The Emperors Palace Classic, presented by ASG, is poised to rule the autumn road-racing calendar after abdicating its traditional February slot in favour of an April start.
The weekend festival of cycling, which takes place from the casino resort on April 13 and 14, attracts more than 6 000 riders each year across a range of road, mountain bike and kiddies’ events.
According to event director Wynand de Villiers the move now gives cyclists an autumn challenge to look forward to, after a run of big races early in the season.
“Gauteng has no major road races after the Cape Argus Pick n Pay Cycle Tour. By shifting this event, we can keep riders on their bikes a little longer before the winter cold sets in.”
De Villiers says another reason for the change is that the provincial racing calendar simply became too crowded.
“In February alone, you have the Emperors Palace Classic, the Dis-Chem Ride for Sight and Macsteel Carnival City Classic. It’s virtually impossible to do all three, even if you wanted to.
“We felt we needed to let this race stand alone and give more riders the chance to take part.”
De Villiers says organisers have been fine-tuning the programme since its inception in 2008 to ensure that it offers something for everyone.
The sixth edition kicks off at 8am on the Saturday with the Mountain Bike Classic, which De Villiers describes as “mildly testing”.
Although not overly technical, the 20km and 40km courses offer a thrill of a different kind as they trace a route alongside the runways of OR Tambo International Airport.
“We’ve been granted special access and participants will be riding just 50 metres from the runways at some points,” says De Villiers.
“They’ll literally be able to feel the thrust and power of the jet engines as the planes are about to take off.”
On the Sunday, the action starts at 6am with the 104km and 50km road races.
More than 100 Ekurhuleni Metro police officers and 200 marshals will be out on the route to ensure riders’ safety, says De Villiers.
Unchanged for a fourth year in a row, he says the course promises to be “fast, flat and fun”, with medals going to all finishers.
With just a single climb near the halfway mark, De Villiers expects sprinters to be at the sharp end of the race.
“Reinardt Janse van Rensburg, who is now racing in Europe for Argos-Shimano, took the win last year but someone like Herman Fouché of Bonitas would be hard to beat.”
The ever-popular Kids Classic follows at 10am, with categories for riders aged two to four and five to eight.
At 11am the pro teams regroup for one of the highlights of the event – the thrilling Circuit Spectacular.
This invitation-only kermesse will see the top finishers in the road race go head to head on a high-speed circuit around the main fountain as they vie for a R10 000 prize purse.
Typically lasting 45 minutes plus one lap, post-race kermesses were once a standard feature at many Classics, says De Villiers.
“But with the modern emphasis on mass participation this type of event has fallen away over the years.
“For us it’s a no-brainer – it’s just so exciting and the venue lends itself perfectly to this type of racing.”
In addition to its suitability as a host venue, De Villiers says Emperors Palace is also an ideal all-round entertainment destination.
“So, aside from the cycling action, there will be plenty to keep the whole family occupied for the entire weekend.”
Separate mountain bike and road prize-givings will be held at 11am and 12pm on Saturday and Sunday respectively, with an abundance of lucky draw prizes on offer.
Registration will take place at Cycle Lab Fourways on the Thursday (10am to 4pm) and at the venue on the Friday (10am to 4pm) and Saturday (9am to 3pm).
Although online entries have closed, late entries will be accepted at registration but not on race day. A penalty fee will be applicable.
For more information, contact ASG Events on 076 621 1807 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Go to www.facebook.com/emperorsclassic or @emperorsclassic for regular updates.
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