New kids on the cycling block, Mecer-NMMU, have set their sights on the top step of the podium at the South African Student (Ussa) Championships that starts in Port Elizabeth on Sunday.
Team captain Conrad Viljoen, a masters student in architecture, says the team will be participating in the blue ribbon event for only the fourth time in their relatively short history.
“We’re a young club and it is the first time that NMMU (Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University) will be hosting the event, so we are keen to make an impact.”
Viljoen won the tour two years ago when it was held in Nelspruit, with the team placing third overall. Last year, in Stellenbosch, he was unable to defend his title due to a fractured collarbone, but Mecer-NMMU still went on to collect silver.
They are now ready for the next step, says Viljoen. “Our results indicate that we’re slowly maturing as a team and we have more depth and experience than in the past.”
He says their objective is to win both the individual and team classifications. “We have a well-balanced team and we’ve been riding well as a unit so I think we have a great chance.”
The team – which also includes Wesley Augustyn, Jade Muller, Mark Murray, Sebastian Lokotsch and Ryan Raffan – has dominated cycling in the province during their build-up for the championships and they are currently leading the team classification of the prestigious Beachfront Lodges Premier Cycling League.
Augustyn will get the first chance to impress when the four-day event kicks off with the mountain bike race at Woodridge on Sunday. “The course is very technical, which suits me, but I expect tough competition.”
The road event starts with a 20-kilometre individual time trial on Monday, followed by a fast 80km stage in the afternoon. On Tuesday, riders will face their toughest test when they tackle a hilly 140km course.
The tour culminates with a 4km hill climb time trial and a one-hour criterium on the last day.
Viljoen believes Tuesday’s stage holds the key to overall victory. “The important thing is to keep out of trouble early on and then to give it a full go on day two.”
Twelve universities – among them the Tshwane University of Technology, the University of Stellenbosch and the University of Johannesburg – have entered.
As an added incentive, the top six riders in the overall standings will be selected to represent South Africa at the World Student Championships (probably in France) next year.
Full Stop Communications
On behalf of:
Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University