THE Shukuma-NMMU squad will be aiming to add a second victory to their name when they host the Bestmed University Sport South Africa Cycling Championship in Port Elizabeth next week. The event starts with the mountain bike discipline on Tuesday, followed by the three-day road tour from Wednesday.
Although not the defending champions – that honour belongs to the University of Pretoria – the local team set a winning precedent when they last hosted the championship five years ago.
Team captain Wesley Augustyn, who was part of 2008’s victorious squad, said their main focus would be on winning the overall team classification. “But an individual overall win will also be in the back of the riders’ minds,” he said.
“I would say that we are probably stronger as a team than we were in 2008, but the competition has become tougher and more pro riders are competing.”
The outfit comprises Augustyn, danger men Gerrit Nel and Marinus Prinsloo, as well as Waldo Gronum, Phillip Erasmus and Henno Cronje. The team will be without the services of Sean Bos, who broke his collarbone in a crash during a training camp in Franschhoek last week. Augustyn said Nel, who hails from Graaff-Reinet, was at his best form again after battling heart problems over the past few years.
“He’s ready and fit, a very good allround rider with a high pain threshold. He has a big influence on the team as he brings a lot of experience from racing as a youngster in Belgium.”
Fellow allrounder Prinsloo would provide the second prong of their attack, Augustyn said.
“Marinus is on top form after competing at the SA track champs in Cape Town a month ago. He has the leg speed for those fast stages and sprint finishes.
“He can also climb very well and plays an important role in ensuring that we don’t lose time on the hills and in the time-trials.”
As the oldest tour rider, 24-year-old Augustyn said his own role would be to act as mentor and strategist for the team.
“I have a lot of experience in ‘reading’ races, which could help the team to reach the top three.
“My ambition is to go into the tour to make the right choices on the road and to motivate the younger riders. I will definitely sacrifice myself for the team and make sure we are a big contender for the overall classification.”
The part-time business management student said competing in front of their home crowd would certainly have a special effect on the team’s performance. “A person always gives that extra bit in front of your supporters.”
According to Augustyn, the first stage will already separate the main contenders from the rest. “It will be aggressive racing from start to finish due to the calibre of the riders.”
The tour starts with an 84.4km stage from Altona Primary School on Wednesday morning, followed by a 10km time- trial on Marine Drive in the afternoon.