SIX junior BMX riders leave the country today on a two-week tour of Europe where they will compete at the European Cup in Zolder, Belgium, this weekend before winding up in Manchester at the British National BMX Series next week.
By OUR STaff
The European Cup is penciled for April 3 to 5 while the British series will be staged on April 11 and 12.
Nine-year-old UCI Intercontinental and All Africa champion Ben Oberholzer, alongside sister Rebekah Oberholzer (7) — who is the current world champion — as well as Nathan Horner (7) and Mitchell Siddle (10), both Zimbabwe champions, will fly the country’s flag in Belgium.
Interestingly, Zolder will play host to the ICU BMX World Championships in July hence the European Cup acts as the dress rehearsal for the global showpiece for the Zimbabweans.
Two other representatives Daniel Johnson (12) who is a world number seven and Joshua Van Blerk (12) are only set to join the fanfare in Manchester together with the Oberholzer siblings and Horner as Siddle takes the back seat.
Harare BMX club official Samantha Oberholzer, whose children are an integral part of the travelling party, will lead the delegation with her husband Albert Oberholzer as the team manager.
“It’s our first time going to the European Cup and we are looking at it as good preparation for the world championships because it’s such a big event.
It’s almost on the scale with the world championships so we are trying to get them experience at such a level,” Samantha told Standardsport.
“It is quite intimidating if someone only knows the Harare tracks and then suddenly they go to the world stage. Moreover, this competition is on the same tracks where they are going to ride their worlds on so we are taking it as good practice for the team,” she added.
While financing the trip has been a challenge, Dairiboard Zimbabwe has come forward to sponsor the 2014 sportswoman of the year — seven-year-old Rebekah — and have made known their interest of making her their brand ambassador for the next one year.
Rebekah is heavily tipped to replicate the form that helped her scoop a world championship last year to dominate her age group competitions.
Big brother Ben, who also had an outstanding season last year with three titles on the international stage and two locally, is poised to bring home some medals and he expressed excitement at the European tour.
“I am very excited about the trip to Belgium and the UK, but I am also a bit nervous! I will be one of 1 900 riders competing each day which will be a great experience. I hope this will help me prepare well for the world championships in July” he said.
Meanwhile, the National BMX Association of Zimbabwe has shifted a gear in search of sponsors packages for the team to represent Zimbabwe at the UCI BMX world championship later in the year.