Racing in a province with an incredible landscape, vistas and hills that seem almost made for cycling is not the only reason to host a brand-new event like the inaugural Tour de Limpopo, which is ratified by the International Cycling Union (UCI) as a 2.2 stage race and part of the UCI AfricaTour. That alone speaks volumes for the calibre of the race. But there is so much more to this event that lies beneath the surface.
The Tour de Limpopo will work to create a legacy programme for cycling in the province as well as engage the SMMEs in the region to become suppliers to the event, while also exploring the rich cultural diversity that exists. With the tremendous support and partnership from Limpopo Tourism Agency, there is no reason why the Tour de Limpopo can’t become the go-to event on the continent in time to come.
Cycling South Africa has identified the need to grow the Elite participation of road cycling and require events in all provinces, while also introducing cycling to – and encouraging the participation of – our youth.
General Manager for Cycling SA, Mike Bradley, said that Limpopo will be leading the way ahead of most other provinces when the four-day race kicks off on Monday 23 April 2018. “This race will mature in the years to come, and after two to three years we aim to move into the next UCI category. We want to see this event as a permanent fixture on our calendar going forward.”
Covering a total distance of 427.6 kilometres with 6896 metres elevation gain, the Tour de Limpopo is certainly going to place the riders in the hurt box. There are some big climbs during the stages, particularly the climb over Magoebaskloof which has a 4.9% incline over a distance of eight kilometres and is classed as a Category 2 climb. Participants will have to endure the climb twice during the four days.
“The importance of a tour like this in South Africa provides our local Elite teams with strong competition against compatriots and teams from abroad, while offering the opportunity to earn UCI points without the travel factor of racing in Europe,” explained Bradley. “UCI points go a long way in improving our position in the UCI Nations’ Ranking, which in turn determines the number of slots that we can fill for team selections at World Championships and big events like the Olympic Games.”
Elite teams consist of the top five teams from South Africa with invitations extended as far afield as the SADC (Southern African Development Community) regions in Africa, United Arab Emirates and also Taiwan; these teams attend to a great balance of local teams with international teams. The tour is fully catered for Elites regarding accommodation and meals, for all riders and support staff, at no cost to the teams. Teams will compete for General Classification, Sprinters jersey, King of the Mountain jersey, Best Young Rider and Most Aggressive Rider, as well as Overall Team Classification.
When asked about the inclusion of a mass participation race, Bradley said: “The ‘tour’ aspect is very different to a one-day race, and requires teams, support crew and vehicles to follow the route. This is our objective for the first year – we are introducing this race to top teams to make it an aspirational event that the masses also want to be part of in future. In the coming years, the idea is to commence the mass participation element in the form of a one-day race as well.”
Hosting an event like The Tour de Limpopo is critical to the development of our sport and can act as a catalyst to inspire the youth to be part of this event one day, leaving a lasting legacy with the youth from Limpopo, inspired to be cyclists and be part of the future of the event.