With the announcement that Robert Hunter (Team Garmin-Sharp) will represent the South African National Team during the UCI-sanctioned Mzansi Tour by Cathsseta (17-21 April), the proverbial cat was set loose among the pigeons.
The former Tour de France stage winner made it clear that he does not consider his participation in the Mzansi Tour as a cycling holiday or a five-day training session, stating that if it was just about the training he would not have participated
Due to the current poor weather conditions in Europe Hunter came to South Africa to spend some intense training on the bike and saw the Mzansi tour as the ideal opportunity to prepare for the Giro d’Italia (4th -26th of May) and in the fashion all true Hunter fans have come to love will be racing to win…
“I will definitely do my utmost to win at least one stage.’’
Hunter could well turn out to be the rider to beat in the Mzansi Tour, when he was riding the Tour de France (2007) there were times when he proved to be a very capable climber who was also able to keep his cool and do the right thing at the right time when it came to sprints to the line
Hunter stated that ‘winning overall will be tough, because some of the stages present quite a challenge.’
The determining factor will be whether his teammates will prove to be strong enough to help protect the coveted yellow leader’s jersey if Hunter should be wearing it, in cycling any rider is only as good as his teammates.
If Hunter should win the Mzansi Tour overall the international points gained in the National Team will count towards bettering South Africa’s ranking on the UCI Africa Tour.
Hunter hopes that, during the tour, he will be able to help his younger teammates to understand what it takes to be a true professional rider.
“I enjoy working with the younger riders and giving them some advice. There is no reason why they need to make the same mistakes that I had made when I started out.”
Hunter is irrefutably one of the true cycling legends of South Africa.
Because of his ‘never say die’ approach to cycling, Hunter’s name has become synonymous with cycling firsts in the history of South African sports over the past 15 years.
Some of the major highlights in Hunter’s career so far, were winning stages in the Vuelta a España (1999 and 2001), a stage in the Tour de France (2007), winning the Tour of Qatar (2004) overall and winning the sprint classification at the Tour de Suisse (2004).
He can also boast with countless other good results in major international races, but they are too many to mention here.
When Hunter and Garmin-Sharp won the team trial at the Giro d’Italia in 2012, Hunter became the first South African rider who was able to win stages in all three of the major tours.
He was also the first rider to wear the South African champion’s jersey during the Tour de France. Hunter himself considers his victory at the 2012 South African Road Championship in Mpumalanga as very special.
It is a well-known fact that European cycling is not for “sissies”, therefore fifteen years of riding for some of the world’s best teams, is a very long time. What is it that drives Hunter to keep going?
“I have a true passion for cycling. I really enjoy being a professional cyclist and at the moment I cannot see myself doing anything else,” is Hunter’s reaction.
According to the 35-year-old, he hopes to be good enough to race internationally for at least another four seasons.
Hunter’s most important goal is to compete in the Tour de France again.
Even though his main role nowadays is to make sure that his teammate, Tyler Farrar, is in a favourable position to contest the hectic sprint to the line, Hunter’s hunger to win has not diminished at all.
“I am sure that there will still be one or two opportunities for me to race to win and when that occurs, I will certainly make the most of it.”
It is with this resume that the announcement of Robert Hunter (Team Garmin-Sharp) competing in the Mzansi Tour caused quite the stir with the cyclists aiming to claim the first overall win of the Mzansi Tour
Stage one, April 17: 163km. Kruger Gate, Kruger Park to Nelspruit
Stage two, April 18. 184km. Lydenburg to Middelburg
Stage three, April 19: 144km. Witbank to Mamelodi
Stage four, April 20: 163km. Hartebeespoort to Pretoria Union Buildings, via Tom Jenkins Drive.
Stage five April 21: 117km. Monte Casino to Monte Casino
For more information on the Mzansi Tour, visit www.mzansitour.co.za or contact Jenni Green on email@example.com
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