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Classic ready to roll

South Africa’s second oldest national cycling classic, The Herald VW Cycle Tour, kicked up a gear on Thursday.

The official launch in Port Elizabeth saw long-time sponsor Volkswagen Group South Africa reaffirming its support at the official launch in Port Elizabeth on Thursday.

The 26th edition of The Herald VW Cycle Tour ÔÇô which comprises the 105-kilometre feature event, several supporting races and a mountain bike challenge in and around the Addo Elephant National Park ÔÇô will take place on 5-6 February next year. According to race director Shane Bradfield, the event, which boasts a prize purse of R100 000, will be one of 14 national seeding races for the Cape Argus Pick n Pay Cycle Tour.

Speaking at the launch, Volkswagen Group South Africa general manager of communications Bill Stephens said it was a superb event for Nelson Mandela Bay. ÔÇ£We’re once again proud to be an official partner. Our aim is to make this an event that people look forward to on the national cycling calendar.ÔÇØ

Apart from a financial contribution, the vehicle manufacturer has sponsored a brand new Polo Vivo, valued at R104 000, as a lucky draw prize. The Volkswagen group and one of its official dealers, Tavcor Volkswagen, will also supply race organisers with 30 lead and support vehicles.

Bradfield said it was an exciting time for cycling in the Eastern Cape. He said the South African Road Cycling Championships were provisionally scheduled to take place in PE in the week leading up to the tour, with the recently launched Tour of South Africa visiting two weeks later.

In addition, said Bradfield, the South African Masters’ Games would take place in the city at the end of April.

Pro Tour cyclist John-Lee Augustyn, who grew up in the Friendly City but now resides in Italy, was also present at the launch. Although his European racing commitments for Team Sky will prevent him from taking part, Augustyn said the race had a special place in his heart. ÔÇ£The route is incredibly scenic with a good mix of hills and flats. It doesn’t really assist climbers like myself and often ends in a bunch sprint.ÔÇØ

Augustyn, who managed a fourth-place finish in 2004 after a failed late attack, said the winning rider would have to be tactically clever. ÔÇ£It’s a race that’s won in the last five kilometres.

ÔÇ£Of course, in PE the wind is always a major factor. An easterly can keep the race together while the westerly usually blows it apart ÔÇô so the favourites need to be attentive.ÔÇØ

Bradfield said the race, which gives local riders an opportunity to test themselves against the top professionals in the country, would feature two sprint and two King of the Mountains primes.

Former multiple winners include Team Medscheme’s Malcolm Lange, who won the Cape Argus this year, and Nicholas White, who prevailed in the Momentum 94.7 Cycle Challenge last month.

The race starts and finishes at Hobie Beach in front of the Boardwalk Casino & Entertainment World, where the pre-event expo and registration also take place.