Tuks’ Andries Nigrini yesterday raced to a third-place finish during the virtual edition of the International University Sports Federation’s (FISU) cycling world championships.
Don’t be fooled. Virtual racing, even if it is in one’s parent’s house, does not equate to an easy time in the saddle. The Tuks cyclist readily admits that it felt as if his legs were on fire after the first major climb.
It should be no surprise. The students raced on a virtual course comparable to that which was used in Innsbruck, Austria for the 2018 UCI World Championships. That is the beauty of virtual racing. Nothing is impossible.
The circuit contained a climb of 7.9 kilometres, at an average gradient of 5.9% but reaching 10% in places. It started from the outskirts of Innsbruck through Aldrans and Lans towards Igls. After a short period of flat roads, the race descended through Igls back towards Innsbruck for a total of 47.6km.
The student world championship was made possible by Zwift cycling online training platform. It is a programme that connects an interactive turbo trainer to a computer enabling cyclists to ride through virtual landscapes. It usually includes steep climbs, downhill sections, sharp turns etc. The bike’s resistance is continuously being adjusted depending on where a rider might find himself on the course.
According to Nigrini, about 20 riders from across the world competed. It ended up being a duel between the riders from the Netherlands and South Africa or Tuks to be precise.
“The first five kilometres was OK but when we hit the climb the real racing started. At first, I was able to sort of stick with Adné van Engelen and Jeroen Luijks, but they ended up being the stronger riders. They managed to open a gap on me. I was, however, able to chase them down on the flat section. We then stayed together on the final climb where they again were too strong.”
Van Engelen won with Luijks second and Nigrini third. Van Engelen is a former world student champion. He won his first title in 2018.
Nigrini has no hesitation in saying that yesterday he had to conquer one of the toughest climbs ever on his bike.
“It felt never-ending. I took 18 minutes to reach the summit of the first climb. There was a stage where legs really started to ‘rebel’ against the eternal punishment it had to endure.
“The beautiful thing about virtual racing is that you don’t have to worry about oncoming traffic or crashing out on a sharp bend. At times I closed my eyes and only focussed on my pedal strokes, breathing etc.
“Having my family around to support me while I was racing was like having a team radio. They followed the race on YouTube, which enabled them to feed me with all kinds of useful information.”
Tuks’ Kieran McKenna finished 5th overall with Luke Bushell sixth.
The Tuks rider is currently also giving a good account of himself in the Support SA Talent’s virtual road cycling series. He is 10th overall in the points competition and third overall on time.
Last year Nigrini won a bronze medal in the under-23 individual time trial during the South African Championships.
Article courtesy Wilhelm de Swardt/TuksSport Media