Cyclists ready to roll

IT WILL be a case of David versus Goliath when Port Elizabeth's best riders take on South Africa's top pro teams at The Herald VW Cycle Tour on Sunday. The field for the 29th edition of the 106km Classic includes the likes of two-time winner Nolan Hoffman and 2012 champion James Perry, who will line up for the seven-strong Team Abantu.

They will do battle with rival team Bonitas, whose eight-man squad features Argus titleholder Herman Fouche.

Fouche's teammate HB Kruger, who gave Christoff van Heerden the critical lead-out for the win last year, also returns, alongside new member Dylan Girdlestone. Tour specialist Girdlestone is a two-time Bestmed Jock Cycle Classique winner and also claimed overall victory for the Cycling SA national team at the Tour of Rwanda in November.

But Port Elizabeth's top rider, Marinus Prinsloo, of the Bestmed-Shukuma NMMU squad, remains undaunted by the high-level competition. "It's still early in the season, so we're not sure what to expect racing against the pros. But we're definitely not going to stand back for them," Prinsloo said.

"It's our first big race of the year and our main focus is to ride as a team and measure ourselves against the country's best."

He said his team, who lead the local Masters and Ladies Cycling Club summer series standings, were training hard and had been in good form.

Prinsloo singled out fellow climber Conrad Viljoen and domestique Henno Cronje as critical prongs in their attack. He also said Eritrean rider Nahom Desale would bring invaluable experience to his young side.

With the national road championships starting just two days later, NMMU captain Viljoen said he would use the Port Elizabeth race as his final preparation for the competition.

"I will be racing in the sub-vets category at the nationals this year, so the standard of the elite race on Sunday should be at a higher level, which will give me a good indication of my form." As team captain for the event, the 29-year-old said his role would be to keep his squad calm and focused, and ensure they made the best tactical decisions on the day.

He said the new European-style route, with its four short climbs, would provide exciting racing action for spectators.

"The new route really exploits the climbers during the first half and then suits the sprinters in the second, which makes the race wide open."

Aside from the main prize purse, the fast men will race for the sprint prime on Buffelsfontein Road, while the climbers compete for the King of the Mountains title on the Maitlands climb.

Accessible spectator points along the route include the new Dream Mile on Lakeside Road, the traditional Maitlands hotspot and the finish line at Hobie Beach.

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