Representing my country is always an honour, and this year’s African Continental Championships was no exception. The championships took place from 7 – 11 November in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. Burkina Faso, a poor country even by West African standards, is a landlocked country in North, Western Africa situated next to Ghana and Ivory Coast amongst others.
Burkina Faso being situated in the Northern Hemisphere, technically speaking, the championships took place during the winter months. However, experiencing temperatures of over 35degree C every day while we were there, it became clear to us that Burkina Faso doesn’t experience the traditional four seasons we are all accustomed to.
Rather the country has primarily a tropical climate with two very distinct seasons, a rainy season and a dry season. We visited Burkina Faso during the dry season.
During the dry season, a hot dry wind from the Saharah blows, making racing and training conditions very challenging. No matter what time of the day, we always had to be prepared to withstand the hot, dry, dusty, windy conditions while riding our bikes; a challenge we as South Africans tackled head on.
The championships took place in the capital city of Ouagadougou , pronounced as Wagadugu. Keeping in mind that Burkina Faso is world’s third poorest country, Ouagadougou is surprisingly upbeat and the people, despite their poor living conditions, are happy and friendly.
The main mode of transport in Ouaga (as the locals call it) is scooters and motorbikes. This meant that we fitted in perfectly cycling around on our bicycles amongst the many scooters and motorbikes.
Anyone from workmen to ladies dressed in beautiful dresses drive around on these scooters. And it was quite fascinating to see how the locals manage to transport just about anything on these two-wheeled automobiles, from fresh produce to building materials. You name, they can transport it.
Time Trial – Thursday 8 November
The Time Trial took place on a 10.5km circuit just outside Ouagadougou city centre, which we did twice to make up a total race distance of 21km. The circuit was flat and fast, including few corners and many long stretches of road. The local police and traffic control did a great job of keeping the roads clear of scooters, goats and chickens; and the support from the local people along route was great.
I had a great time trial on the day and am very happy to have claimed my first African Continental Championships Time Trial title. An-Li Pretorius finished 2nd and Namibian, Vera Adrian finished third.
Road Race – Saturday 10 November
The road race took place in the centre of Ouagadougou city on a 17km circuit which we did four times to constitute a total race distance of 68km. We started attacking early and I got away in the first 5km of the race. I was soon joined by my teammates, Lise Olivier and An-Li Pretorius.
The plan was for all three of us to get away, establish a good lead on the chasing riders and then race each other for the title. We worked well together as a team, but approaching the finish line it was each for their own. The race came down to a three-woman sprint and I’m very happy to have taken the title on the line. An-Li finished a close 2nd and Lise Olivier finished 3rd, giving South Africa gold, silver and bronze and valuable UCI points in the women’s elite road race.
All in all Team South Africa enjoyed a successful campaign at the African Continental Championships in Burkina Faso, claiming nine medals in total amongst the women, men and juniors.
2012 has been a year filled with many wonderful experiences and I’m happy I made the trip to Burkina Faso to experience a country not many know exists.