Former multiple national champion on the road, David George is gunning for his first ever national mountain bike title on Saturday.
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Decision pending on George's prize money and results
Cape Epic mountain bike stage race organizers responded to news earlier this week that David George had tested positive for Erythropoietin (EPO). George, with his riding partner Kevin Evans, finished in second place overall in this year's Absa Cape Epic, his best performance in the event to date. George has also won the African jersey at the Cape Epic three times (2008, 2009 and 2012).
Cape Epic founder Kevin Vermaak said, "David George and his riding partner since 2008, Kevin Evans, have been the main contenders to become the first ever all-South African team to win the Cape Epic. Many South Africans were obviously supporting David to achieve this milestone next year in our 10th anniversary race."
A disappointed Vermaak said, "Much of the race's allure is linked to the pro-am nature of the event. We have the world's best mountain bikers riding alongside amateurs from every walk of life. George's suspension has no detrimental effect on this element of the race, but he has certainly let down the South African mountain biking community that were supporting him for the all-South Africa win.
"It's a shock. George is a convert to mountain biking from road cycling. Mountain biking gave him a chance to re-start his cycling career after a European road career that was starting to taper. Many South African mountain bikers might feel that he has let down the sport that gave him a second chance in his cycling career. It's a sad day for South African mountain biking. Personally, I'm sad and angered that the sport in which I've invested 10 years of my life, and worked so hard at making more professional in South Africa, has now also been tainted by this disease within the sport of cycling."
"Next year's race will be the most competitive in the Absa Cape Epic's history, with seven of the top 10 finishers from the London Olympics and the reigning world champion and silver and bronze medalists competing. It seems unlikely now that we'll have an all-South African team on the podium next year or in the near future, since the next best all-SA team came seventh this year and the race is only getting more and more internationally competitive."
With regards to the impact this will have, Vermaak said, The Absa Cape Epic will take consultation with our lawyers, the UCI, CSA and SAIDS to determine the appropriate steps to take with regards to George's titles and prize money. The 2012 prize money for his team amounted to R142,500. We've always worked very closely with SAIDS, and I commend Khalid Galant and his team for the work they are doing to eradicate doping in sport."
The Cape Pioneer Trek race also responded to George's positive. George was part of the winning team at the October race.