Toyota reaps youth investment rewards

     

    Toyota team members from left: Leandri du Toit, David Pieterse (manager), Heidi Dalton, Lynette Burger Pieterse and Andri Coetzee.Photo: Release Centre

    The future of South African women’s road cycling looks bright following the success of young Toyota riders that are making an impact on the domestic racing scene.

    Heidi Dalton (18) and Leandri du Toit (22) each recently claimed CV-boosting victories in the colours of Toyota, a team that has been nurturing them for the past three years. Dalton won the four-day, five-stage Clover Tour stage race in the Mpumpalanga province, which ended on Sunday 11 August, while Du Toit secured first place at the Powerade Cansa Lost City Classic in the North West province at the weekend.

    Du Toit is developing into a strong sprinter, but her win in the 115km race came from a two-rider breakaway that lasted for over 75km.

    “We were unsure about whether we should try and bring back the break in order to give our team a better shot at the win, but Leandri told David, our team manager, with about 20km left to race that she felt she could win,” explained Lynette Burger Pieterse, a former multiple national champion that’s racing on the team as a mentor for the young riders.

    Du Toit’s breakaway companion was An-Li Kachelhoffer (Best Med ASG). The pair worked well together to build the breakaway’s lead, but Kachelhoffer began to struggle in the latter part, leaving Du Toit to take over much of the pace making.

    “An-Li is usually a very strong rider, but she had an off day. That played into our hands because Leandri was the stronger of the two later on and had no problem getting a gap in the sprint for the finish line,” added Burger, who won the bunch sprint to claim third place overall.

    It was a sweet victory for Du Toit, who successfully defended the title she won a year ago – her first major road race victory.

    At the Clover Tour, Dalton won two of the five stages, taking the overall lead from teammate and defending champion, Burger Pieterse on Stage 3a and retaining it until the finish.

    “I was happy to relinquish my title to Heidi. She is in her final year as a Junior and winning the Clover Tour was a good boost for her confidence ahead of the world champs in Italy next month,” said Burger Pieterse, who is also Dalton’s coach. “She’s a strong climber and time triallist and the tough course in Toscana, Italy will hopefully suit her.”

    Toyota is the only team that’s been consistently identifying and nurturing young women’s road racing talent in South Africa for the past three years. Both Du Toit and Dalton have been on the team since 2010. The other team member is Andri Coetzee, also a second-year Junior racer.

    “It’s great to see how Leandri and Heidi have grown as racers over the past three years. This is really what our team is about. Sure we’ve also had top-end focus with Elite racers over the three years, but the challenge has been to continue to offer a stable, supportive environment in which talented, committed young girls can develop.

    “The standard of women’s road racing in South Africa has improved drastically in the past three years. But this needs to be sustained and in order to do this we need a new generation of young stars. With the way the Toyota girls are racing, it seems like we’re doing something right,” smiled Burger Pieterse.