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Rabie aims high

After finishing second at both the Cell C Tour of South and the Le Coq Sportif Tour de Boland in the past few weeks, Team Bonitas stage race specialist, Johann Rabie, has set his sights on victory at the Tour of Morocco, which starts in the coastal city of El Jadida on Friday.

The 24-year-old Rabie, who raced for Team SA at last year’s Commonwealth Games in India, has shown impressive consistency this year, but he’s not satisfied with just being consistent and is hungry for a win. ÔÇ£I’m pleased with my form. Racing the Tour of South Africa and Tour de Boland was good preparation for the Tour of Morocco,ÔÇØ said Rabie. ÔÇ£I would obviously love to win an international stage race this year, but there are a lot of factors that need to be in place.

ÔÇ£I have a talented, supportive team, which is the most important thing. Now it’s just a matter of getting out there doing our best in a race that’s sure to have many unknown factors. It’s going to be a good challenge,ÔÇØ said Rabie.

The 10-day race holds a 2.2 rating from the International Cycling Union, which confirms it meets certain criteria such as prizemoney, international appeal and course difficulty. And it’s the course difficulty and conditions that make this one of the toughest races in Africa.

ÔÇ£It’s a tough tour. You basically race mostly in a desert where there is little in the way of shelter from wind and sun and the mountain stages, through the Atlas mountains, have some really tough climbs,ÔÇØ recalled Malcolm Lange, the Team Bonitas owner, who has ridden the race twice and won a total of six stages and a Points Jersey.

The total distance is 1554km, which makes the average daily distance 155.4km with no rest days. The race heads southwest along the coast for the first three days. It then transfers inland to five stages crisscrossing the Atlas Mountains before the final two stages take the race back to the coast and the finish in Casablanca.

ÔÇ£If the conditions don’t get to you, the competition will. There are usually two or three Moroccan teams that normally combine, a sprinkling of Eastern Europeans, who are hard as nails, and some European teams, who don’t have to travel far to get to Morocco,ÔÇØ explained Lange, who confirmed that Rabie will be ably supported in his quest for the title.

ÔÇ£Hanco Kachelhoffer and Waylon Woolcock will be riding back-up to Johann in the General Classification race. It’s such an unpredictable event that we don’t want to have all our hopes on one rider. Waylon has won a stage there before and has won the Tour of Egypt overall, so is very familiar with the North African conditions.ÔÇØ

Team Bonitas will also be looking for stage wins and have sent Tyler Day, winner of the recent Cape Argus Pick n Pay Cycle Tour as their sprinter.

ÔÇ£I think Tyler can do well in the flatter stages. As we’ve seen he’s got superb speed but it’s just a matter of him being in the right place at the right time. Neil MacDonald, the team’s most experienced rider and also a former race leader at the Tour of Morocco will be on hand to offer guidance and support to Tyler.ÔÇØ

The sixth rider is Luthando Kaka, a second-year pro with Team Bonitas who is a strong climber. Kaka was one of the torchbearers in last year’s Commonwealth Baton Relay through Cape Town and along with MacDonald, he will play a support role, but both riders are capable of getting into race-changing opportunistic moves, giving the team plenty of depth.

ÔÇ£There are few better races than the Tour of Morocco that reward teamwork as much as the Tour of Morocco. There is no place for selfishness there.┬á A change in direction and a strong crosswind can make or break someone’s tour and that’s where team work becomes crucial,ÔÇØ said Lange.

This is the 24th edition of the Tour of Morocco. It was first held in 1937, to help European riders build up peak form in a warmer climate. A total of 22 teams representing 15 countries will start the race on Friday.

The stages for the 2011 race are:
Stage 1: 156km ÔÇô El JadidaÔÇôSafi
Stage 2: 130km ÔÇô SafiÔÇôEssaouira
Stage 3: 170km ÔÇô EssaouiraÔÇôAgadir
Stage 4: 170km ÔÇô Ouled BerrehilÔÇôMarrakech
Stage 5: 190km ÔÇô Marrakech ÔÇô Ouarzazate
Stage 6: 168km ÔÇô OuarzazateÔÇôTinghir
Stage 7: 150km ÔÇô ImilchilÔÇôBeni Mellal
Stage 8: 120km ÔÇô Meni MellalÔÇôAzilal
Stage 9: 150km ÔÇô AzilalÔÇôKhouribga
Stage 10: 140km KhourigbaÔÇôCasablanca
TOTAL = 1554km


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