Tour Durban Preview: Changing of the guard likely in today’s event

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The 2014 edition of the aQuellé Tour Durban on Monday looks set to see a changing of the guard amongst the 105km road race’s elite men and women as the iconic event celebrates its 21st anniversary.

Triple title winner Nolan Hoffman, whose Team Abantu has ruled the roost with an iron fist since team manager Dean Edwards won the race in 2011, is back on the startline but it seems that the defending champion might be opting to play an unusual supporting role during this year’s race.

After a gruelling 14-month season without a break, Hoffman is being carefully managed after the Msanzi Tour as he has commitments to the SA Track Championships in Durban in 10 days’ time and longer term dreams to perform well at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland later in the year.

Edwards confirmed that Hoffman will be happy to play whatever role is asked of him during the race.

“He is the ultimate professional,” said Edwards. “Most importantly the team wants to win this race again and Nolan supports that notion entirely.”

Edwards said that he and the riders would make calls on the day depending on how the race plays itself out and how each of the riders was feeling, but hinted that they were planning to hand over the aQuellé Tour Durban crown to up-and-coming sprinter Reynard Butler.

“Reynard is such an asset to have on the road,” said Edwards. “We have Nolan as a tried and tested performer who has won here often, but if circumstances dictate then we might try to take Reynard to the line.

Edwards said the make-up of the field this year meant that a concerted breakaway, which rarely succeeds at the aQuellé Tour Durban, might be a genuine threat.

“A break might run this year,” said Edwards. “In which case we have to be there to go with it.”

While the Team Abantu riders will be looking forward to the race given their long dominance of the event, their arch rivals Team Bonitas will also arrive in Durban buoyed by their successes at the recent Mzansi Tour, and with sprinter Herman Fouche hungry to step onto the top step of the podium.

Fouche has had to settle for the bridesmaid role behind Hoffman for the last two editions of the race, but after two solid stage wins on the Mzansi Tour the Bonitas squad will be itching to prove a point on Monday.

They will be without two key riders in Dylan Girdlestone and Jayde Julius, both of whom are committed to riding in France, and will take on the challenge of dethroning Team Abantu with five riders at their disposal.

Serious pressure will also come from Team Europcar, while the seasoned local pros in brothers Dusty and Tyler Day have the advantage of extensive local knowledge and hometown support, although their names had not surfaced on the entry list by the closing of normal entries earlier this week.

With double champion Lynette Burger not contesting the 2014 edition of the women’s race as she is three weeks away from the arrival of her first child, the women’s race is also poised to herald in a new generation of elite stars.

The strongest threat looks to come from Johann Wykert’s newly constituted Time Freight VELOLife squad, spearheaded by experienced Lise Olivier.

The team philosophy of gaining experience and having fun while they are out riding includes factoring in their skilled mountain bikers to serve the team’s needs on the road races, and they come into the 105km title decider sporting support for road stalwarts like Olivier and Annemie Kruger from Candice Neethling, Ashleigh Moffatt and Alexandra Mapstone.

Two and a half hours after the 6:30am start of the 105km road race, a large field of mountain bikers will set off north from the Moses Mabhida stadium for the 55km cyclo-cross race. While not a cyclo-cross race in the classic sense, the race is a unique combination of 40km of fast tar racing and three off-road loops that require core MTB skills.

With last year’s champion Rourke Croeser (Kargo Pro MTB) not available to defend his title, former aQuellé Tour Durban MTB race triple champion Andrew Hill (TIB Insurance) will start the race with his tail up and eager to claim a maiden cyclo-cross race scalp.

Another massive field of social riders will start the 40km fun ride from Moses Mabhida stadium to uMdloti and back at 9:15am, just behind the small dedicated field of hand-cyclists and wheelchair participants, including popular former Sharks winger Cedric Mkhize, who will be starting his third aQuellé Tour Durban.

Also in the field will be East Coast Radio deejays Damon Beard and Darren Maule, riding against each other with the support of former Springbok and Sharks legends Stefan Terblanche and Jeremy Thompson.

The race will once again enjoy full road closure to guarantee the safety of every rider taking part, with the race organisers working closely with the Metro Police staff to reopening each section of the course once the last rider has cleared that sector of the race.

Please note the following road closures will be in force on race day:
Masabalala Yengwa (NMR Avenue) 05h30 – 14h30
Margaret Mncadi Avenue 05h30 – 08h00
M4 South 05h30 – 08h30
M7 Edwin Swales & M19 to Pinetown 06h00 – 09h30
M19 Pinetown to Umgeni Road 06h15 – 10h00
Inanda Road (Springfield Park) 06h30 – 10h15
Riverside Road 06h30 – 10h30
M4 North both sides 05h30 – 14h30

Race start times:
105km road race: 06h30
55km cyclocross: 09h00
45km road race: 09h15

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