Johannesburg - Top professional cycling outfit Team Bonitas are ready to defend one title and chase two more in the SA Road Race Championship in Nelspruit on Sunday.
With 2011 road race champion Darren Lill in their ranks, Team Bonitas will go into the 160km road race with a squad loaded with talented title-hungry riders.
Joining Lill in Nelspruit are Johann Rabie, Hanco Kachelhoffer, Jason Bakke, Ian McLeod, Tyler Day, Herman Fouche, Luthando Kaka and HB Kruger.
Kruger is the only Under-23 rider in the team, but since Under-23 and Elite categories are grouped together in the road race, he will be committed to helping the team defend the more prestigious Elite title.
The road race incorporates three laps of a 53.5km circuit. Its total elevation (vertical ascent) has been estimated to be over 3000 metres, but Lill believes this figure is exaggerated.
"Last year in Port Elizabeth, my GPS showed less than 1950 metres of ascent when it was said to be over 3500 metres. That wasn't a climber's course," said Lill, a noted climber.
"Sure, it had a few short, sharp ascents, but no proper climbs. I've not see it yet, but the Nelspruit course on paper seems to have even less ascent. I've believe 160km on this route is too short for a national championship. On that terrain, it should be a longer distance to make it more difficult.
"There's a danger of Bonitas, Tasol GT and MTN Qhubeka, the three main teams in the country, neutralising each other and leaving the door open for an opportunist to take the win. And with experienced, strong guys like Rob Hunter, Jay Thomson and John Lee Augustyn all back from overseas and in the mix, we have to be vigilant and positive."
The road race is the final event of the national four-day showpiece. First up on Thursday though is the 40km individual time trial, on Friday is the Team Time Trial, an event that's been off the national champs schedule for two decades.
It's a point-to-point course over 48km, starting in Kaapmuiden at an altitude of 360m and taking a gradual climb to the finish in Nelspruit at an altitude of 730m above sea level.