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Hoffman looks for fourth Tour Durban title and Burger Pieterse is sidelined
- Updated: April 22, 2016
The highways around Durban will come alive on Sunday morning as the big entry for the three races that make up the aQuellé Tour Durban play themselves out in what is forecasted to be superb weather conditions for road cycling.
In a region where the safety of cycling on the roads is currently a hot topic, the guaranteed road closure for the 105-kilometre road race, the 55-kilometre cyclocross race that includes a 10-kilometre leg of mountain biking single track, and the hugely popular 45km Fun Ride, all starting and finishing at the Moses Mabhida stadium, has attracted another big field of cyclists.
The prestigious 105km title will be in the sights of a number of powerful teams that will converge on the start line just after dawn on Sunday morning, sporting several big names that have a tried and tested pedigree at the aQuellé Tour Durban.
With defending champion Ryan Gibbons out of the country racing in Europe with the Dimension Data for Qhubeka Continental team, all eyes will be on three-times champion Nolan Hoffman and his Telkom Pro Cycling team mate and 2014 winner Reynard Butler as the peleton hurtles into the two sharp right hand turns on Sandile Thusi (Argyle) Road that lead into the sprint to the finish in the shadow of the arch of the Moses Mabhida stadium.
Their strongest challenge will come from the Darkhorse-Autogen team that sports stalwarts Tyler Day and Herman Fouché, and the sizeable and powerful looking RoadCover team that will in all likelihood look to take Cape Town Cycle Tour champ Clint Hendricks to the line.
The women’s race was shaken up by the withdrawal of Lynette Burger Pieterse a week before the race after a bizarre training ride fall that left her with a fractured bone in her left wrist and badly torn ligaments.
The Demacon star had been planning a David versus Goliath strategy to try and single-handedly derail the TimeFreight eTeam masterminded by the seasoned Lise Olivier.
Burger Pieterse, part of Team SA at the 2011 All Africa Games told Road to Rio’s Mark Etheridge the freak accident happened on a training ride with her husband. ‘I tried to unclip from the pedals at some robots, but there was a problem and I couldn’t unclip. Then I overlapped with my husband’s wheel and fell. The minute I landed on my hands that there was a problem with my left wrist.
‘It wasn’t anyone’s fault, it could have been anyone’s wheel and it was just the stupid cleat that wouldn’t come out of the pedal.
‘I’m already riding again now but am taking it very easy because it’s still very sore and I can’t go from small blade to big blade, nor can I stand.
‘The bone in the wrist is broken and the tendons are also torn so I can’t grip and am just resting my hand on the handlebars and lifting it off every time I go over a bump.
‘The doctor says I’ll be out for four weeks maximum so it’s not a trainsmash. I’m training for Kremetart and Knysna races and those are only in June and July.’
Burger-Pieterse’s withdrawal has left the yellow jersey TimeFreight team holding all the cards in the small seeded women’s batch and with explosive sprinter Vera Adrian waiting in the wings ready to be taken to the line, they will start as strong favourites to return the trophy that Olivier won in 2014.
The sizeable field that has entered the 105 kilometre road race will be looking forward to the fine weather forecast and to the sections that have been recently retarred, and in particular the fast descent from Pinetown to the uMngeni interchange that will quicker than ever before thanks to its recent road surface upgrade.
Once the lead peleton has set off up the M4 for the fast out-and-back leg to the turning point at Mdloti there will be a brief lull before the masses that have entered the 55 kilometre cyclocross race and the 45km Fun Ride flood the coastal freeway.
The 45km race has grown exponentially as Durbanites grasp the pleasure of cycling on excellent road surfaces under total road closure and enjoying the superb Autumn weather. The accessible and manageable outing has few major climbs and challenges, which results in a wide variety of bikes being seen in the field.
In amongst the social riders will be East Coast Radio breakfast show presenter Darren Maule and his breakfast show sports reporter Sky Tshabalala riding in support of the official race charity The Domino Foundation, as part of the stations #Heartstuff campaign.
They have invited riders and listeners to join them in the special #Heartstuff charity batch in the 45km race by registering for the batch at registration.
The riders dressed in their distinctive cow suits will once again feature in a special batch in the 45km race with stalwart of The Cows Gordon Reid once again riding the ponderous ice cream cart, with help from fellow Cows, as part of their ongoing campaign in support of the Childhood Cancer Foundation CHOC.
The 55 kilometre cyclocross race will share the same stretch of the M4 freeway to Mdloti and back that is used for the 45 kilometre Fun Ride, but will branch off for roughly ten kilometres of offroad riding for mountain bikes.
Darren Lill, whose appearance last year on a proper cyclocross bike saw him take the title, triggering plenty of debate about the suitability of road bikes and tyre set-up. The USN Purerfit athlete won’t be on the start line to defend his title, and neither will double champion Andrew Hill (TIB Insurance) who is away racing the Old Mutual joBerg2C stage race, leaving the door open for a new name to be engraved on the trophy.
Also in the field of mountain bikers will be six youngsters in the colours of the GO!Durban Cycle Academy, eager to reinforce the message that the city is serious about designing it’s bold new transport infrastructure plan around cycling as a key mode of commuting and recreation.
The aQuellé Tour Durban is unique in that all the proceeds from the event are ploughed into the Domino Foundation that helps around 8 000 boys and girls in the Amaoti area close to Verulam with a ground-breaking programme of community upliftment and lift skills education.
Picture of Hoffman in action courtesy of Zoon Cronje Photography