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Lange: Experience is key

Team Bonitas will head into the inaugural Cell C Tour of South Africa on Saturday with a sensibly selected team that’s anchored by the squad’s most experienced riders.

Team captain Malcolm Lange, now in his 21st year of top-flight racing, has only included one new rider in the six-man team for the eight-day, seven-stage tour that’s essentially a modern version of the old Rapport Tour.

Tyler Day, the 21-year-old sprint ace that’s impressed already in his first six weeks with Team Bonitas, is the only fresh face on the tour team, which includes Neil MacDonald, Waylon Woolcock, Johann Rabie, Hanco Kachelfhoffer and Lange.

The five experienced riders have 46 years of combined professional racing experience between them ÔÇô possibly more than any other team in the international race, which comprises 19 teams from 14 countries.

ÔÇ£With an important stage race like this, we want to make as big an impact as possible, which is why I chose largely experienced riders,ÔÇØ confirmed Lange. ÔÇ£Tyler is in good form and I believe it’s important for him to learn about how hard tour racing can be. We could even have a stage winner in him because he’s a really fast sprinter.ÔÇØ

In MacDonald and Woolcock, Team Bonitas has two riders that have won international stage races before. MacDonald won the Tour of the South China Seas in 1999 and Woolcock won the Tour of Egypt in 2007. This kind of experience will be valuable as stage racing is cricket’s equivalent of a five-day test match, where planning and tact become essential elements of success.

At 33, MacDonald has lost the sharpness in his once snappy sprint, but has gained the ability to tough it out over long distances and help marshal a team tactically to ensure an advantage is maintained when it matters most. He’s always a danger man to rival teams, is currently in good form and could well be a key factor in the team’s performance.

Woolcock is a former winner of the Jock Tour, for much of the past decade South Africa’s toughest one-day race. What this proves is that he thrives on challenging routes, an element lacking in domestic races, which are dominated by more gentle routes aimed at the mass participant market. He’ll be in his element on the Tour of SA, especially on the mountainous stages four, five and six in the Western Cape.

But it’s in Rabie and Kachelhoffer where Team Bonitas’ hopes of a high overall finish lie. Both riders have international racing experience, both are strong allrounders and both are in peak form currently. Kachelhoffer won the Tour de Boland in 2010 and has been a podium contender in the Giro del Capo, which for the past 10 years, has been South Africa’s premier stage race.

Rabie, who competed at the Commonwealth Games in India last year, has been competing with distinction in stage races since 2007 when he won the Tour de Reunion as a 19-year-old. But with a shortage of stage-racing opportunities in South Africa, he’s been unable to explore his true potential. The Tour of South Africa should be just the springboard he needs. Both Rabie and Kachelhoffer could also find themselves contention for the King of the Mountains title.

ÔÇ£The climbs aren’t really that long, mostly short and steep, which means it will be a strong rider that wins this tour, not a pure climber,ÔÇØ observed Lange. ÔÇ£That’s why I haven’t chosen any pure climbers.ÔÇØ

As sprinters, Lange and Day will be seeking success in the less mountainous stages one, two, three and seven. Day is proving to be confident in large bunch finishes, while Lange is more effective in small groups, giving Team Bonitas ample ammunition for the stage finishes and possibly the Points Jersey competition.

ÔÇ£I expect the first two days will be frenetic as teams all fight for an advantage. We plan to have a Bonitas rider in every move and hope to be in contention for stage wins. It’s hard to have a firm strategy with a brand new race, but we plan to race proactively and make a positive statement,ÔÇØ said Lange.

The 2011 Tour of South Africa covers three provinces (Gauteng, Eastern Cape and Western Cape) as it makes its way from Pretoria to Paarl for an accumulated distance of 1066km. There is daily TV coverage on SuperSport with Stages one, two and seven being flighted live.

Saturday’s 154km Stage 1 starts at Menlyn Park in Pretoria and finishes at Montecasino in Fourways after passing through the Cradle of Humankind. Sunday’s 163km second stage starts and finishes at Montecasino and passes through Soweto.


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