The 2016 UCI Junior Track World Championships took place from 20-24 July at the World Cycling Centre in Aigle, Switzerland, where South African road and track cycling ace, Jason Oosthuizen, broke a National Record in the Junior 3000m Individual Pursuit.
According to the UCI event report*, “New Zealand topped the medals table with nine medals, including four gold, followed by Italy with six medals (including three gold) and Germany with four medals (two gold). Nineteen countries won at least one medal”.
The Gauteng local broke the National Individual Pursuit record in his category in a time of three minutes 24.549 seconds. “I saw where I needed to be with my times, and thought that I could hopefully match it and was holding thumbs for a faster time. I just pushed a little bit harder. I was also uncertain of my form on a wooden track, so it was a huge surprise for me.”
When chatting about his experience at the World Championships, he said: “It was just amazing. At first you start off a little bit shy and tend keep to yourself a bit, and then as you get to know everybody, you get more comfortable with everyone. Even the Commissaires were awesome. One guy took my shoes away for testing and I said: ‘If you like those shoes so much I’ll buy you a pair,’ and he absolutely loved that joke.”
Oosthuizen explained that language barriers were not a problem. “Most of us spoke English, but with those who didn’t, there was pointing, nodding, head motions and laughing until we all understood each other. They were also all fascinated with our colours – a lot of the other national jerseys were very blue or white, so they all loved the coloured stripes. Because we were all there for the same purpose, we knew when we could visit our new friends or when we had to leave them to focus on their race. We got along so well.
“Cycling was and definitely has been my dad’s influence, and I started out on a mountain bike, like many youngsters do. I soon found though that in order for me to train in the mornings, it took a little bit too much of my time, and I switched to a road bike. It was then that the bug bit and I’ve been loving it ever since.”
Oosthuizen’s goal is to go back to the Junior Track World Championships again next year, as he feels that the experience is unrivalled with so much room for growth. “That can only happen when you are competing at an international level,” he said.
“When competing internationally, you make a mental note that every single person is better than you, so you’re constantly trying new things and practicing new skills in order to get to their level. You are always learning.”
Although predominantly a road cyclist, Oosthuizen has enjoyed every minute spent on the track. “I tried track cycling out and ended up doing very well in many of my races coming back with silvers, and a gold in the Kilo at the Gauteng Provincials. I then decided to go to National Champs, where my dad and I ended up dominating a lot of the races that we took part in, so it was awesome.”
Noticing a lot of “roadies” competing at the Track World Championships, Oosthuizen said that they performed well in the bunch races, pursuits and time trials, whereas the track cycling stars were dominant in the sprinting races.
The Chanson Transport rider offered advice to other Juniors his age: “If I had some advice to give to fellow road cyclists my age, it would definitely be to give track a try. It is a growing sport in this country and there is so much to learn from it. In road racing, you have to be relatively good at endurance, especially for the 100-kilometre races, and there is one race. In track cycling, if you’re not good at one event, try another. There are so many to choose from in track cycling.”
Oosthuizen was also part of a team of South African Junior riders who raced in Europe earlier this month, where he claimed a magnificent second place at the 72-kilometre Kermeskoers Opwijk in Belgium.
Oosthuizen is thankful for the opportunity he has had to compete in Europe. “When I was racing in the under-16 category, I won many of the road races that I did in South Africa. I went over to Europe thinking I had it in me to dominate and boy did I get a wake up call after being dropped so early into the race. It was such a learning curve for me,” he said.