An on-form Nolan Hoffman could have a fourth victory in his sights when The Herald VW Cycle Tour rolls out on the roads of Port Elizabeth on Sunday.
Should he win the 30th edition of the 106km Classic, the Team Abantu sprinter will equal the existing record set by Nic White.
Hoffman recorded victories in 2006, 2009 and 2014, while White opened his account in 1999 and continued with a three-year winning streak from 2001.
The current champion is showing strong early season form after winning all three of his events at the continental track championships last week.
Hoffman was also on song in his season-opening road race, the aptly named Fast One, in Gauteng this past Saturday. He narrowly lost in the finishing sprint to Team Europcar SA’s Ryan Gibbons.
“I always come out strong after some track competition,” said Hoffman.
“In terms of condition, I’m not quite where I want to be but, as far as results go, I’m up on the board now and I can only build on that.”
The 29-year-old said he was looking forward to competing in the Friendly City again.
“I just love racing on the coast and for some reason I ride well there. I know the roads inside out and where the difficult parts are.
“PE’s not really flat and the terrain is quite difficult. I think it’s going to be an interesting race again.”
As one of the bigger classics on the calendar, and an anniversary edition at that, he said the PE event was a “big pressure race” for his team.
“I would love another win.”
While Hoffman believed he had the mental and physical condition to take a fourth title, he said he would be equally happy to set one of his teammates up for the victory.
“If the team’s winning, I’m winning. It doesn’t have to be me.”
He said a hometown win for a rider such as Kellan Gouveris would add value to the young cyclist’s promising career.
Hoffman said their biggest challenge was likely to come from the Bonitas outfit, which featured the likes of 2013 Argus winner Herman Fouché.
The Lights by Linea cycling development team, which is headlined by James Tennent, could also bring something new to the mix.
Tennent finished last year on an upward trajectory with wins in the Stellenbosch Cycle Tour and, notably, the Bestmed Makro Cycle Tour in PE.
“There’s a lot of mountain bikers who stay for the road race, so you always have to look out for them as well,” said Hoffman.
“They are wily guys and strong.”
He said his personal goal for the season would be to mount a successful title defence at the Cape Town Cycle Tour.
As an official seeding event for that race, Hoffman said the PE classic was all about building his condition.
“I’m really after another Argus win, so all my energy is going into that and getting into the best shape possible.”
With a full racing calendar in February and March, Hoffman will have plenty of time in the saddle to achieve that aim.
He represents the national team at the weeklong La Tropicale Amissa Bongo road tour in Gabon in mid-February and returns in time for the Bestmed Tour de Boland in the lead-up to the Cape Town race.
“There’s a lot of competition but I’m not complaining. I prefer all the racing.”
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