The South African Para-cycling team produced a series of top performances in the UCI World Cup in Castiglione, Italy, on the weekend, highlighted by gold medals for Pieter du Preez and Justine Asher.
A spectacular time trial route had the riders racing across a flat coastal foreland through Mediterranean coastal forest, with the smell of pine resin and the singing of a few early cicadas adding much to the ambience.
The largely non-technical nature of the circuit proved deceptive in the way that it enticed the unwary rider to go out too fast and to not leave enough in reserve for the return section.
H1 hand-cyclist Pieter du Preez adapted to the challenges brilliantly to capture gold in his class. Ernst van Dyk picked up a silver medal in the H5 hand-cycling category, while George Rex added a bronze in the T1 tri-cycling class.
While Justine Asher used the event to prepare for the following day's road race, a number of other riders performed well: C3 cyclist Craig Ridgard, competing in his first international tour, finished respectably in the middle of his group; Stuart McCreadie finished fifth in the H3 category; and youngster Yusthin Lintnaar finished sixth, ahead of former Italian T2 world champion Giorgio Farroni.
Completely different to the time trial route in terms of a technical challenge, the route selected for the road race threaded its way through the narrow streets of Castiglione della Pescaia and the even narrower country roads extending out of town into the postcard landscape of olive groves and vineyards.
As the first South African rider Stuart McCreadie discovered, the route made it extremely difficult to maintain a place in the lead group and he lost touch with it towards the end of the 65 km race. Nonetheless, he finished in a very competitive seventh place.
George Rex, using lighter gears than in the time trial (to accelerate quickly out of the route's myriad tight corners) improved on his previous day's results by claiming a silver medal.
His T2 tricycling teammate Lintnaar rode to a pre-set race plan, which worked perfectly and positioned him for a fourth place result after a sprint finish, one bike length behind Paralympian gold medallist David Stone, who finished third. The result was unfortunately later overturned when Lintnaar was disqualified for an infringement.
A highlight performance of the day was Justine Asher's gold medal win in the H2 category and the award to her of the World Cup champion's jersey for her outstanding overall performance in the first leg of the season's road race series.
Pieter du Preez added a silver in his event to his time trial gold, while Ernst van Dyk picked up a bronze medal after a three-way sprint to the line to go with his silver in the time trial.