The country’s top professionals will gather in Port Elizabeth this weekend to contest the Eastern Cape’s biggest cycling event, The Herald VW Cycle Tour, where the battle for supremacy promises to be intense.
The 105km road race is the first of 13 events in the prestigious new Alpha Pharm Seeding Series, which incorporates most of the country’s highest profile cycling events. Last year’s event attracted only a handful of professionals from outside the Eastern Cape, but the entry list for this year’s edition reads like a who’s who of professional road cycling.
Malcolm Lange’s new Medscheme team headlines a strong men’s race line-up, which includes MTN Energade, Neotel, Konica Minolta and House of Paint. Neotel got the year off to a perfect start when their newly signed sprinter, Herman Fouche, outgalloped a strong field to win the Pick n Pay The Star Fast One in Johannesburg last Sunday.
Fouche will be a marked man this Sunday but that won’t concern Neotel who also have another top sprinter, Nolan Hoffman, the 2006 winner, in their ranks should the race come down to the expected bunch dash. Other sprinters likely to be in the frontline of the podium battle include Lange, the 2005 winner, and Arran Brown (both Medscheme), Christoff van Heerden and Juan van Heerden (both MTN Energade), Adam Blythe (Konica Minolta) and Jamie Ball (House of Paint), the winner in 2004.
Conspicuous by his absence will be the 2007 and 2008 champion, Jacques Janse van Rensburg, who has other commitments.
Last year, with Neotel being the only visiting pro team in the pack, the question wasn’t whether they’d be able to win, but which of their riders would win. This year the men’s race field is probably the strongest ever assembled at the event, setting the scene for an unpredictable thriller.
In the women’s category, the question is whether anyone can topple Anriette Schoeman? The diminutive sprinter has won her home race for the past 12 years in succession! She showed with her victory at last weekend’s Fast One in Johannesburg that she’s still the country’s Queen of Sprints and not quite ready to relinquish her crown.
“I’m expecting Sunday’s race to be hard especially with the country’s other two top women’s teams competing,” said Schoeman on Thursday. “But I don’t think it will be any harder than before, so I hope to have a trouble-free race and will give my all to retain my title.”
Schoeman will head up her new Nashua Telecoms team which will be pitted against the MTN team of South African champion Cherise Taylor and Lynette Burger’s DCM Toyota squad. Schoeman beat Burger and Taylor to the line last weekend and with Sunday’s race being relatively flat, another pack dash is expected.
“Same war, different battlefield,” smiled Schoeman. “It’s great for the race, great for PE and great for cycling to have such a competitive women’s category. I’m looking forward to it!”
Points will be allocated to the first 10 finishers in the Elite/Under-23 Men and Elite Women’s categories at each event and an Alpha Pharm Seeding Series leader’s jersey will be awarded to and worn by the leader of the Series in the following event.
Results from the Alpha Pharm Seeding Series events are used to seed riders into start groups at the annual Cape Argus Pick n Pay Cycle Tour.
Alpha Pharm Seeding Series points will be allocated as follows per event to the overall top 10 finishes in the Elite/Under 23 men’s category and the Elite women’s category: First position – 50 points; second 40; third 35; fourth 30; fifth 25; sixth 20; seventh 15; eighth 10; ninth 5 and tenth 2.