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The newest race for long-distance cyclists, joining the world-famous Tour de France and others, is the Tour of South Africa.
THE inaugural Tour of South Africa, an eight-day professional cycle race, promises a twisty route around the country, taking in tourist attractions and scenic views and offering a pleasant ride.


The race passes through Soweto and other suburbs of the cityThe race passes through Soweto and other suburbs of the cityThe tour starts on Saturday, 19 February in Joburg’s northern neighbour, Tshwane, and finishes on 26 February in the winelands of Stellenbosch, in Western Cape. It is a Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) approved road race and will cater for elite and recreational cyclists. High-profile international sportsmen like Alec Lenferna, Barry Austin, Phil Liggett, Gerald de Kock, Andrew McLean and Max Cluer are expected to take part.

In all, there will be about 20 teams consisting of six riders each, 13 of whom are international riders; two invitational teams; and five local teams.

“An important aspect of our strategy is developing professional riding in South Africa and creating a spectator focused event that also allows for the promotion of South Africa. The Tour of South Africa could therefore be one of the biggest sporting events and achievements of the 2011 season,” says Barry Mocke, the chief executive of Cycling South Africa.

On the first day, the ride is 167 kilometres long, starting in Tshwane and going through the Cradle of Humankind before heading to Montecasino in Fourways. It continues the following day from Montecasino on a big loop via Roodepoort, Soweto and FNB Stadium and then the Johannesburg CBD back to the north through loops in and around Sandton, covering 156km.

The third day is for rest and transfer, with riders driven to Port Elizabeth in cars. Cycling continues on Tuesday, 22 January at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium through Addo Elephant National Park and back to Port Elizabeth, where there is a city circuit, before finishing in Summerstrand on the beachfront, 160 kilometres later.

Garden Route
Bloukrans Bridge to George along the Garden Route is on the cards for the following day, on to Natures Valley and out on the climb towards the N2, and then to Plettenberg Bay, where a local loop has been included before returning to the N2 and passing through Knysna. At Wilderness, the race leaves the N2 and heads over three narrow mountain passes before finishing in George.

The penultimate stage starts in Hermanus, a popular holiday spot on the Western Cape coast, and winds down through Gordens Bay, over Sir Lowry’s Pass into Grabouw. There is another small pass just outside the town of Grabouw before the route turns left at the Theewaterskloof Dam, going through Franschhoek to Stellenbosch. This day is a 180km route.

On the final day, the tour starts and finishes in historic Stellenbosch. It comprises a number of loops including through the town centre.

Organisers say they chose this route because it highlights South Africa’s heritage and natural beauty, and creates a tourist attraction for international and local travellers. They hope to make it “a real must-go-to event” on the global cycling calendar.

Cycling South Africa
The tour has been strategically planned to follow the Tour Down Under in Australia and before other major cycling events in Europe. It is sanctioned by the UCI and is supported by Cycling South Africa, the Department of Sport and Recreation and the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee. It is backed by Primedia Sport.

“I couldn’t be happier that there is a new major African race with growing ambition, which means our sport will really become universal soon,” notes Pat McQuaid, the president of the UCI.

Mocke says South Africa needs a high-profile tour of international stature. “The possibility of a Tour of South Africa has been a topic of discussion among cyclists and cycling enthusiasts for many years and something the professionals have wanted to see come to fruition – now it will.”

Cycling South Africa is the governing body of the sport in the country, regulating amateur and professional cycling, including road, track, mountain biking, BMX biking and para-cycling.

“I’m very sure that the quality of the event will be excellent. I am looking forward to the future where it will have a place among the greatest races of the world. All the best to the newborn Tour of South Africa. It is a milestone in our vision of a modern and worldwide developed cycling plan,” McQuaid says.

Registration for the Tour of South Africa can be done online.

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