Tasol Solar Energy Solutions announced its intention of withdrawing as the cycling team's title sponsor at the end of 2012, and has been sustaining the team on a month-by-month basis since then. However their support will definitely end at the end of April, making the aQuellé Tour Durban the team's swansong.
The Tasol GT team celebrates with 2012 aQuellé Tour Durban winner Nolan Hoffman. With their team sponsorship ending two days after the aQuellé Tour Durban, the riders are passionate about going out with a victory on 28 April.
Photo: Dave Macleod/Gameplan Media
The team's charge at a hat-trick of major wins started perfectly when sprinter David Maree outshone a classy line-up to win the 102km Emperors Palace Road race two weeks ago. At the inaugural Mzansi Tour that wrapped up this weekend Nolan Hoffman won the final leg of the tour, Stage 5b around Monte Casino, after teammate David Maree had clinched the King of the Mountains accolade. The team was the second South African outfit, and fourth overall.
“It’s been coming all week with two podiums and what a feeling to have done it here on the final stage in front of all of these people," said an elated Hoffman after winning the final race.
"All week we’ve been campaigning to save our team and we were intent on riding for our supporters and now I’ve managed to win right here in this atmosphere, it’s unbelievable. Thanks to everyone for their support”, Hoffman added.
Individually many of the team members have received offers to join other major teams, but they have elected to band together out of loyalty to the team, and in the hope that a new sponsor will step in to keep the team going. With the clock ticking and no deal on the table, emotions are running high as they prepare to pull their red jerseys over their heads for the last time at a race that the team has won every year since 2011.
"The mood in the team is pretty awesome right now," said team manager Dean Edwards, himself a winner of the aQuellé Tour Durban in 2011. "A lot has to be said about the loyalty that the guys have shown in the past few months. They remain really committed to the team, despite the reality of what is coming at the end of the month."
"The general feeling is that it isn't good for the sport for the individual team members to be swallowed by any of the other big teams in this country. They are riding for what they feel is the best for cycling in this country right now," he added.
"With the current form of Nolan Hoffman, David Maree and Johann Rabie, who finished 2nd at the SA road championships recently, being consistently successful, the team is ready to go down fighting," said Edwards.
The aQuellé Tour Durban road races takes place on Sunday 28 April. More information can be found at www.tourdurban.co.za