They may be predominantly a professional mountain bike racing team, focused on becoming the first South Africans to win the Cape Epic but with the kind of road cycling stage-racing pedigree they possess, it would be foolish for Team 360Life not to have a crack at the inaugural Cell C Tour of South Africa.
The eight-day stage race starts in Pretoria on Saturday and ends in Paarl on 26 February, covering three provinces and 1 066km. It’s the kind of race that’s perfectly suited to Team 360Life’s Kevin Evans and David George.
George has been one of South Africa’s most successful stage racers over the past decade. He’s won the Western Cape-based four-day Giro del Capo a record-equalling four times and claimed the overall title at the 2006 Tour de Langkawi in Malaysia, Asia’s toughest stage race.
In 2008, Evans, a four-time South African mountain bike marathon champion, finished 19th overall at the Tour of Britain and ninth at the Tour Ireland. Last year he captured the Elite men’s South African individual time trial title, confirming his ability as a road rider.
These two riders form the core of the Team 360Life Tour of South Africa team and are joined by the following guest riders: Jay Thomson, Paul van Zweel, Shaun Nick Bester and Shaun Ward. According George, the team is going to race with high hopes, but realistic expectations.
ÔÇ£Our mission is to represent our sponsor, Nedbank’s innovative life insurance product 360Life, and take the race as it comes. We obviously have all this road stage racing experience and would like to win the Tour of South Africa, but our focus is still five weeks away with the Cape Epic,ÔÇØ said George. ÔÇ£This will obviously be a good preparation event, but we are professionals and remain focused on our initial goal.ÔÇØ
George and Evans will partner up for the Cape Epic, but the other riders on Team 360Life for the Tour of South Africa are young and hungry and will use the race as a stage to showcase their own talents.
Jay Thomson spent 2010 racing mostly in the United Stated for an international team and will return to the USA to join his new team after the Tour of SA. He’s a strong allrounder, with an above average ability to time trial, sprint and climb. He finished second in the individual time trial and sixth in the road race at the 2011 SA Championships indicating his form is excellent for Tour of SA.
Shaun Nick Bester is one of the country’s most promising rising stars. Unlike his father Nick, a former Comrades Marathon winner and endurance sport legend, Shaun Nick has stayed focused on one discipline ÔÇô road cycling. Like his dad, he’s got the ideal physiological make up for long periods of physical exertion, but probably more importantly, he has his dad’s strong mind! In 2009, he was a member of the South African Junior squad that competed in high profile European races where he excelled.
Paul van Zweel has yet to win a major title in the senior ranks. That’s not a reflection of his ability, but rather the shortage of tough races in South Africa. The Tour of South Africa presents him the perfect opportunity to show his true potential.
Shaun Ward is known for being exceptionally powerful and will play a key role in ensuring Team 360Life is well represented at the sharp end of the race, whether it’s driving a breakaway or bringing one back.
ÔÇ£It’s great to have such committed, talented young riders on the team. Kevin and I look forward to playing a mentorship role where necessary during the Tour of South Africa. Succession is very important if South Africa is to become a successful road cycling nation and it’s very pleasing for us that this race is being staged to assist our young riders in gaining the necessary experience,ÔÇØ said George.
Team 360Life for Tour of South Africa 2011: David George, Kevin Evans, Jay Thomson, Shaun Ward, Paul van Zweel, Shaun Nick Bester.
Saturday’s 154km Stage 1 starts at Menlyn Park in Pretoria and finishes at Montecasino in Fourways after passing through the Cradle of Humankind. Sunday’s 163km Stage 2 starts and finishes at Montecasino and passes through Soweto. There will be daily TV coverage on SuperSport with Stages 1, 2 and 7 being flighted live.