Impey: Get SA riders in Europe!
Daryl Impey (Gallo Images)
London - South Africa's sole representative in the Olympic Games 250km road race on Saturday, Daryl Impey, has made an impassioned plea for more South African cyclists to compete in Europe.
"We have to get more cyclists into Europe to qualify," said Impey, who finished 40th behind Kazakhstan's Alexandr Vinokourov.
"As an individual in a team event, you will always have limited options."
Impey, who finished in the top ten in four of the stages in the Tour de France, was unable to race to his strengths on Saturday because of a lack of support.
"It takes a lot of money to race in Europe and it's hard for South African sponsors who understandably want local coverage," said the 27-year-old who is experiencing his best season.
"Next year, there's another South African team racing in Europe but it needs sponsors with confidence not just to get to a point, but to continue because it's about maintaining momentum.
"There's definitely the talent and a lot of new guys coming up. With the current plans for 2016, things are looking up.
"I'm pretty positive about it for the next games."
In addition to his Tour de France stage victories, Impey has enjoyed a breakthrough season with a WorldTour victory, a stage win in Slovenia, and a top-ten finish at the Giro d'Italia. The Australian-based cyclist had mixed feelings on Saturday's performance.
"I was disappointed it didn't come together, because it's different sprinting for the medal to sprinting for a 30th or 40th place," said Impey, who considers the Olympics the pinnacle event.
"I'd really have liked to have had the chance to go for a medal but, as an individual, I couldn't expect more.
"This is as good as it gets - to be an Olympian, to be here not everyone gets this opportunity.
"I always knew that if I took it a bit easier in the final week of the tour, I could have legs for the Olympics".
After a three week recovery period, Impey heads for Hamburg, then will use races in France and Canada to build for the World Championships in Limburg, in the Netherlands, in September.