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Ryder targets Langkawi

It will be up to MTN-Qhubeka to defend the cycling honour of South Africa in the 2011 running of the Malaysia Tour de Langkawi (23 January to 1 February).

Since 1996, when the Tour took place for the first time, South Africa’s riders have made their presence felt. A huge highlight was when Ryan Cox won the tour overall in 2005 with Tiaan Kannemeyer in the third position overall. David George won the next year.

Last year Jay Thomson won a stage and previously, in 2002, Robbie Hunter managed to win two stages, as well as the points competition (green jersey).

Doug Ryder, MTN-Qhubeka’s team owner, is a past winner of the tour’s ‘King of the mountain’ competition. All in all he competed seven times in Malaysia with a best result of third overall.

It should, therefore, not be surprising that Ryder has a soft spot for the Tour de Langkawi. ÔÇ£I have been battling for the past five years to get an invitation to the tour and now, at long last, we are going.ÔÇØ

Christoff van Heerden, Arran Brown, Bradley Potgieter, Dennis van Niekerk, James Tennent and Dylan Girdlestone are the riders who will represent MTN-Qhubeka in Malaysia.

The challenge for Van Heerden and Brown, with the help of Potgieter, will be to pull off a stage victory. Actually, it will be interesting to see how Brown performs, because he has been one of the most consistent sprinters in the major local classics during the past two years, winning the Amashova twice and the Argus and 94.7 once each.

At the end of last year, Brown made it clear that winning 100-kilometre fun rides is not what he wants to be remembered for. This is an opportunity for him to prove that he has what it takes to take on, and beat, some of the top international sprinters.

Van Heerden might not have had the best of seasons last year, but he is certainly no slouch when it comes to sprinting to the line. Who knows, with a little bit of luck he might just pull off a major career victory.

Van Niekerk, Tennent and Girdlestone will compete for overall victory.  As usual, the climb to the top of the legendary Genting Highlands will probably be where the tour will be won or lost.  Nevertheless, the riders will make a big mistake if they underestimate the Cameron Highlands climb, just one day before Genting.

Tennent’s performance could be the big surprise. Last year he rode for the Johan Bruyneel Academy in Belgium.

The big question is why Reinardt Janse van Rensburg is not going to Malaysia. ÔÇ£I have other goals for Reinardt. He will compete in the six-day Tour of Gabon. The reason for that is twofold. The first and most important reason is that the Tour of Gabon is shorter and will give Reinardt more time to recover for the South African road championship in Port Elizabeth,ÔÇØ Ryder explained.

ÔÇ£He wants to win the SA Under-23 time trial and road race. Actually we are sending all our good time trialists to Gabon. The other reason why the Tour of Gabon is important is the fact that MTN-Qhubeka was the top cycling team in Africa last year and we want to end the year in the number one position again.┬á Actually, the better our riders do in Africa the better it is for South African cycling because we can then send more riders to the 2012 Olympic Games in London.ÔÇØ