Wesley Botton
Chief sports writer
1 minute read
8 Apr 2014
11:00 am

Meintjies looks to take Qhubeka all the way

Wesley Botton

National champion Louis Meintjies will lead a strong MTN-Qhubeka outfit today as Africa's only pro-continental team makes its first appearance in a stage race at home since acquiring their elevated status last season.

Bicycle stock image courtesy Stock.xchnge

Meintjies, the silver medallist in the men’s Under-23 road race at the World Championships last year, will spearhead the squad in the five-day Mzansi Tour, which starts with the team time trial in Emmarentia today.

The MTN-Qhubeka line-up also includes former SA time trial champion Jacques Janse van Rensburg, nine-time African Championships gold medallist Daniel Teklehaimanot, fellow Eritrean

Merhawi Kudus, Algerian rider Youcef Reguigui and Spaniard Sergio Pardilla, who is returning from injury.

“In every race we participate in we attempt to put the best riders forward to meet the demands of the race,” team principal Douglas Ryder said in a statement.

“We have a really balanced team of youth and experience coming to the Mzansi Tour and our intention is to race hard and try and win.”

The SA national team – captained by Carl Pasio and backed by Ryan Felgate, Emile Jacobs, Morne van Niekerk, Wesley Eslickand and Chris Jooste – will line up as underdogs in the UCI category 2.2 event, racing as a national outfit for the first time.

“The idea is to be very aggressive on the stages, as we want to hold one of the jerseys,” team manager Owen Botha said after the team was announced.

Half of the 16 squads in the race are local and the other half are international trade outfits.

Dylan Girdlestone, who won the Tour of Rwanda in November, will lead the Bonitas Pro Cycling team, while fellow South African Willie Smit, winner of last year’s 94.7 Cycle Challenge, will ride for Japan-based Italian outfit Vini Fantini-Nippo.

Cape Argus Cycle Tour title holder Nolan Hoffman spearheads Team Abantu, and Frenchman Julien Antomarchi, who was second in last year’s race, returns for French outfit La Pomme Marseille.