With Daryl Impey making history in becoming the first South African to wear the Tour de France Yellow Jersey, there’s the obvious question as to who his pioneering path will benefit and inspire.
You don’t have to look far. Following decades of stagnation, initially a result of international sporting isolation and subsequently a poor national federation development structure, road racing talent identification and nurturing is currently at an all-time high in South Africa and Team Bonitas is a key link in that chain.
Team Bonitas has just invested in new signings James Fourie and Jevandre Pauls, who have been hard to miss in the past few months following outstanding performances for their respective teams in South African racing. Pauls, who hails from East London, has shown his prowess on the road and the track for Team Abantu, while Fourie, a Johannesburg resident, has given Team ASG numerous reasons to boast.
With Team Bonitas, they will now be able to progress to the next level through the professional racing team’s three-tier development plan that incorporates local racing, a mixture of local and international racing and then, at the top, extended periods of international racing in collaboration with the team’s European partner, LaPomme Marseille, in France.
“After winning so many South African races over the past few years, we made a decision, motivated by the insight and experience of Barry Austin, our team manager, to shift our focus away from winning domestically as a priority and proactively build a system to give good South African riders a realistic shot at international careers,” explained Malcolm Lange, of Lange Sports, the company that owns and manages Team Bonitas.
“We could see a big gap between local pro teams and the top international pro teams and have, with the support of our sponsors, invested in creating a solid ‘next-step’ that will give talented young South African riders a less risky route to successful professional racing careers.
“Daryl Impey raced for La Pomme Marseilles and MTN Qhubeka at various phases of his career. There’s a progression that needs to happen for a rider to be able to be chosen to race on a ProTour team such as the Orica Green Edge team that Impey races on now. By investing in South African cycling, Team Bonitas fills that important gap and offers guidance and security to young riders so that they can focus solely on their training and racing,” added Lange.
Lange acknowledged that role the smaller South African teams play in the process.
“We don’t send scouts out to look for raw talent, but we appreciate the way the existing Junior and Under-23 teams such as Team Abantu and Team ASG build their squads in this way. In other countries, the national federation fills this role, but in South Africa it’s become the responsibility taken on by youth-focussed teams and clubs.
“These teams like Abantu and ASG need all the support possible to continue to fulfil this vital role of cycling talent identification and development. Team Bonitas is in a position to take the standout riders at that level to the next level and beyond,” he said.
“Herman Fouche, the 2013 Cape Argus Pick n Pay Cycle Tour champion is currently racing in France with Martigues Sport Cyclisme, which came about through our association with La Pomme Marseille as part of the Team Bonitas rider progression plan.
“Winning the ‘The Argus’ is a big deal in South Africa, but in the global picture, it’s a short local race. We want our riders to develop from local stars to international heroes and that’s the path we envisage for Jevandre and James, our newest signings,” added Lange.
Besides being one of South Africa’s leading junior track racers, Pauls impressed recently on the road winning the Eastern Cape road championships title overall and the Daily Dispatch Classic, beating established Elite and Under-23 riders in the process.
Fourie finished third at the 2011 Junior Tour of Ireland and has shown impressive ability during his early Under-23 category phase. He was a member of the ASG National Invitation Team at the inaugural Mzansi Tour earlier this year.
As with the other young riders on the team, Fourie and Pauls can look forward to mentorship from the two senior riders on Team Bonitas, Christoff van Heerden and Luthando Kaka.
“There is no space for individualism in our team. Road racing is a team sport and the senior riders like Christoff and Luthando help instill that into the young riders from early on. It’s all about focussing the big picture and the future of South African cycling and we’re loving that Team Bonitas can be a big part of that,” added Lange.