Cape Town – Cycling often becomes lonely for the competitors during training as they prepare for big events, but Gustav Basson experienced it during a race at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham on Thursday.
The 26-year-old was the only South African to participate across both the men’s and women’s individual time trial around the 37km West Park circuit.
Daryl Impey, Reinardt Janse van Rensburg, Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio, Kerry Jonker and Hayley Preen were all initially entered, but Janse van Rensburg recently contracted Covid-19 and was advised to sit out.
A bout of gastroenteritis has been doing the rounds in the SA cycling camp and is believed to have affected Moolman-Pasio, while the other riders are understood to be getting ready for Sunday’s respective road races.
So, it was up to Basson to fly Mzansi’s flag high, having won the 2022 African championship time trial in Sharm El Shaikh, Egypt in March.
The Mbombela cyclist was in 20th spot at the 8.9km mark in a time of 13 minutes 23.78 seconds, with the pace set by Australian Rohan Dennis – who claimed the bronze medal at last year’s Tokyo Olympics – in 11:42.63.
Basson moved up to 18th position at the halfway point in 28:02.53, but was unable to make his way further up the field and finished with a time of 52:04.58.
Dennis claimed the gold medal in 46:21.24, followed by England’s Fred Wright (46:47.52) and former Tour de France champion Geraint Thomas of Wales (46:49.73).
Things went slightly better at the Alexander Stadium athletics track for Team SA. Ryan Mphahlele clocked 3:42.92 to finish seventh in his 1 500m heat, which was won by Australian Oliver Hoare in 3:37.57, and he may have initially thought he would be out of the mix for the final.
But the national champion was fortunate in that the second heat was a rather pedestrian affair won by Scotland’s Jake Wightman in 3:48.34, so Mphahlele advanced to Saturday’s decider as the last “fastest loser”.