Saturday, September 25, 2021
HomeInterviewsNolan Hoffman - "My aspirations now are on the track"

Nolan Hoffman – “My aspirations now are on the track”


The current flag bearer for black track cycling hails from South Africa – and there’s irony in that, given the vile apartheid regime which ruled the country for so long. But there are no chips on the shoulders of Nolan Hoffman, he’s too busy training and racing to dwell on past injustices.

Despite the UCI’s rush to Mondialise, there are precious few faces other than white ones in the peloton. Back in the 70’s and 80’s, Britain’s Maurice Burton defied the overt racism in much of Europe to make a name for himself on the Six Day circuit.

And in the 80’s, New York’s Nelson Vails won Olympic and Worlds medals to fly the flag for ‘Black Power’ – whilst Frenchman Yave Cahard was one of the best pro sprinters in the world.

Nolan Hoffman
Nolan on the World Scratch Race Championship podium with Ben Swift and Wim Stroetinga. Photo©Bettini.

Least you think that Hoffman is racing at a low level, check out the results of the World Scratch Championship for 2012.

Right behind Ben Swift’s gold, you’ll find Hoffman’s name as silver medallist.

He took time to talk to VeloVeritas after his afternoon training on the Grenoble velodrome.

Nolan Hoffman
Nolan hammers around the boards at Grenoble last weekend.

How did you get into cycling, Nolan?

“It’s a rugby and soccer culture in South Africa; I played rugby at school.

“But the town where I lived was a popular pit stop for cyclists. Then interested me; ‘where have these guys on bikes come from, where are they going…”

What’s the cycling scene like in South Africa?

“We have a big pool of talent but the system is based more on recreational then competitive cycling. Despite that, we still produce good riders – look at Robbie Hunter and Daryl Impey.

“Sportiv events attract huge numbers, but it’s always the same guys at the criteriums.

“The MTN Qhubeka team is doing a great deal for African cycling, not just South African but Ethiopean and Eritrean too.”

With MTN going pro continental for 2013 did you think about approaching them?

“I ride for Tasol Solar Energy, it’s a fairly small team but I chose that because it gives me the freedom to ride the track as I want.

“Doug Ryder the main man with MTN wants to develop guys on the road – and I think that for me at 27 that’s too late.

“I want to continue to compete at the highest level on the track.

“When I was younger I tried that but my aspirations now are on the track.”

Nolan Hoffman
Nolan checks out the action on the track.

Tell us about your training.

“Riding the Six Days has been a big wake up call.

“I do a lot of road racing in South Africa but the races are shorter and I’m finding that I don’t have the core to contend with the demands of the Sixes – as the days go by, I find it harder.”

You’ve ridden the road at a pretty high level – Langkawi and Turkey.

“Yes, I had that opportunity with Barloworld, but I went to those races without having done the training you need for them.

“But despite that I was competitive in the sprint finishes – I got quite a few top ten placings.”

Did you ever consider a full Euro road programme?

“When I was younger it was something I considered; but there was money in the South African races.

“There are a lot of challenges in embarking on a European programme – not least is getting a visa.

“And the dream fades as you continue to make money, buy a house and can’t afford to dream.”

Do you have a Euro base for the winter?

“I’m based in the Netherlands for two months, staying with Peter Schep – he has friends in South Africa and that’s how the connection was made.”

How many Sixes have you ridden?

“I rode Zurich in 2009, I’ve ridden the summer Six Day at Fiorenzuola twice, Amsterdam and now here.

“I have a contract for Gent and will get one for Rotterdam if I do well in Gent.

“The weather is the biggest challenge for me, but staying with Peter he gives me guidance and we train on the indoor tracks and rollers.

“I hope to ride the World Cup in Glasgow – but if you’re South African then a visa is always a problem.”

Road or track, which is your first love?

“Track; the road pays my salary, it’s less hard to make money there than it is in Europe – but track is my first love.”

Nolan Hoffman
Nolan shows off his Worlds Silver medal. Photo©Sydney Seshibedi.

Tell us about your Worlds scratch silver.

“It took a lot of training effort and a lot of help from my team. I was really only at the team’s service for three months; the rest of the time I was on the track or at training camps.

“I put in a good base of road and World Cups to prepare for the Worlds. I spoke to the Federation and we discussed whether I should target the omnium or scratch at the Worlds.

“The scratch seemed a better bet – quick, all the eggs in one basket.

“I was top ten in the scratch in Astana and Beijing, so I knew I could be competitive at the Worlds. I knew all the guys who were riding the Worlds and figured a top five was possible.

“I have no nightmares about coming second – what a pleasure it was to walk away with that silver medal.”

How was the Amsterdam Six Day?

“Oooohhhh! A definite shock to the system!

“It’s such a small track but the chases are incredible and the supporting sprints and eliminations and the rest are very fast. In the chases I was hanging on for dear life – I was fortunate to ride with Marc Hester; it’s good to be with a rider who knows the Sixes and who always puts you in the right place.”

Nolan Hoffman
Nolan and Marc celebrate a race win during the Amsterdam Six. Photo©

What about here in Grenoble?

“It’s hard here too; in Amsterdam there was a bigger pool of fast guys but here there are less high level guys so you have to work hard at making the race.”

Is racism something you ever encounter?

“Fortunately not; there’s been nothing ‘in your face.’ Back home we don’t have a good history, with apartheid and all, but it’s never been an issue in cycling.

“I joke about the fact that I’m black. In Amsterdam they made me feel very welcome – I just want to ride my bike and be part of the Six Day system.

“It’s not something that I set out to do, but I’ve become a role model for black cyclists – and I’ve embraced that role. I’ve been helping a rider called Clint Hendrix.

“We’ve arranged for him to rise with VC La Pomme in Marseille – I’m trying to make it better for the young black guys.”

Ed Hood
Ed's been involved in cycling for over 45 years. In that time he's been a successful time triallist, team manager, and sponsor of several teams and clubs. He's also a respected and successful coach, and during the winter months can often be found working in the cabins at the Six Days. Ed remains a massive fan of the sport and couples his extensive contacts with an inexhaustable enthusiasm for the minutiae and the history of our sport.

Related Articles

Grenoble Six Day 2009 – Day One; Settling in

I'm sitting beside the track, it's nearly 3:00 pm and last night seems like a long time ago. Gianni Meersman and Iljo Keisse are up training, they rattle past every 20 seconds - legs have to be kept loose.

Grenoble Six Day 2011 – Sixth Night

Last day - it's not a big programme, sprint series, team time trial and the closing 180 lap chase. By six day standards that's not a long chase, around 38 K - at Copenhagen they have 300 lappers on a 250 track - but here, it's heavy duty for the small teams. Franco reckons that Kris and I should have dinner in the track centre, tonight - well, it sounded good to me.

Danny Clark – the Six Day Legend has breakfast with us

My buddy, John Hardie is a 65 time Scottish grass track champion; his hero 'back in the day' was Danny Clark. When he heard that 'Six Day King' Danny Clark and me were breakfasting together at Copenhagen, it wasn't long before the email arrived with the questions he wanted me to ask the great man.

Gent Six Day 2016 – aka. the 76th Six Days of Flanders-Ghent

Historically cold, wet wintery nights meant just one thing in cycling, Six Day racing. In recent years that has really only meant the ‘Zesdaagse Vlaanderen-Gent’ (Six Days of Flanders-Ghent). This great race has continued to be successful during years when many of the other ‘classic’ Six Day races of Europe left their buildings, literally, for the last time to drift into cycling history.

Kenny De Ketele, World Madison Champ – “Track racing is my passion”

Just before his dominant performance in the Four Days of Grenoble finale with Iljo Keisse, World Madison Champion, Kenny De Ketele took time to talk to VeloVeritas. De Ketele has been around the track scene for a long time, always there and knocking on the door. But it was the winter of 2011/12 when the man from Oudenaarde finally arrived.

Copenhagen Six Day 2018 – Nights Four, Five and Six; it’s Mørkøv and De Ketele!

In a classic Six Day finale points shoot-out with the result not confirmed until the finish line, classy Home Boy Michael Mørkøv paired with the current Capo of the Six Day boards, Belgium's Kenny De Ketele to land his seventh Copenhagen Six Day at midnight on Tuesday on the wide boards of the 250 metre Ballerup track.

At Random

Only One Left (TDF 2012 St 16)

We have had the next big mountain stage, and for Wiggo, there is only one left. Only one more day where he will be threatened, and only one more man who is a threat. Sadly, Cadel Evans’ shot at back to back Tour victories is done and dusted, if it wasn’t already. On a truly massive day, where an enormous break got away early in the stage, the defending champ was in trouble on the earliest climbs, and only worsened through the day. TDF 2012 St 16

David Campbell Memorial RR 2007

Paul Coats (Squadra Via Mazzini Racetool) showed that he had the legs to match his cool suntan with a fine win in Sunday's David Campbell memorial race over 80 cold and hilly miles around Fife's Cults Hills.

Ron Webb and Life Behind the Big Motors

We've been looking back on the life of the late Ron Webb – one of the most important men in the development of professional track racing and the construction of velodromes all over the World. But Webb was also a rider and cut his teeth behind the big motors. Pip Taylor passed us these words by Ron on some of his time as a Stayer.

The VV View: Wiggo’s Fairytale Finish, NeoPros and Retirals

It wasn't just Vik and I who thought the Gent Six Day finale was a tad too obvious to be true - "a Fairtytale" Cycling Weekly said, they got that right - we've had feedback from two men who were there. Our man who lives in Gent said; "It was without a doubt the most historic Gent Six I've attended and I don't think we'll see another in our lifetime ( I did say 10 years ago or so that there will never be a British winner of the Tour - what do I know). It was however the most blatantly fixed Six Day I've seen."

Turned Tables

Turned Tables. For the past couple of years, Garmin have been on the back foot in the sprints at the Tour particularly. The HTC train has been dominant, they've won the Teams TTs at most Grand Tours, and Cav has just been winning sprints at will. The Garmin squad has had some shocking injuries, have just been on the wrong side of the TTs, and despite being at times agonisingly close, Ty hasn't been able to get Cav.

Gordon Johnson – 1970 World Pro Sprint Champion

If we asked 'who is the current World Sprint Champion?' back in 1970 few would have had any hesitancy in saying that the amateur champion was legendary Frenchman Daniel Morelon and the Professional Sprint king was Aussie, Gordon Johnson, mounted on a British-made Carlton.