By Jean-François Quénet
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.