HOFFMAN ‘HUNGRIER THAN EVER’ TO WIN BOXING DAY
International track cycling superstar Nolan Hoffman is more motivated than ever to win the upcoming Helivac Paarl Boxing Day Track Challenge and claim his eighth victory in the iconic event.
The Team ENZA/PBC 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 during an illustrious career spanning 16 years.
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 is clearly focussed this year. “I am hungrier than ever,” he assures. “I have so much respect for Boxing Day and I am again going into the meeting with good form this year.
“I am going to race very differently. I have had a target on my back for a long time now and I allowed myself to be worked over during the past two years. You can be sure things will be different this year on 26 December,” he said, without wanting to elaborate on his tactics.
The 34-year-old Hoffman holds the record for the most Boxing Day victories with seven, followed by Dirk Binneman’s five. Binneman won in 1940 and again from 1942-1945. Hoffman won his first title in 2004. He won again in 2008 and then from 2011 to 2013 and in 2015 and 2016.
What makes Hoffman’s dominance even more special is that he was born in a township in Franschhoek, only 25km from the Faure Street Stadium in Paarl where has mesmerised track cycling fans for so many years.
The picturesque Boland town of Paarl is an enigma in the sporting world for two reasons. It hosts the world’s biggest school’s rugby derby between Paarl Gymnasium and Paarl Boys High, and it also presents one of the world’s largest track cycling events on Boxing Day.
These events are revered worldwide in their respective sporting codes. You might be the best in the world in a certain track cycling event, but it doesn’t mean much to Paarl’s faithful crowd if you’re second best in Paarl!
The Boland is undoubtedly the cradle of track cycling in South-Africa and has produced some of finest sprinters the sport has seen.
Another local professional, Clint Hendriks, has come very close, but he hasn’t managed to secure a Boxing Day title. Hendriks claimed a bronze medal at the Commonwealth Games Road Race in Australia and has won numerous national classic road titles. He has also represented South Africa internationally on various occasions.
The Helivac Paarl Boxing Day Track Challenge, presented by Alfa Bodyworks and the City of Drakenstein, attracts more than 5000 spectators to the Faure Street Stadium.
It is the oldest event in all forms of cycling in the world in existence. The meeting has not skipped a year since its inception in 1897.
“Boxing Day is not only the biggest track cycling event in Africa, it’s also one of the most spectated in-stadium sporting events on the continent,” said event organiser Wynand de Villiers.
“The media, marketing and sponsorship aspects of the meeting will now really be elevated courtesy of the event being awarded UCI status. This is a giant leap for Paarl Boxing day.”
The Hectic Promotions organising company funds an array of charity projects in Pretoria and with their staging of Boxing Day they are extending its reach to Paarl.
De Villiers assured that some of the world’s foremost track cyclists will be in Paarl on 26 December this year. “Bringing cycling to the people is the motto of Paarl Boxing Day.
“Our intent, in conjunction with the Drakenstein Municipality and other event partners, is to reinforce this unique and very marketable event to showcase Paarl.”
The meeting concludes with the famous 25-Mile and the winner of the 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 25 Mile is special. “The capacity crowd is left in awe as riders complete 87 laps of the track. Tactics unfold as riders try to gain an advantage during the race, which takes approximately 1 hour to complete. It’s scintillating stuff!”
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 Dimension Data 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.
Hansen recalls his Boxing Day titles as the highlights of his career. “They were the biggest and nicest wins of my career”, said Hansen
“There were eight- to ten thousand people around the stadium. You couldn’t hear yourself think. The atmosphere was like winning the world title,” he recalls.
Willemse agrees. “To us, winning Boxing Day was as if we won a world title. If you were from the Boland region it was even more important than winning at World’s. My Boxing Day victory was one of the highlights of my career,” said Willemse.
Tickets are on sale at iTickets.co.za and limited to 2500 seats on the main pavilion, 600 seats on the popular Northern Pavilion and 400 seats on the Southern Pavilion.
The rest of the tickets are standing, and on the back-straight cement pavilion.
Cyclists with an international or domestic racing license are permitted to take part in the historic meeting.
Entry categories are:
Boys under 11: 500m/800m/1500m
Boys under 13: 500m/800m/1500km
Boys under 15: 1500m/800m/3km
Boys under 17: 800m/1500m/5km
Junior, elite and veteran ladies: 800m/1500m/3km
Junior men: 800m/1500m
Veteran men: 800m/1500m/5km
Elite men: 1500m/ 1 Mile/ Devil/ 10km Points/ Keirin/25Mile
For more information and entries go to www.hecticpromotions.co.za