Bright Future

THE future of Namibian cycling looks bright after some exceptional performances by Namibia's top junior cyclists this season, culminating in Sunday's Nedbank Cycle Challenge.

Junior cyclists Mike Swanepoel and Martin Freyer have dominated this year's Windhoek Pedal Power series, while Costa Seibeb, who turned 21 on February 7, won the Nedbank Cycle Challenge for the second year in a row on Sunday.

In recent years cyclists like Mannie Heymans, Erik Hoffmann, Dan Craven and Marc Bassingthwaighte have represented Namibia internationally, including at the Olympic Games.

Especially Heymans excelled internationally, winning the Trans Alp Challenge in 1998 and 2004, the Cape Epic in 2004 and representing Namibia at three Olympic Games in 2000, 2004 and 2008.

While Namibia's current crop of senior cyclists are not at the same level, the performances of Namibia's junior cyclists have caught the attention and Heymans, who is now the president of the Namibian Cycling Federation, is excited about the future.

"At this stage I think the performances of our juniors are better than ever before and you can see it in the results. At Sunday's Nedbank Challenge they dominated with four of the top six cyclists all basically still being juniors."

Besides Seibeb, junior cyclists Martin Freyer came third, Tristan de Lange fourth and Pascal Marggraff sixth.

"It shows that our juniors are in great form and I would say that the potential of this bunch is of the best that Namibia has had," he added.

Seibeb and Tristan de Lange, who is still only 15 years old, in fact, rode for Heymans' 'Mannie's Bike Mecca' team after he decided to sponsor them.

"I offered Costa a place in my team because I knew he would love to come back to defend his title, but did not have money to fly up from South Africa, where he is training at the UCI African Centre. I chatted with his sponsor in South Africa who did not have a problem and then paid for his flight ticket to Namibia," he said.

"I am also supporting Tristan de Lange and Vera Adrian in the mountain bike series," he said.

Heymans had to dig deep in his pockets to fly Seibeb up, but he said it was important to have him back to defend his title.

"When I was young it was always great to defend my titles, so I know what that meant to Costa. Other people like Dan Craven and his mother Patricia Craven have also helped Costa a lot, so I think he appreciates what we are doing. He has a lot of talent and is a hard worker so hopefully he can go far," he said.

Heymans said Seibeb had developed a 'big head' last year and he had to talk to the young cyclist to change his attitude.

"When he went to the UCI African Centre in South Africa for the first time last year he started to develop a big head. I later spoke to him about it and told him he would have to change his attitude if he wanted to stay at the top. It's one thing to reach the top, but to stay there is much more difficult."

Seibeb seems to have taken the advice to heart and judging by his dedication and form on Sunday, he could still reach his dream of becoming a professional cyclist.

"Even I said that Costa was lucky to win the Nedbank Challenge last year, but now he has shown that it was more than luck, by winning it a second time," Heymans said.

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