‘Impressive’ is the best word with which to describe the performances by the riders from Bonitas from 30 January to 20 February. For four weeks they won a race every week.
Christoff van Heerden started off the team’s campaign for victories by winning the Fast One. A week later he won the Herald Cycle Tour in Port Elizabeth. Herman Fouché went on to win the Berge-en-Dale, which was followed by Pieter Seyffert’s victory in the Ride for Sight.
The riders are the first to admit that the five-day Mzansi Tour that starts at the Kruger Park and finishes at the Monte Casino in Fourways, will be a totally different ‘kettle of fish’. “We are under no illusions. We know that we will have to step up our performances to the next level if we want to achieve good results in the tour. The local Classics are mostly fast, flat and short races,” said Hanco Kachelhoffer, Bonitas road captain.
“In the Mzansi Tour we will be racing a stage of 183km, two of 160km, one of the 140km and the shortest stage of 117km. In all five stages we will be challenged by various stiff climbs. Most of the local professional riders are no longer used to racing such long distances and doing so much climbing in one day. The biggest challenge for Team Bonitas will be to change our racing strategy for the Mzansi Tour.
“At the end of last year our team was structured to be competitive for the local one-day Classics.”
Kachelhoffer is quietly confident that they will be able to reinvent their strategies before the Mzansi Tour. “I have studied the stage profiles for the different days of the tour and have come to the conclusion that it is not purely a climber’s tour. It actually suits an all-rounder better. An all-rounder is a rider who can keep up with the best on short sharp climbs and still have enough left in his legs to contest a sprint to the line. Most of us are able to do just that.
“Herman Fouché was quite impressive with his 5th place finish at last weekend’s South African Road Championship in Nelspruit. Our main goal for the Tour will be to win as many stages as possible. Having done that, we will just have to see how the tour plays out.
“I can predict even now that one of us will be up there, mixing it up with the best during every stage. But it might not be the same rider every time.”
Kachelhoffer said that Luthando Kaka is his team’s ace. “Luthando is a super domestique who is not scared to put his body on the line to ensure a team victory. Once Luthando gets going, he is like a diesel engine that just keeps on going. Any team needs a rider like him because it makes winning so much easier.”
Kachelhoffer, Van Heerden, Seyffert and Fouché are all capable of winning stages. Willie Smit is the team’s proverbial ‘Joker’ who can cause a major upset at any given moment.
Stage one, April 17: 163km. Skukuza rest Camp, Kruger Park to Nelspruit
Stage two, April 18. 184km. Lydenburg to Middelburg
Stage three, April 19: 144km. Witbank to Mamelodi
Stage four, April 20: 163km. Hartebeespoort to Pretoria Union Buildings, via Tom Jenkins Drive.
Stage five April 21: 117km. Monte Casino to Monte Casino
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