With two unexpected victories in the Momentum 94.7 Cycle Challenge bookending his racing career, Nic White has become something of an expert on the event.
White, who won the very first edition back in 1997, has competed many times and also triumphed last year in his final outing as a pro.
“It was the race that put me on the map,” he says, acknowledging how much the event has grown and changed over the past 15 years.
“When I first won it, there was far less exposure than nowadays. There was much more hype around the last one.”
Now retired, the former Team Medscheme rider shuns the label of defending champion and has slipped comfortably into the role of mentor to his U/23 Toyota SuperCycling CSA Academy team.
“Even though I’m riding this year, I’m not really comfortable seeing myself as the defending champ. I’m not starting with any visions of being part of the race from a competitive angle, other than trying to guide my guys where necessary.”
As unofficial playmaker for his development outfit, White’s aim is to help his riders to good results in the high-profile event, which could launch their careers with some of the bigger teams.
“We want to get the guys who have the ability and the form into the right position to do something for themselves and the team. The goal is for them to show themselves and be a part of the action proper.”
Some of his protégés include South African U/23 road champ Johann van Zyl, runner-up and Clover Tour winner Louis Meintjies, William Bush, Willie Smit, Christiaan Kriek and Kallen Williams.
“They’ve had quite a lot of success this year and William has just been signed by Tasol for next season.”
Even though he is kept busy on a full-time basis at the Cycle Lab retail outlet in Fourways, Johannesburg, the 37-year-old devotes whatever spare time he has to guiding the youngsters.
His trademark humility is evident when recalling his Cycle Challenge victories. “I didn’t expect to win the first one and I didn’t expect to win the last one either.
“The idea was to set up a scenario where somebody from our team wins. I’ve just been fortunate enough to come out tops twice.”
While his personal victories were obviously special, White says some of his best memories from the event are from the years when he was simply part of the winning team.
Despite his credentials in the race, the Joburg resident is hesitant to predict an outcome for this year’s event.
“The course is not too flat and not super-hilly either, but it is very challenging and technical. It’s anyone’s race – a sprinter’s or a strongman’s.”
Based on current form, he named speedsters Nolan Hoffman (Tasol) and Arran Brown (MTN-Qhubeka) as the most likely winners, with Brown’s teammate Reinhardt Janse van Rensburg another candidate. “I think he’s a promising youngster; he’s quick and he’s strong.”
White also believes Tyler Day (Team Bonitas) is returning to threatening form after injury. “He won the Argus, so I’m sure it’ll be their goal to try and get the 94.7 too.”
He says it is often the case that a smaller group forms at the front, with just a couple of teams represented towards the end. “Because of the severity of the route, it’s possible that this could happen again.”
White however believes anything could happen on the day, depending on the teams’ objectives, the weather and the attitude of the bunch. “That’s the difficulty of this race. It’s really unpredictable.”
Although he has ruled himself out of contention for now, it is possibly not forever. “This year I haven’t started any road races thinking I could win, but that fire might come back at a different level in the future.”
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