Conrad Viljoen (Mecer-NMMU) will aim to update his resume when the roads tilt upwards in the seventh leg of the Beachfront Lodges Premier Cycling League in Port Elizabeth on Sunday.
The 25-year-old climber will be the heavy favourite to win the 90km test to Van Stadens River Mouth and back at his first attempt. The course is littered with seven long climbs and several shorter ones and is rated as the toughest in the Eastern Cape.
“It’s a special event, but somehow it has never coincided with my racing programme,” Viljoen said on Wednesday. “Now that I have the opportunity, I want to make the most of it.
“I’ve ridden the route several times in training over the past few weeks and I’m confident that I’ll be able to deliver a good performance.”
He added that with Mecer-NMMU’s unassailable lead in the team standings, there was very little pressure on the team and this would give them the freedom to race instinctively without fear of jeopardising their overall position.
“We’re a climber based team and although we’ve done very well until now, this is our first real opportunity to ride to our strengths.”
Viljoen singled out Ironman Raynard Tissink (Friendly City Cycles) as the team’s most obvious threat. “I’m not too sure how Raynard will cope with the long climbs, but if he doesn’t lose too much time he will be a factor on the flat run-in to the finish.”
Former Bok Wayne Pheiffer, who captains Walmer Club, included two of Viljoen’s team-mates as dark horses.
“If Conrad has an off day, Mark Murray and Ronnie Scheffer are the most likely candidates to pick up the pieces. But don’t write off someone like Welcome Stokwe (Friendly City Cycles).”
Kevin Dorfling, leader of the Toyota-Cycle Lab outfit, echoed his sentiments. “If the peloton ride without a plan, I can see them (Mecer-NMMU) disappearing in the distance.”
However, he was hopeful that their little climber, Stephen Pugh, could match the top mountain goats. “He was extremely comfortable on the hills last week, but Sunday will be a different kettle of fish.”
Dorfling said he feared that the race was one climb to far for the team’s star performer, Antal Meiswinkel, who was third in the sixth leg.
Mario Nell, who was second, was a surprise omission from the Friendly City Cycles team on the team lists released by EP Cycling on Wednesday. According to his team, he is focusing on speed work ahead of the world track championships for veterans in Sydney, Australia.
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