Most of this expectation lies on the shoulders of South Africa’s most prolific sprint machine, Nolan Hoffman (Team Telkom). Hoffman claimed the title in 2014, and, walked away with the win at the 2015 47km Solidarity Ride, ahead of Tyler Day and Brenton Jones. “This year’s Cycle Tour will be really hard psychologically and physically,” said Hoffman, explaining how the possibility of a third straight win is definitely adding a bit of pressure.
“Our team’s goal will be to neutralise all the attacks on the hills,” he said. “Dealing with the strong climbers in teams like Dimension Data Continental will be a big challenge on the hills, though,” he added. “If myself and Reynard (Butler) survive Suikerbossie we will definitely be the fastest guys in the sprint.”
The Dimension Data Continental outfit is a young, well-drilled squad out to prove they have what it takes to graduate to the big show. They also have very little to lose, which takes the pressure off and has danger written all over it. The iconic 109km route lends itself to tactical team racing and if they can control the race and protect sprinter Shameeg Salie to the finish, he’s bound to be in the mix.
Or, will the Continental team work for Jaco Venter. The recently-crowned SA Road Race Champion is fresh off the plane from a successful campaign at the Tour of Langkawi where he helped teammate Reinardt Janse van Rensburg to the overall win. Venter will be on the start line with only Songezo Jim as support, but fuelled by that rainbow jersey and with his wealth of international experience he’s an odds on favourite for a long-break effort.
Don’t discount the likes of James Tennent from Team Lights by Linea. The Western Cape outfit dominates much of the racing in the province and will feel that this is a home race they’d desperately like to win. Another home team to watch is Team Giant, which is made up of a good mix of big hitters such as Martin Weseman and Stuart Marais and experienced campaigners like David Garrett. Also in with a chance could be 2011 winner Tyler Day, (who also finished second in 2015). Day is racing for the Darkhorse-AutoGen team and the team name is perhaps well apt at describing how they’ll approach the race.
They certainly aren’t the only dark horses in the field, however. There is a highly decorated crew of international mountain bikers currently training in the country. They’ve formed something of an unofficial alliance and would like nothing more than to show up their counterparts on the skinny wheels. Nino Schurter (Scott Sports) will go if he gets the chance, as will anyone in the songo.info/Specialized Racing team. Marshalled by veteran Christoph Sauser and including the likes of Konny Looser, Sam Gaze, Simon Andreassen and local, James Reid, they’re a threat to be reckoned with.
“We’re a bunch of motivated guys and the Cycle Tour gets quite boring if it’s just more of the same,” joked Reid. “We need to drive it hard and make that race as hard as possible and for that it’s going to take some pretty committed soldiers…”
Other warriors who might just throw their hand at an early break is seasoned campaigner Luthando Kaka who would perhaps want to usher his Velokhaya squad out from under the noses of the favourites and, Marchall Hendricks from Eden Cycling Racing. Hendricks is the son of an Oudtshoorn farm worker and has been making a big name for himself on the road and with the mountain bike.
In terms of big names amongst the women, none is bigger than that of seven-time Cycle Tour champion Anriëtte Schoeman. With the absence of Cherise Stander (who is pregnant) and 2015 champion Lynette Burger, the women’s field will all be marking her and An-li Kachelhoffer very closely. Watch out for the likes of Candice Neethling, Heidi Dalton and Yolanda Du Toit to make the racing interesting.