“Hard, but lekker!” is how organiser Hendrik Wagener sums up the third edition of the Clover Lowveld Cycle Tour, which takes place in the mountains of Mpumalanga next month.

South Africa’s largest and toughest road tour also promises to be one of the most scenic, with a route that includes God’s Window, Long Tom Pass and the picturesque town of Sabie.

The five-day elite and U/23 event rolls out of Graskop on August 8, while the other categories start their four-day race the following day.

This year, the organisers have also introduced a once-off 27km individual time trial.

Wagener says this is the exact TT distance for the UCI World Cycling Tour final, formerly the masters road world championships, taking place in Pietermaritzburg two weeks later.

“Therefore the Clover tour will be the ideal place for vets to wrap up their preparations for worlds.”

What started as a four-day event in 2010 has developed into a five-day tour for elites, at the request of the pro teams, he says.

“As one of the few road tours in South Africa, this is a very important race for them because it’s closer to European standards in terms of distance and difficulty.”

Averaging around 155km per stage in mountainous terrain, the pros will experience four to five challenging hours in the saddle every day. “It keeps them busy,” chuckles Wagener.

He says top teams, such as MTN-Qhubeka, Bonitas, Tasol and Westvaal have already indicated that they will participate this year.

However, Wagener says the tour is a great leveller and has thrown up some interesting surprises in terms of past winners.

For example, mountain biker and former national marathon champion Kevin Evans took overall honours for MTN-Energade in the inaugural event, while young Toyota CSA Academy rider Louis Meintjies was responsible for a surprise victory last year.

Wagener says the 550km route will definitely be better suited to a climber. “Because of the elevation, we have several king-of-the-mountains hotspots on every stage but there will also be something for the sprinters.”

Stage four, in particular, will challenge the legs. It comprises a morning session of 126km, followed by what he calls “the best climb in South Africa” – a gruelling 7.1km ascent up Kowyn’s Pass in the afternoon.

As far as prize money for the elite and U/23 categories are concerned, Wagener says there will be rewards for the Continental teams as well as for the top five smaller clubs.

“Our aim is to make the tour accessible for everyone, so we have varying shorter distances for all the other racing categories in the four-day event.
“There’s something for the whole family, including a 50 plus and U/16 category. There are no cut-off times – you simply have to complete every stage in your own time in order to continue.”
Enter before August 1 on www.cyclelab.com. Late entries will also be accepted at the start venue the day before the race.

For more info, mail Hendrik on hpwagener@vodamail.co.za or phone him on 082 741 1514.

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