National and international teams are finalising their preparation before they travel to South Africa to compete in the inaugural Tour de Limpopo, which kicks off in Polokwane, South Africa, from 22-26 April 2018. The UCI Africa Tour 2.2 stage race has sparked great interest for these teams; some of them young teams and some showing strong cohesion. Three African teams share their views on South Africa’s newest Tour.
Team BCX – South Africa
South African Elite Team BCX is ready to race in a new destination. Team Manager Magnus Gouws says that a busy race schedule in a tour such as this doesn't always allow for time to visit tourist destinations but that they’re looking forward to experiencing first-hand what Limpopo has to offer on the roads early next week.
Although a relatively new team dynamic since the beginning of the season, Magnus explains that the team has been cycling together for years, teaming up at different times during their racing careers.
Man-of-the-moment Clint Hendricks will tackle the four-day tour on a high after just recently winning a bronze medal at the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia. The 27-year-old has had a solid start to this season with victories in premier races including the Herald Cycle Tour, and stage one and stage six in the Mpumalanga Tour. He also notched up victories towards the end of 2017 at Double Century, National Classic Cycle Race, Midvaal 100 Cycle Tour and the Tour D’Urban. His Tour of Eritrea efforts yielded him a fifth place overall.
National Track Champion Nolan Hoffman, who turns 33 on the first day of the Tour, applies his skills to the road to win a number of South Africa’s one-day classics – three-time winner of the Cape Town Cycle Tour, six-time Amashova Durban Classic champion and other one day races like the Fast One and Cycle4Cansa. He says, “This is what we as riders have been asking for, for a long time. It will be good to have international competition here. It’s so great that Limpopo province has stepped in to promote a UCI accredited cycling tour.”
David Maree (29) too excels on the track and is the current Omnium National Champion. His accolades include winning the 2017 Berge and Dale race and finishing third in the Polokwane Annual Mayoral Challenge.
Fellow track star Steven van Heerden (25) is the 2018 African Continental Champion in the Points race, while on the road he finished second in the 2017 Jock Classic.
Marc Pritzen (19) has scored some great results in mountain biking, winning the MTB National half marathon series overall as well as the Spur Schools MTB League before joining BCX. “My hope for this tour is to definitely have good performance. I would love to go for a win but that all depends on what the race situation is like on the day and what is best for the team,” he said.
Team BCX’s support team will be made up of Magnus Gouws, Cameron Donkin and Julian de la Fontein during the Tour de Limpopo.
Team MCB – Mauritius
Traveling across the Indian Ocean to race in Limpopo is Team MCB from Mauritius, comprising young and dynamic riders who have been racing together for the past three years, developing a strong and cohesive team. A huge boost to the team has been the strong partnership with the Mauritius Commercial Bank (MCB), the most powerful banking institution on the island.
Team MCB spokesperson Jean Philippe Lagane says: “Since the signature agreement between the Mauritius Cycling Federation and the MCB, the team has improved a lot in terms of professional approach and training abilities. The boys are feeling more confident and less intimidated when competing with the best on the continent.
“They have won both the Reunion Island Tour and the Mauritian Tour in style while giving a good account of themselves in the African Championships. Lastly, they fought bravely in Australia on the occasion of the Commonwealth Games among high profile riders.”
The young team is also young in age, with Jeanlito Andre the youngest on the team at 17-years-old. Although not singling out a particular star rider, the team prides themselves in their solidarity and working for each other and pushing one another when the need arises.
Jeanlito’s teammates are Alexandre Mayer (19), Christopher (19) and Gregory (21) Lagane, Dylan Redy (18) and Thierry David (29). Team management is not moulding a specific leader but letting the team blossom and cross that bridge when they reach it. “We must say that there is a good team spirit prevailing among our delegation. The boys can't wait now to be in the saddle.”
The Mauritian “Dream Team” aims to climb the important ladders on the African continent to be amongst the top cycling nations. As this is their first trip to Limpopo – they competed in the Tour of Good Hope last month in the Western Cape – they are unfamiliar with the territory but ready to give the race their best shot.
When they’re not racing, Team MCB hope to set aside some time for some sightseeing. “There is limited time to be a tourist during a cycle tour, but if the opportunity arises, we would love to see the wild animals in Limpopo.”
Team Swift – Botswana
Team Swift from neighbouring country Botswana will be led by their two most prominent riders during the inaugural Tour de Limpopo. The new team, which was only formed at the start of this season, is managed by rider Thabang Oliphant and has competed in three races already. Abeng Malete (22) and Thabiso Mokalake (19) are the longest standing members of the team and have built up a strong reputation in their racing careers.
Abeng has scored two podiums already this season with a win at the BCA National Road Race (130km) in March and a third place in the Kgosi Malope Cycle Challenge (110km). He has also attended the 2015 and 2016 UCI World Cycling Centre Africa training camps at Potchefstroom in South Africa. His aim is to be ranked amongst the best cyclists in Africa and to represent his country at the Olympic Games in 2020.
Thabiso has his sights set on racing in a UCI Word Tour team one day, as well as represent Botswana at the Olympic Games in 2020. His most recent accolades include winning the Wharic Cycle Challenge (108km) and the Kgosi Malope Cycle Challenge (110km).
Tshepo Sentsho (19), Thabang Oliphant (30), Mmuso Ikanyeng and Daniel Kelaotswe (26) are relative newcomers to the team having recently turned to professional racing. The team aims to gain exposure to the high level of racing that they anticipate will be on display during the UCI Africa Tour 2.2 stage race.
“This exposure will be beneficial in growing our riders’ ability and experience. With that said, we are hoping for a great performance from all the riders, including a top 10 for the Best Young Rider,” said Thabang. “Part of the reason why Team Swift was created was to take part in UCI races. The creation of the Tour of Limpopo excited us immensely and we instantly knew that we wanted to be a part of this monumental event.”
Since Botswana borders on part of Limpopo, the team is “reasonably familiar” with the territory that they are about to race on.
Outside of racing, the team would love to do a bit of bonding and team building and seeing some of the beautiful landscape and sights within Limpopo,” added Thabang. “This includes interacting with the locals and getting a feel of the beauty of the region.”
Team Swift is supported by David Lebalelo, Daniel Tlale and Loago Swallow at the Tour de Limpopo.
Invited teams from South Africa and around the world have selected six of their best warriors for the task at hand; each team accompanied by three support crew. The fully accommodated event covers all aspects of the teams’ stay in Limpopo during the race once they have arrived. For more details on the participating teams, visit https://www.tourdelimpopo.co.za/teams/.
About the Tour de Limpopo
The Tour de Limpopo is a four-day, UCI Africa Tour 2.2 stage race starting in the capital city of Polokwane, heading east to the town of Tzaneen, where riders will stay for three nights, before heading back to Polokwane on 26 April to finish the Tour at the Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane.
For further race information, visit www.tourdelimpopo.co.za.