[dehai-news] (CyclingNews.co.za) 2008 African Cycling Championships - Casablanca, Morocco: Eritrea places 4th in a tough race

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From: Biniam Tekle (biniamt@dehai.org)
Date: Mon Nov 10 2008 - 09:26:33 EST

  Namiba, SA claim African Champs gold *- Own Correspondent*
 Monday, November 10, 2008
Namibia's Dan Craven claimed one of the biggest wins of his career and South
Africa's Cashandra Slingerland continued her podium-topping form when they
captured the gold medals in the men and women's road races respectively at
the 2008 African Cycling Championships in Casablanca, Morocco on Sunday.

A last-gasp, all-or-nothing pursuit of lone leader Hassan Zahboune gave the
25-year-old Craven, grandson of legendary Springbok rugby player Danie
Craven, a somewhat unexpected shot at the title which he grabbed with great
enthusiasm in what became a dramatic finishing-straight dash, which saw him
complete the 143km race in 03hr29min40sec.

Zahboune, who had led on his own for the final two laps of the 13-lap race,
appeared to be cruising towards the gold medal when his home-country fans
lining the finishing straight began shouting to warn him that a rider was
fast approaching. It was Craven that had managed to ride clear of a
splintering chase pack in the final kilometres. But when a weary Zahboune
realised the approaching rider was likely to catch him, he swerved in a
blatant attempt to block Craven's path.

But such was Craven's pace that he managed to zip past the disappointed
Moroccan, their shoulders making contact which resulted in Zahboune crashing
to the tar just 50 metres from the finish line. The Moroccan leaped up to
secure the silver medal with Algeria's Abdelmalek Madani rounding out the
medal places a few seconds later.

"With the African title on the line I was not going to brake and so the two
of us hit shoulders as I came past him. I don't think that he was expecting
me to react this way to his dirty tricks and as a result he crashed as I
went on to take the title," explained an elated Craven.

"Winning was an amazing feeling. I had come to Morocco to win the gold in
the time trial but I was only able to take the bronze. So making up for that
disappointment like this is fantastic, especially as the road title is more
valuable," added Craven who, despite posting some good results in Europe in
2008, is still without a team contract for 2009.

Defending champion, Nicholas White of South Africa, spent the first half of
the race trying to split the field up to create a race-winning move that
would benefit himself or fellow South African, Jay Thomson. But a lack of
climbs and minimal sidewind made it difficult for the seasoned campaigner
and his only teammate to repeat their time trial success of last Friday,
where Thomson claimed gold and White silver.

"We were marked out of the race," said a disappointed White. "Being the
defending champion and then showing our strength in the time trial
definitely counted against us and the Eritreans and Algerians, who had
full-strength teams, simply didn't allow us to get into any decent moves."

Thomson, winner of the 2008 Tour of Egypt, eventually finished seventh on
Sunday, with White finishing outside the top 10, weary after his consistent
efforts to keep the racing positive.

"It was a highly frustrating race for me, but I'm happy for Dan to have won
though. He's spent a lot of his career racing in South Africa, so we know
him quite well and he deserved to have a good result here," said White, who
had the presentation of his trophy as the 2007/2008 UCI Africa Tour Champion
to look forward to on Sunday night.

In the women's race, held over a short 55km distance, Slingerland and her
compatriot Marissa van der Merwe dictated the pace almost at will, with only
Mauritian Aurelie Halbwachs able to match them until the latter stages.

Women's cycling in Africa is still in its early development stages but the
quality of the small women's field was an improvement over that of the
previous three years, all won by South Africans.

Sunday's race was no different with Slingerland securing the gold to match
the one she claimed in the time trial on Friday, clocking 01hr33min19sec.
Van der Merwe finished in the same time as Slingerland to grab the silver
medal with Halbwachs claiming the bronze just over half a minute later.

"I was very pleased when I learnt of Dan's win. To a lot of South African
cyclists he is 'one of us' having spent four years studying at Stellenbosch
University," said Carinus Lemmer, Chief Operating Officer of Cycling South

"Full marks also to the South African contingent of Nicholas and Jay, who,
racing against all of Africa's best, always were always going to be closely
marked in the road race. But they showed their mettle in the time trial,
confirming they are among the best on our continent, and should come home
satisfied. Cycling consists of many ingredients, and winning requires every
single one of those to fall into place, so hats off to all who participated,
including our successful ladies Cashandra and Marissa."

*4th UCI African Cycling Championships
Casablanca, Morocco
Sunday, 9 November 2008
Road race leading results:
Men 143km:*
1 Dan Craven (NAM) 03hr29min40sec
2 Hassan Zahboune (MAR) @ 17sec
3 Abdelmalek Madani (ALG) @ 25
4 Meron Russom (ERI) @ 42
5 Hichem Chabane (ALG) @ 48
6 Amymen Ben Hassine (TUN) @ 1:08
7 Jay Thomson (RSA) same time
8 Daniel Teklehaymanot (ERI) same time
10 Yannick Lincoln (MAU) same time

*Women 55km:*
1 Cashandra Slingerland (RSA) 01hr33min19sec
2 Marissa van der Merwe (RSA) same time
3 Aurelie Halbwachs (MAU) @ 34sec

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