Friendly City Cycles have named a “balanced” team for the grand finale of the Beachfront Lodges Premier Cycling League, a 77km team time-trial, in Port Elizabeth on Saturday.
Led by the experienced and in-form Mario Nell, the six-man Friendly City Cycles squad will start as overwhelming favourites to win this technical team discipline for a second time this season.
Team owner Garth Botha, who won five straight elite provincial time-trial titles in the late eighties, predicted a two-horse race between his riders and Mecer-NMMU.
At the beginning of August, Nell led his squad to a last-gasp win over the spirited, but outgunned student outfit. On that occasion, the race was contested over a shorter six laps (66km) of the Pike circuit.
“Although Raynard (Tissink) is unavailable, I believe we are fielding a more balanced team,” Botha said on Wednesday. “Not only have we included more riders that can ride at a high tempo for extended periods, most of the team are peaking at exactly the right time.”
He said that although their previous winning margin was too close for comfort, they felt they had plenty in hand on that occasion and they expected to up the ante this weekend.
Botha said the inclusion of their new signing, Francois Geldenhuys, also brought more depth to the squad, especially in an event of this nature. “Francois is a tremendous time-triallist and will be a valuable asset.”
He also named Nell and Welcome Stokwe, who placed second and third in the previous road event, as crucial to their cause. The rest of the team are Phillip Erasmus, Luthando Fatyi and Mike Bosch.
For their part, Mecer-NMMU, captained by Eastern Province time-trial champion Conrad Viljoen, will field a team that, on paper, seems more suited to the highlands than the flatlands.
Although they might lack the brutal strength of their opposition, they almost managed to steal the race last time out and chances are that they will go even better. “Although we are rated as underdogs, this race is one of our major objectives and we believe we have a decent shot at it,” said Viljoen.
Viljoen said apart from recalling Jimmy Baillie (replacing the out of form Wesley Augustyn), who placed sixth in last weekend’s Makro & Fujitso Cycle Tour, his team would be the same. The other members are Mark Murray, Jade Muller, Ronnie Scheffer and Reghardt Koen.
If nothing unforeseen happens, Mecer-NMMU (91 points) should seal their first place in the team standings. They are being chased by Toyota-Cycle Lab (84), the form team in recent weeks, Friendly City Cycles (75), Walmer Club (57) and Volkswagen (48).
The race, which starts at 2pm at Altona School in Greenbushes, will be followed by a prize-giving function. For more information, contact Shane Bradfield on 074 114 4811.
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