By Shane Stokes
Multiple South African national champion and 2006 Tour de Langkawi winner David George will race for the MTN Microsoft professional team in the coming season. George competed for US Postal Service, Barloworld and Relax-Gam in the past but was without a pro contract in 2007. He rode for an amateur Cape Town squad and guested with other teams at stage races, finishing fourth in the Tour de Langkawi and third in the Giro del Capo. He was also second in the national road race championships behind Malcolm Lange, making him the only rider in the top seven who was not in MTN Microsoft colours.
MTN team owner Douglas Ryder has welcomed the signing of the 31 year old, saying that it will add an extra dimension to the squad. "In 2007 we did really well in single-day races, but weren't a big enough force in the stage races. So for 2008, we've boosted our tour-riding capabilities by signing David George," he stated. "David is this country's leading stage racer and we believe he'll add some genuine depth to our team for races like the Giro del Capo and the new Tour of South Africa.
"Our plan is to use David as a tour specialist. He will be our first-choice General Classification rider on the road team for the Giro del Capo, the Tour of South Africa and possibly also the Tour of Morocco. But we'll also use him in the Absa Cape Epic to partner Kevin Evans."
George rode the Absa Cape Epic mountainbike race this year for the first time, performing strongly despite the withdrawal of his original partner after stage three.
Apart from stage races, George is aiming for a good performance in road and time trial disciplines at the Olympic Games. He will also work to help the development of younger riders on the team. "My position on the team as a rider and mentor is what I've been looking for," said George, who has a UCI Level 1 coaching qualification and will soon complete Level 2. "I am relishing my responsibility in helping build this team to become world class. With the backing of MTN we can be ambitious and innovative and that's what modern cycling success requires."
Amongst those he will be advising are three other new signings, Bradley Potgieter (18), Jay Thomson (21) and Juan van Heerden (21). Potgieter is the national junior champion for road and time trial, Thomson won the 2006 Jock Tour and Van Heerden was second in the 2005 Cape Argus Pick ‘n Pay Cycle Tour. 2006 junior national champion Jonathan Kinnear was signed earlier this year.