South African Cycling
Free State hub for Mzanzi tour
Johannesburg - The Free State will be the hub of the five-stage 2014 Mzansi Tour from April 8 to 12, cycling race's organisers said on Tuesday.
"Taking the race to the Free State was the right thing to do logistically, it's a beautiful part of South Africa," Malcolm Lange said.
"It was an obvious choice for us. It's not too far for people who would like to get from Johannesburg to watch the race."
In its second year running, the tour will begin with a team time trial prologue around Emmarentia Dam and the Botanical Gardens in Johannesburg.
The second stage, starting in Clarens, will head up to Bethlehem, Kestell and Phuthaditjhaba, culminating in the first mountain-top finish inside the Golden Gate reserve.
Stage three starts in Bethlehem, and makes its way to Vanderbijlpark, a total distance of 200km.
The final stage was kept as a surprise and would be revealed later.
Lange, who conceptualised the 2.2 UCI rated tour, said he believed 70 percent of the route would favour sprinters.
"The sprinters have a chance in the first and the long third stage. The first stage is an explosive event. It's 5.5km, it's a team time trial and people get to see how the team works together, because they take the winning time of the fourth rider across.
"The second stage is a mountain-top finish and I don't see a sprinter winning that one, unless a breakaway goes."
Seven South African teams form part of the top line-up, which features both international and local teams.
Lange believed MTN Qhubeka -- Africa's first ever UCI registered professional continental cycling team -- were the firm favourites for the title held by Robert Hunter.
"With the teams that are coming in, I think MTN Qhubeka have a greater chance of claiming general classification (GC), they are a big set-up and I believe they are the contenders to take overall GC," Lange said.
"Out of the local teams, there are a couple of dark horses, Dylan Girdlestone is a great tour rider, Chris Jennings as well, in the sprints Nolan Hoffman has been electric this year and he was good last year.
"Every team has a chance to get something in every stage and I think it's open to all teams."