SOUTH Africa's BMX ace Sifiso "Skizo" Nhlapo is a rider to watch at the upcoming UCI BMX World Champs in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal.
The world event is just five weeks away and Nhlapo's return to top form has created a ripple of excitement throughout the world.
The Olympian has already thrown down the gauntlet to the world's top riders with a thrilling display in the recent US Midwest Nationals where he beat Olympic champion Maris Stromberg en route to making back-to-back finals.
Nhlapo, who represented South Africa at the 2008 Olympic Games in Berlin, hit his straps at the ABA Midwest Nationals in Rockford, Illinois, last weekend, winning four heats to reach the finals, after the Friday pre-racing was cancelled when a storm swept through the region.
After a rude wake-up call in his first moto, Nhlapo bounced back, beating Stromberg of Latvia, Aussie ace Sam Willoughby, Kiwi Marc Willers, Argentinian star Ramiro Marino and a host of the world's elite BMX racers on his way to the final. In the final Lady Luck deserted the fired-up South African as he lost his cleat binding and finished seventh.
"I had great pops out the gate the whole day," Nhlapo said. "In the main final I blew a pedal and watched the rest of the field pull away into the first turn. The field was really deep and the racing was hard but I'll stay cleated the whole way on the final day.
"I came here to race against the hotties before the world championships in SA," he said.
The UCI BMX World Championships takes place at the Royal Showgrounds in Pietermaritzburg from July 29 to August 1. - Sapa