Pieter Du Preez
Club100 bought me my first hand cycle after my accident in October 2003 when a car knocked me off my bicycle, this was only the start of an incredible journey over the last 17 years…fast forward to 10 months ago while picking up my then 3 year old son from preschool I had a very bad fall out of my day chair in the parking lot which left me with a broken shoulder and completely dislocated AC joints. This is already a very severe injury as it is but throw in that you are a C6 quadriplegic with only the movement of your wrists, biceps and shoulders, then it becomes a sport career as well as independent living threatening injury. Hook plate was placed in my shoulder for 6 months which meant limited range and training during these months although I did as much as I could. Of course lots of mental battles as well to fight off the little voice telling you it will never be the same.
After a lot of hard work, prayers, incredible support and smart training with the help from my coach Raynard Tissink (TeamTissink) during the interesting times of the pandemic, I competed at national champs six weeks after the plate was removed where things went very well. We could now start planning to go to world champs as a stepping stone on the road to Tokyo2020 games. Obviously a logistical nightmare with the pandemic, especially to get team supapiet which consists of my wife (mechanic/assistant/driver/ironmate…) and son, in Portugal at the UCI para-cycling world champs with me. The champs happened in the week from 9 to 13 June. With a lot of help and support from different avenues including cycling South Africa and my colleague at Deloitte who always helps with travel arrangements, everything was set and we were off to Portugal. A big thanks to all the help in getting us there!
Once we arrived in Cascais, the bike was built by my mechanic wife and next day we went to go ride the course which was on the formula 1 race track in Estoril about 15 minutes drive from our hotel. It was a great venue where both the time trial and the road race would be hosted although the track was very technical and made extra challenging with the very strong winds bumping in what felt from all directions almost everyday including time trial race today.
I was very excited to be racing on the international scene after a drought of about a year-and-a-half with the pandemic, and as Tokyo will also be on a race track this would be very good practice of going through the motions and getting the timing right on a similar course although the profiles will be different. Race day arrived for the time trial on Friday the 11th of June and I had a great ride winning a silver medal and always great to finish on the podium for South Africa!
In my mind the job was done with my performance paving the way into the team for Tokyo or at least gave me good confidence as one needs to wait until the team is announced obviously. I could now relax a bit more and look forward to the road race which was 2 days later.
Sunday arrived and warm up was done and we were off at 2:30 pm for the 50k bike ride. The road race is always a bit more real for me as you are fighting face-to-face with your competitors. I felt pretty good but struggled to hang on to the first two guys, Belgium and an Italian, when they were accelerating out of the corners but I managed. Something went wrong with my computer already on the 1st km so I was riding purely on feel… As I don’t ride with a power metre on the road, which is controversial I know, I’m pretty good with riding on feel luckily although I did gage my speeds around dangerous corners by following my competitors on the first lap. I had a feeling if I could just hang on the first two laps my endurance would be better over the last three and as the race unfolded, I could see the Belgian was starting to struggle every now and then during lap three. It was very important to be aware of where the wind was coming from and when to do work in our group of three that broke away. On lap three I had a bit of a event with the Belgian who pushed me into the cones and I had to swerve out into oncoming traffic break and come in through between the cones to avoid flipping over… This added some fuel to my fire and I had to work hard against the wind to catch them as there was a bit of a gap that opened after this…
Somewhere towards the far end of lap four where there is the steep little climb towards the turnaround we managed to drop the Belgian and it was just me and the Italian left. Going through the bell for the last lap, I planned to breakaway on the far turnaround on the Hill as I have less muscle function than the Italian and wanted to be sure it doesn’t end up in a sprint. I managed to do so but he caught me about a kilometre from the finish on the fast dangerous corner.Here i almost finished into the tires but just not as he passed me in the corner. It was now gonna be a sprint on the slight upwards drag towards the finish but I once again decided that I will try and start the sprint from far out to make it a endurance power effort and not so much just power at the end which would hopefully give me a little bit of a chance. I managed to get daylight between the two of us but in the last 50 m he started closing up the gap but it was too late and I could not believe that I am back in the rainbow jersey for the fifth time in my career! But this one probably extra special considering the last 10 months and to be honest I still can’t believe it, it really is a lot of Grace from above… To explain the joy in my wife and son’s faces as well as support staff from our team is not possible.
It was as always a incredibly humbling and honorable moment filled with some extra emotions this time round to sing the national anthem at the top step of the podium. Im wearing the rainbow jersey for our rainbow nation…proudly South African!!!
I have to say a big thanks to my sponsors and support DeloitteSA, PowerbarSA, Zone3, Cape cycle systems, Ikhambi, CyclingSA and a special thanks for SA National Lotteries Commission and The Sports Trust over the last six months making this trip and the road to Tokyo a reality for me!
Also a big thanks to everybody on this road with me, from Sunninghill community looking out for me on the roads where I train to all the support from my fans and fellow South Africas to the closer circles, you know who you are…hope we can all enjoy some positive moments during these crazy times. Now it’s head down and focus on my training and staying healthy to make sure I can do something special come Tokyo2020 in 2 months time! JustLiveIt!