Boxing Day Track Extravaganza – 122 Years And Counting
Sparks are set to fly at the Helivac Paarl Boxing Day Track Challenge on Thursday 26 December with the strongest field for the past ten years lining up at the Faure Street Stadium in Paarl.
A large contingent of powerful Gauteng based professionals will be represented by the likes of Dusty Day, Morne van Niekerk, Gert Fouche, Flavio Venceslau, Josh van Wyk and Steven van Heerden, along with Belgian track star Jonas Rickaert, and a local contingent including seven-time champion Nolan Hoffman, Clint Hendricks, Graeme Ockhuis, HB Kruger, Bernard Esterhuizen, Jayde Julius and Rudie Kellerman; it’s likely to be one of the most hotly contested 25 Mile races in recent history.
“This is really turning out to be something special,” commented Hoffman, who takes aim at an eighth Boxing Day title on Thursday.
“There are so many strong riders that the race won’t be controlled. It’s going to be a nervous and tension-filled hour of racing”.
The Team ENZA captain has been entertaining capacity crowds in the Faure Street Stadium for almost two decades and he has won the UCI-classified historic event a record seven times.
The past two years, however, have seen a changing of the guard with victories going to HB Kruger and Bernard Esterhuizen (both Alfa Bodyworks) in 2017 and 2018 respectively.
Hoffman won his first title in 2004. He won again in 2008 and then from 2011 to 2013 and in 2015 and 2016.
The Boland is undoubtedly the cradle of track cycling in South-Africa and has produced some of finest sprinters the sport has seen. There’s a saying among the Paarl Faithful that you might be the best in the world, but it doesn’t mean much if you’re second best in Paarl!
The Helivac Paarl Boxing Day Track Challenge, presented by Alfa Bodyworks and the City of Drakenstein, attracts a capacity 7000 spectators to the Faure Street Stadium.
It is the oldest event in all forms of cycling in the world; the meeting has not skipped a year since its inception in 1897. “Boxing Day is not only the biggest track cycling event in Africa, but it’s also one of the most spectated in-stadium sporting events on the continent,” says event organiser Wynand de Villiers.
The meeting concludes with the famous 25-Mile and the winner of this final event is regarded as the winner of the day. In addition to the generous prize purse, the floating Minnaar Trophy, which dates to 1908, is also up for grabs.
The past winner’s list at Boxing Day includes all the famous sprinters the sport has produced in South Africa. Well-known riders’ names who appear on the Minnaar Trophy include NTT team principle Douglas Ryder and SuperSport commentator Andrew McLean. Gary Beneke, Willie Engelbrecht and “The Idol” Alan van Heerden also claimed titles. Cycling South Africa honorary life president, Gotty Hansen secured victories in 1959 and 1965 while Chris Willemse won the title in 1977.
Who will add their name in 2019? Best you get down to Paarl and watch another round of history in the making.