Even though they were issued their new kit barely a week ago, Team Bonitas’ Malcolm Lange is already eyeing a new outfit – the coveted national champion’s jersey.
The team, which announced their new sponsor in Johannesburg last week, are in Port Elizabeth with the rest of the country’s professional teams for an assault on the elite men’s titles at the South African Road Cycling Championships on Saturday and The Herald VW Cycle Tour national classic the following day.
“Sure, there is a bit of pressure to perform immediately,” said Lange, the team’s most illustrious rider and owner. “But when is there not?”
He said they proved over the last two seasons that they could handle the weight of expectation. “We’ve been the most successful South African team over this period – including some good international victories.”
Even after losing ace sprinter Arran Brown to MTN-Qhubeka and signing four youngsters, Lange said the core of the team remained the same. “I believe we have the depth to continue being a force in top races like the SAs and Herald.”
The 37-year-old admitted that the onus would be on him to finish off races for the team, but believed he could still do the job despite having to commit time and energy to the management role.
“Fortunately we have a rider like Tyler Day waiting in the wings, so hopefully I wouldn’t have to do this for too much longer.” Day showed his
inherent speed with a podium finish in last year’s MTN Amashovashova national classic.
“Tyler is still young – it will take him a bit more time to get up to where he should be. Medical tests show that his ‘numbers’ are where they should be, now it’s just a question of getting the mind to believe it.”
Lange, who won the last of his three national titles in Bloemfontein in 2008, said the word was that the SAs were being held on a strongman’s
circuit and “we have quite a few of them on the team”.
However, he wouldn’t be drawn into revealing names. “Now that wouldn’t be a good tactical move from me,” he laughed. “Let me put it this way – the team as a whole is ready for the challenge.”
Lange said the 182km race would be an “elimination process”. “You don’t need much of a hill to destroy the bunch on a 10-lap circuit and there are plenty.”
Outside of his team, Lange saw riders like MTN-Qhubeka’s Reinhardt
Janse van Rensburg, DCM’s Ian McLeod and the United States-based Jay Thomson as dark horses.
He said reigning champion Christoff van Heerden, who competed in last week’s Tour de Langkawi in Malaysia for MTN, might fare well given his preparation. He also did not rule out mountain bike specialists and Team 360Life colleagues David George and Kevin Evans.
“It’s going to be a good SAs. It’s a very tricky race to get right.”
But the nationals are just the first part of the assignment, according to Lange. “We’ll shift our attention to The Herald once this race is done and dusted.
“It is one of the most import races on the calendar and it will be tough coming straight after such a long race. We’ll approach it like any other – albeit with sore legs.”