After upstaging some of South Africa’s biggest names to claim the title last year, Christoff van Heerden (Team Bonitas) is quietly confident ahead of Sunday’s 2013 edition of the Value Logistics Fast One 106km road cycling race in Meyerton, south of Johannesburg.
And confident he should be. This past weekend he won the 2013 Gauteng Road Champs title in less than ideal conditions. He spent the last 65km of the 195km race out front on his own in steady rain to claim the win ahead of Bonitas teammates, Pieter Seyffert and Herman Fouche, who were second and third respectively.
“Winning the provincial champs title was a great way to start off the year. Our Bonitas team controlled the racing well. But that was over a long distance. This Sunday the route is short and fast, which opens it up a bit for more teams to be in contention,” said Van Heerden.
Sunday’s Fast One is the first major popular race of the year, which means a lot of new team combinations will be put to their first big test. Van Heerden says he’s never felt such unity in a team before and is certain this will be an advantage.
“Besides putting in a lot of training mileage over the summer off-season, we have focussed on getting to know each other, both on and off the bike,” explained Van Heerden. “Our team manager, Barry Austin, put us through some useful team-building activities and that’s really bonded the team. At 29, I am the oldest rider on the team, so what we lack in experience, we intend to make up for in cohesion.”
Unlike last year’s edition, when riding as an individual with no pressure, Van Heerden feels that he and his team will carry a lot of pressure on Sunday.
“We’ll have eight riders on the start line and as the only UCI Continental team in the race, the other riders are likely to expect us to make the racing,” said Van Heerden. “That’s fine with us because we have so many strong options. I’m very impressed with this group of young riders and I believe there’s a lot of hunger for success. But it’s not selfish hunger, but rather shared hunger.”
“We have two objectives in 2013 – to dominate the domestic racing and to grow internationally. We don’t have any big-name riders this year, opting to go for younger guys that are on their way up. So there’s a new team dynamic and energy, which is refreshing. I like the team cohesion that Barry has instilled in the team and I believe that will be our key to success this year,” said Malcolm Lange of Lange Sports, the company that owns Team Bonitas.
The Team Bonitas line-up for Sunday is: Christoff van Heerden, Herman Fouche, Luthando Kaka, HB Kruger, Hanco Kachelhoffer, Pieter Seyffert, Clint Hendricks and Willie Smit.