Boost for SA cycling
Johannesburg - Cycling South Africa (CSA) believes the new Mzansi Tour will add value to cycling in the country.
CSA president William Newman said on Tuesday it would give riders an opportunity to score valuable International Cycling Union (UCI) points in their own country.
"This tour is fantastic for cycling in our country," Newman said at the launch of the inaugural 2.2 UCI graded Mzansi Tour.
It is the only event in South Africa ranked with the international governing body.
"A UCI point is a very important currency, as it allows us to get qualification into world champs and bigger events.
"This will make sure we get the maximum number of riders competing at the world champs and will encourage more participation in the sport."
Newman said CSA would ensure that this event remained an annual one.
The tour carries a total purse of R700 000.
It is scheduled to start in Mpumalanga and finish in Johannesburg. It runs from April 17 to 21, and a total of 13 teams have been invited, five from South Africa, four from the rest of Africa, and four from outside the continent.
The tour also marks the return of an elite road cycling event in South Africa since the demise of the Giro del Capo, the Tour of South Africa, and the Tour de Free State due to funding issues.
"With the demise of those races, there's been no consistent international high-profile stage race for our talented young racers to aim for. The Mzansi Tour will fulfil that important role," said former South African professional rider Malcolm Lange.
"We all know that cycling needs to have a tour in South Africa, we've known that for many years since it disappeared from the old days of the Rapport Tour.
"I came through that era and that created legends, and when you have legends, people aspire to be part of the sport.
"We will make sure that this tour runs each year, but yet again it comes down to funding, and if people buy into this race it can only grow."