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SA team in Mumbai action

Team Bonitas, the 2011 follow-up of the highly successful Team Medscheme, will be the sole South African-based team competing at the Tour de Mumbai cycle race in India this week and will be up against some of the world’s big-name squads.

Team Medsheme was the most successful men’s professional road racing team in South Africa in 2009 and 2010, and as Team Bonitas, an internationally registered Continental team, has now set new goals, which include achieving international success.

Tour de Mumbai is the first international race for Team Bonitas and team owner and captain, Malcolm Lange, has predictably adopted a conservative wait-and-see approach to the event, which comprises two one-day races in different venues ÔÇô the first in Nashik on Friday, is 175km long and the second in Mumbai on Sunday, 108km long.

ÔÇ£We know the distances and that the courses don’t have a lot of big climbs, but that’s about it. Information so far has been very limited and we should get a better idea of what to expect over the next day or two,ÔÇØ said Lange shortly after arriving in India on Wednesday morning.

Team Medscheme tasted success in India in 2010 when sprinter Arran Brown won the Tour de Delhi, a test race ahead of the 2010 Commonwealth Games. But the difference between the events is vast as the Tour de Mumbai holds a UCI 1.1 rating, one of the highest ratings for one-day races, offering a generous amount of UCI rankings points.

Because of its rating and the big prize purse (over US$50 000 for the winner), the event has attracted some high profile teams from around the world, including two ProTour teams, Radio Shack and Liquigas-Cannondale. There are only 18 teams with ProTour status, cycling’s equivalent of a Premier Division in soccer.

ÔÇ£We’re up against some very strong opposition. While we like to race as proactively as possible, we may have to take on a reactive role initially,ÔÇØ said Lange. ÔÇ£We certainly won’t be a marked team which could work in our favour I suppose, if the right opportunity arises at the right time.ÔÇØ

There’ll be other South African interest in the tour in the shape of South Africa’s only Tour de France stage winner, Robert Hunter and three-time Tour de France Green Jersey winner, Robbie McEwan and they’ll lead the Radio Shack quest for success. The Liquigas-Cannondale line-up is still to be finalised, but will certainly contain some high-profile riders.

Team Bonitas comprises Hanco Kachelhoffer, Johann Rabie, Neil Macdonald, Gawie Combrink, Tyler Day and Lange. Kachelhoffer (Pick n Pay Fast One) and Day (Herald VW Cycle Tour) have each won races at home already this year boosting the team’s confidence. But the Tour de Mumbai events will be raced on a different level to the popular domestic races. Rabie was a member of Team SA at last year’s Commonwealth Games in India.

ÔÇ£A few years ago South African teams shone at international races held early in the year because most of the stronger teams are based in the northern hemisphere and would arrive low on racing form from cold winter climates. But that’s no longer the case,ÔÇØ observed Lange.

ÔÇ£The Radio Shack guys have just completed the Tour Down Under and Team Type 1, another strong American team just completed the Tour de Langkawi in Malaysia. I expect the race-conditioning levels will be generally high and a top 10 finish in one of the races will be a reasonable goal at this point.ÔÇØ

The make up of Team Bonitas in India is well balanced, with experienced riders in Kachelhoffer, Lange, Rabie and Macdonald, while youngsters Day and Combrink are new to international racing. Day and Lange are sprinters, while Kachelhoffer, Combrink and Rabie are accomplished climbers. Macdonald is an allrounder.

ÔÇ£We’re here to take our first step as a new international team. If we achieve success in the process, that will be a real bonus. If not, we’ll still gain from the experience and sharpen our racing form ahead of the upcoming Tour of South Africa,ÔÇØ said Lange.

Tour de Mumbai 2011 schedule:
ÔÇó┬á┬á ┬áFriday, 11 February: Nashik, 175km
ÔÇó┬á┬á ┬áSunday 13 February: Mumbai 108km

Team Bonitas: Malcolm Lange, Tyler Day, Neil Macdonald, Hanco Kachelhoffer, Johann Rabie, Gawie Combrink. Manager: Kandice Buys. Mechanic: Magnus Gouws.


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