News feature, December 21, 2005
The South African cycling community is concerned about team sponsors pulling out one year after the demise of the HSBC team but there will still be a strong line up in the local races in 2006. The coming season will begin with the Belgotex Carpets Hill Climb on January 21, 2006 and will culminate with the Giro del Capo (March 8-12) and its legendary last stage of the Cape Argus Cycle Tour that remains the world's biggest race in terms of participation with almost 40,000 cyclists.
South African sponsor Barloworld had a major change with Claudio Corti taking over from John Robertson as the manager of the Italian-based team. Five South African riders - Ryan Cox, Tiaan Kannemeyer, Jock Green, Jeremy Maartens and James Perry - will be part of the 16-man roster alongside Colombian Felix Cardeñas, Englishman Tom Southam, Spaniards Igor Astarloa and Pedro Arreitnandia, Italians Enrico Degano and Gianpaolo Cheula who were in the team in 2005. They'll be reinforced by Dane Mads Christensen (ex Quick Step), Portuguese Hugo Sabido (Paredes), Giosuè Bonomi (Lampre-Caffita) and Mauro Facci (Fassa Bortolo), both from Italy, as well as Russian neo-pro Alexander Efimkin following the path of his twin brother Vladimir who won the 2005 Tour of Portugal.
Up and coming riders Darren Lill, who won the 94.7 in November, and David George don't have pro contracts anymore but they'll defend the colours of the national team for Le Tour de Langkawi in Malaysia with Cox, Maartens and Green who will form the core of the South African delegation in Melbourne for the Commonwealth Games. South African UCI ProTeam members Robert Hunter (Phonak) and Ian McLeod (Française des Jeux) have also been named but they may not be available in March.
South Africa's only Continental team will be Konica-Minolta with the Slovakian twin brothers Martin and Peter Velits. Except for 23-year-old Travis Allen, the whole team is composed of under-23 riders: John-Lee Augustyn, George Schoonrad, Jacques Janse van Rensburg, Johann Rabie, Jaco Venter, Hermann Fouché and the major recruit from Exel Hanco Kachelhoffer. The team directed by Barry Austin will have a strong European programme including the Tour de Bretagne in France and the Vuelta Navarra in Spain with the ambition of developing South Africa's most promising youngsters.
The strongest local team is set to be Microsoft with the addition of super sprinter Jacques Fullard, coming from Minolta, and Waylon Woolcockx, coming from Tuks, to the old warriors Nicholas White, Douglas Ryder, Daniel Spence, Neil McDonald and Malcolm Lange. 2006 will see the return of the prodigy Darryl Impey, 21, who gave up his European ambitions after spending one year in France with VC La Pomme Marseille.
Team Exel has secured a new three-year deal worth 10.5 million Rand (1.6 million USD) with the petrol company that has sponsored the squad for the last two years and seen the incredible development of previously unknown black and coloured riders such as Nolan Hoffman, under the captaincy of Rupert Rheeder who was recently crowned road race champion of all Africa. Morné Bester, Jamie Ball, Etienne Hairbottle and Adrian Maaske are the other riders selected by the team now advised by former German pro Ronny Lauke. There is also a feeder team giving a chance to new promising riders, some of them hailing from townships. Exel is the leading team in the process of transformation. Thanks to the initiatives of team owner Eugene Ruiters, cycling now opens doors to non-white communities in the new South Africa.
Young super talent Juan van Heerden, 19, who is also a member of Bouygues Telecom's reserve team Vendée U in France and Duncan Viljoen, 18, will stay under the wing of national coach Tony Harding. Other riders to watch will be Christoff van Heerden and Alex Pavlov from Hi-Q. Russian born Pavlov, 22, is the new African champion for individual time trial after winning the event in Egypt in early December.