PORT ELIZABETH pro cyclist John Lee Augustyn, who made his mark in the mountains of the Tour de France, said he was looking forward to the route changes in the 28th edition of The Herald VW Cycle Tour on February 3.
“I think the new climbs will definitely raise the standards and make the racing a little bit harder,” said Augustyn.
“This is good for the pros from a racing perspective and a fresh challenge for the average rider.”
The major alteration to the 106km Classic course, which still starts and finishes at Hobie Beach on the PE beachfront, will be the omission of Kragga Kamma Road and the inclusion of the venomous Slanghoogte climb.
The latter will now host the first king of the mountains hotspot (36.4km) while the second is still at Maitlands (59km). The sprints remain unchanged on Buffelsfontein Road (10km) and at Altona Primary (43km).
The former under-23 national road champion said the short but steep Slanghoogte ascent, which is reached after climbing the gradual lower slopes of the 5km Seaview hill, would present a very real breakaway opportunity.
“Maitlands now becomes a climb on which a small group could consolidate their lead instead of trying to get away,” said Augustyn. “It gives them a chance to stay clear and foil the sprinters, so that’s pretty interesting …”
The 26-year-old, who took the year off to recover from hip surgery following an injury during the Tour of Poland a few years ago, said he anticipated 2013 to be his comeback year.
The Herald’s chief marketing officer, Justin Peel, said this would only be the second route change after a minor tweak in 1989.
“Aside from the racing aspect, Slanghoogte gives spectators the perfect spot to camp out for the day.”
Peel said another new aspect was an Ultimate Quest category for riders who would like to participate in both the road and mountain bike feature races.
“It’s a challenge to … race the 80km Extreme on the Saturday and the 106km Classic the next day.”
He said riders’ combined times would reveal the strongest overall cyclist in the men’s and women’s categories with R5 000 going to each.
Organisers have also introduced the 55km Pursuit to replace the 70km and 40km road races.
There is also a 10km “sprint” for 10- to 12- year-olds on the Saturday.
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