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Mixed bag for cycling

It was a case of win some lose some for Cape cycling on Tuesday but the launch of the new Tour of SA is nevertheless set to raise the profile of the sport in the country.

The day started off with the sad news that the 2011 version of the annual Giro del Capo, scheduled to take place in the Western Cape in March had been cancelled.

But hours later there was some degree of consolation with the news that the Tour of SA will finish in the Western Cape town of Stellenbosch.

Sapa reports that Cycling South Africa (CSA) believes the new Tour of SA will not only weather the economic storm, but will raise the profile of the spor.

The inaugural race, scheduled for February 19-26, was launched in Sandton on Tuesday.

David Bellairs, chief executive of the Cape Town Cycle Tour Trust, which organised the Giro del Capo, said the new tour had made it difficult to secure funding. “It is extremely difficult to secure major sponsorship deals in a niche sport like elite cycling, especially with the announcement of another major tour of a similar classification ending a week prior to when the Giro del Capo was scheduled to take place,” he said.

Describing it as “tragic” that such a major event would not happen in 2011, CSA president Greg Till nonetheless acknowledged that it was “a reality of the economic times we live in. It’s very sad, but we have to remain positive and we have to capitalise on today’s downturn. We also believe we have the most amazing partner in [sponsor] Primedia Sport.”

Till hoped the new event would benefit the sport in the long run as part of CSA’s 10-year plan, launched as its “2020 Vision” earlier this year. “We hope this event will grow and help raise the profile of cycling in South Africa,” he said.

The inaugural Tour of SA, catering for teams of six, will start in Johannesburg.

The organisers said they had already confirmed the participation of a number of teams, including South African teams MTN Qhubeka and Team Medscheme, but were still accepting applications.

Nic White, who retired from professional cycling on a high after winning the 94.7 Cycle Challenge on Sunday, will captain a CSA Academy team in the race.

ALL THE STAGES

Stage One – Saturday 19 February (167km)
The first race day will start in Menlyn and go past the Union Buildings before heading north and turning west behind the Magaliesberg ridges west of Pretoria. The race travels west along many of the new estates in this area before going across the bridge and through the tunnel at Hartebeespoort Dam. From there we head towards the Cradle of Humankind passing Maropeng. We spend some time in the Cradle area before heading to the Fourways area for the finish.

Stage Two – Sunday 20 February (156km)
The stage will start by doing a big loop via Roodepoort, Soweto, Soccer City, and Johannesburg CBD back to Sandton where the race will join a smaller 23km local loop in the Sandton/Randburg area.  This loop will be repeated three times before the finish.

Transfer: After stage two all the riders transfer via air to Port Elizabeth. The convoy travels by car. A rest day (Monday) awaits all staff and riders after the first two stages.

Stage Three ÔÇô Tuesday 22 February (173km)
Starting at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, stage three heads towards the Addo Elephant National Park where one is sure to catch a few glimpses of wildlife (it is home to the Big Seven). From there the race returns to Port Elizabeth, where the route takes an interesting turn, with a city circuit, before finishing in Summerstrand on the beach front.

Stage Four ÔÇô Wednesday 23 February (153km)
This stage starts on the famous Bloukrans Bridge where many bungi jump enthusiasts are sure to be found. We head from there to Natures Valley and out on the climb towards the N2.Then on to Plettenberg Bay where we include a local loop before another climb out and back on the N2 passing through Knysna. At Wilderness the race leaves the N2 and heads over three passes of narrow twisty roads before finishing in George.

Stage Five ÔÇô Thursday 24 February (210km)
The stage starts in Oudtshoorn and heads on to the famous Route 62 passing Calitzdorp, Ladismith, Barrydale and Suurbraak before finishing in Swellendam. This should be a day for the sprinters.

Stage Six – Friday 25 February (180km)
The penultimate stage starts in Hermanus and winds its way through Gordons Bay over Sir Lowry’s Pass into Grabouw. Another small pass awaits cyclists just outside Grabouw before turning left at the Threewaterskloof Dam and up Franschhoek pass. A speedy descent follows. After passing through Franschhoek the race will head over Helshoogte Pass onto the finish in Stellenbosch.

Stage Seven ÔÇô Saturday 26 February (103km)
The final stage of the tour starts and finishes in Stellenbosch and comprises a number of loops including some of the city centre, much like the traditional last stage of the Tour de France. This promises to be a festive atmosphere as cyclists will be passing the finish many times, creating much excitement and lots of action.


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