South Africa's next Tour rider?
When the 2005 Tour de Langkawi gets under way this Friday one of the big dangermen will certainly be 25 year-old Ryan Cox of the Barloworld-Valsir team. Last year he finished second, just 48 seconds off the yellow jersey of Colombia Selle Italia's Freddy Gonzalez; this time round he is determined to go one better and win the prestigious early season event, as Shane Stokes reports.
In order to make that ambition a reality, the South African road race champion has been training hard since last Autumn. "I did about 8,000 kilometres from the middle of November," he told Cyclingnews at the team training camp near Pescara in Italy. "Everything is going well here this week. With the cold we are taking it a little bit easier. But we are going to have a strong team going to the Tour de Langkawi. Early season racing for us is perfect because we are coming from our summer and there are a lot of us who have really good training, good form. So I think we are going to be contenders. And I want to win in Malaysia."
Cox is a good climber and decent time trialist and believes that as long as he doesn't miss any crucial moves on the flatter stages, that combination of skills will help him make a strong big for overall honours. "There are just two mountain stages but one of those isn't too difficult. I think we did it last year and it normally ends up with a group of twenty or thirty guys. So that is not something to really worry about. The problem is with so many flat stages, you have to watch out that you are not left out of the action and a big group gets away and gets ten or fifteen minutes, because then you are going to be the loser. But I think the time trial will be important - if I can do a good time trial, I can get time out of the smaller climbers. I don't think they are going to ride away from me on the climb, so it will be half-won there."
Looking further ahead, Cox has some big ambitions, goals which will be made possible by the expanded lineup of Team Barloworld-Valsir. For now they don't have a ProTour licence but he is hoping the good lineup will earn a couple of wildcard places for the longer Tours. "I am excited by the prospects for the team," he states. "I want to do the Giro d'Italia and the Vuelta...I want to do a Grand Tour, that is where I see myself going. Not only doing it but winning a stage."