The popular Lights by Linea Hero Challenge returns to the Western Cape this spring with another line-up of challenging circuit-based races designed to entice roadies out of hibernation.

The series consists of shorter day and night criterium races at the beginning of the season and longer circuit races, of more than 150km, once the season is in full swing.

Lights by Linea managing director Wayne Roberts says his company decided to take the road less travelled and support road cycling, which is often overlooked by sponsors in favour of its more rugged cousin – mountain biking.

“Road cycling is massive worldwide but in South Africa it has lost its edge, and there are fewer and fewer heroes for aspiring young athletes to look up to.

“We are trying to lay a platform where these athletes can start to understand how tough the sport of international road racing is.”

Roberts says the inspiration behind the Hero Challenge was to showcase up-and-coming talent and make these future champions household names once more.

“These athletes spend hours and hours training in really trying conditions and we’d like to reward them for their effort.

“The preparation, the build-up and the healthy living is changing lives and we believe that the precise nature of what it takes to be successful is similar to our philosophy as a brand.”

The Paarden Eiland-based company, which specialises in architectural lighting and lighting effects, already hosted the successful winter series focusing on the longer events in May.

“The highlight was probably the 157km road race through the magnificent Franschhoek winelands, with a thrilling battle up the torturous Paarl rock and a vertical finish at the Taal Monument.”

Roberts says they also reintroduced the classic Worcester-Du Toitskloof Pass-Stellenbosch road race with a twist – a handicap race that gave the vets, masters, open and ladies’ categories a 22-minute “head start” over the elite field.

“This race brought a whole new dynamic to road racing, where the elites all worked together as a team in pursuit of the ou manne, with experience winning by a hair’s breadth.

“It turned out to be a huge success and the planning has already begun for the 2015 event.”

He says the winter series races all went ahead irrespective of the weather conditions with the aim of acclimatising riders to competing in tough and trying conditions like they would encounter in Europe.

The spring crit series returns to the Polkadraai Circuit on the first three Saturdays in September before moving to Greenpoint on September 27.

By focusing on shorter criteriums, riders coming out of the slow winter period will be able to work on training intervals and leg speed, says Roberts.

“The short course is all about high-intensity racing. It’s spectator-friendly with lots of fanfare and DJs playing hot sounds, and a huge party atmosphere.

“The Greenpoint event promises to be huge with some of the top pro teams signed up and a very popular radio station broadcasting live from the event.

“There will also be prizes for the best-dressed spectator, a street art award and a host of other entertainment offerings.”

He says the annual calendar, which comprises 13 events, attracts between 105 and 150 riders per race and continues to grow.

“We’re always trying to find new and exciting courses similar to those overseas – hilltop finishes and rolling hills as well as fast flat open spaces where wind plays a huge role in the outcome.”

The events offer racing for all categories from elites to fun riders, says Roberts.

“There is prize money for all the categories as well as overall team prizes for the elites and sub-vets.

“We’ve introduced a new points-based scoring system, with 20 points for first place and one for 20th position.”

Roberts says there are further incentives for riders to push themselves.

“Prize money is awarded from first to sixth and, should the winner win by more than two minutes, the points for the remainder of the field are halved.

“At the same time, prize money for the minor places is halved with the balance awarded to the winner.”

The sponsor’s own Stefan Ihlenfeldt currently leads the closely contested Most Valuable Athlete competition, while his team is ahead in the elite category. Aurecon is at the top of the sub-vets standings.

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