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Daryl’s our first cyclist in Games action for Team SA

By Mark Etheridge

Hard on the heels of his debut Tour de France, our Daryl Impey will get Team South Africa’s 2012 Olympic cycling campaign on the road on Saturday.

Impey ended a creditable 111th in the world’s epic road race and now lines up for the men’s 240 kilometre road race at The Mall in London.

The women’s race, where we have a team of three in the mix, will be raced over 140km on Sunday

And team manager Barry Austin had a quiet energy about him as he looked down the road at their chances. “Daryl’s looking very good, his mind is right and he’s surprisingly well recovered from the Tour. He and the GreenEdge guys have been staying out east on the route of the race so he knows it like the back of his hand now.”

Twenty-seven-year-old Impey, at top 10 finisher in the Giro d’Italia this year,┬á is man alone on Saturday as South Africa only qualified one spot for the men’s race. As a result he has no-one to fall back on unlike some of the bigger nations who qualified four riders.

“He’s going to have to ride off the big nations,” said Austin. “He’ll wait for them to break it up and will have to carefully read what the dominating nations do.

“The best case scenario for him will be a couple of fast guys left in the mix but without any teammates. That would suit him best.”

The course for Saturday’s race features the feared Box Hill, something that the men will have to tackle nine times during the race. “If I had to compare it to a climb in South Africa I’d say it’s much like Chapman’s Peak in Cape Town and is about 3km long.”

And Austin says the course will suit Impey. “During the Tour de France the days that featured stages most similar to the Olympic route saw Daryl producing his best finishes so that is very encouraging for us.”

Impey lists his favourite movie as The Hangover … should he pull a medal out of the bag on Saturday he’ll have an Olympic sized hangover!

When it comes to the women’s races our chances are increased three-fold simply because we have three spots, something South Africa has never managed before and testimony to the improvement of our women’s cycling.

The trio is made up of Ashleigh Moolman Pasio, Jo van de Winkel and Robyn de Groot and all three spent lengthy periods in Europe to firstly build up UCI points to secure the slots and then to become race-hard.

“Big difference to previous Olympics is that we were never really in with a chance of a medal. This time we have a platform from which to work.”

But Austin says it’s going to be brutal out there. “If we want to medal we have to sacrifice two riders for the sake of that medal.”

That could be any two riders but after her superb European season Moolman Pasio is the obvious candidate in with a medal chance.

“She can’t do it on her own though and Jo and Robyn will be looking after her. Ideally when they’re 100km into the race she shouldn’t have had to chase any moves,” said Austin.

“And when it comes down to that last 1km we should have one fresh rider in the mix.”

The women’s field is only 67 strong and, says Austin: “that suits our girls because they’re all comfortable in a group like that”

Of the women’s teams, five nations qualified a full complement of four riders and eight (including South Africa) had three. The rest of the field all have one rider per nation.

Summing up, Austin said: “I told them there are only two types of riders in this race ÔÇô medallists and Olympians. You make the top three, you’re a medallist. Whether you finish fourth or stone last you’re an Olympian.”

Hopefully after Sunday’s saga, Team South Africa will boast someone from that first category…


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