By Gerard Cromwell
New Irish UCI continental cycling team Pezula will make their international road debut in South Africa in February, manager David McQuaid confirmed.
The recently launched squad, whose Galway based construction management sponsors borrowed their name from a South African holiday hotspot, will be registered both on the road and the track for 2008 with former Navigators Insurance duo David O'Loughlin and Ciarán Power heading the Irish challenge.
Pezula will get its road campaign underway when they tackle the inaugural edition of the Worlds View Challenge in South Africa alongside top teams Milram, Liquigas and Barloworld as well as Professional Continental teams and some national squads from around the world. The five-day series, which begins on February 2, will be run as five separate 1.1 ranked UCI races, along the same lines as the traditional season opening Mallorca Challenge in Europe. Riders can pick and choose which races they will compete in over the five days, with points accumulated each day going towards a final general classification.
Originally intending to compete in the Tour de Langkawi in February, McQuaid feels the trip to South Africa will be more beneficial to the Pezula set up. "We had intended to ride the Tour of Langkawi, before heading to South Africa for the Giro Del Capo in early March," said the son of UCI president Pat McQuaid. "Now we will head to South Africa at the end of January, ride the World View Challenge series and stay for a three week training camp before riding the Giro del Capo. David O'Loughlin and some of our track guys would have missed Langkawi because it clashed with the Los Angeles round of the track world cup, but now he can ride some of the South African races and we can rotate some of the younger guys and give them valuable experience."
"I can't wait for the season to start," noted Power. "I have been training really hard and hope to make a big impact in the early season, to get some results and generate as much publicity as we can for Pezula. I have a good training programme worked out with my coach Paddy Doran and I've been working on my sprint a lot. I'm likely to get a lot more opportunity to race for myself with Pezula, so as well as doing team duties, hopefully I can take this opportunity and get some good results."
Power has his eyes firmly set on one of the two Irish places available in the road race in Beijing. "I originally tried to qualify via the track but I just couldn't transfer over the power I was putting out on the road. We decided early to stop trying, and to concentrate on the road. I don't see why I can't make one of those places. There are probably five guys out there who fit the bill and although I haven't seen the full criteria for selection, a place on the start line in Beijing is my overall aim for this season."
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