Johann Rabie, runner-up at the Cell C Tour of South Africa earlier this year, will get a rematch of sorts with Tour of South Africa winner, Christian House, at the Tour de Korea, which starts on Friday.
Rabie is part of a talented, but relatively inexperienced Team Bonitas squad selected to tackle one of Asia’s most important cycling events. And he’ll be hoping to have recovered fully from illness by the time the 10-day, nine-stage race starts.
House is a member of the British-based Rapha Condor-Sharp squad that gained respect in defending House’s lead for the entire duration of the Tour of South Africa, following House’s Stage 1 victory. Rabie and Team Bonitas were in a similar situation at the recent Tour de Morocco where Rabie won Stage 1 and led the race for seven days before losing out on the title by just 1 second when the 10-day race finished.
His stage racing record so far in 2011 is second at Tour of South Africa, second at Tour de Boland and third at Tour of Morocco. Consistently high quality performances, but a victory will end his personal frustration and he will only know after the first stage if he has indeed fully recovered from his recent bout of illness.
But while Rabie is the team’s primary stage race specialist, he is not the only card the team can play. Hanco Kachelhoffer, a strong allrounder, will be on hand to forage for opportunist moves, which often characterise the General Classification battle early on. He’ll also be Rabie’s wingman when necessary.
The 1335.9km (148.4km daily average) event has been graded 2.2 by the International Cycling Union and has attracted 21 teams from 14 countries, including USA, Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain, South Africa, Serbia, Iran, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Malaysia, China, Hong Kong, Japan and Korea.
Rabie, Kachelhoffer and Luthando Kaka each have international racing experience, but their young Bonitas teammates, Tyler Day, Gawie Combrink and Jason Bakke are all relatively new to the demands of such an event. Day, the winner of this year’s Cape Argus Pick n Pay Cycle Tour, completed the 2011 Tour of Morocco, his first major tour, but Bakke and Combrink are newcomers to this kind of racing.
“Bakke and Combrink are very fresh, having not raced any tours this year yet. Combrink is an allrounder and Bakke is as pure climber so we have a very well rounded team, albeit a little inexperienced,” said team owner and manger, Malcolm Lange from Korea on Wednesday.
“We are aiming for the overall title, but also have the riders that can win stages, so we’re going into the race with a lot of options. Day is relishing the sprints here and has showed that he’s fearless in big bunch gallops. I’m hoping he can pull off some good stage results.
“It’s quite cold here and coming out of our summer weather back home and the guys having raced the Tour of Morocco in the heat, it may take a bit of getting used to at first. But we’re looking forward to a new race with new terrain and strong opposition.”
The average maximum daily temperature is forecast to be between 16-18 degrees Celsius with rain expected next week towards the end of the tour, which finishes in Seoul on Sunday 24 April.
Tour de Korea 2011 Schedule:
15 April – Stage 1: Gumi – Geochang 108.1km
16 April – Stage 2: Geochang – Gangjin 213.3km
17 April – Stage 3: Gangjin – Gunsan 203.3km
18 April – Stage 4: Gunsan – Dangjin 137.8km
19 April – Stage 5: Dangjin – Chungju 148.5km
20 April – Stage 6: Chungju – Yeongju 138.8km
21 April – Rest Day
22 April – Stage 7: Taebaek – Yangyang 192.5km
23 April – Stage 8: Yangyang – Chuncheon 145.9km
24 April – Stage 9: Seoul 47.7km
Total distance: 1335.9km
For more information on the event, visit www.tourdekorea.or.kr
Follow @Team_Bonitas on twitter for live race updates. For more information on Team Bonitas, visit www.teambonitas.co.za