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07 Mar 2007 09:40
So much for an international race. A strong South African contingent set the tone in the opening stage of the Cape Argus Pick ‘n Pay Giro del Capo and were the dominant force in the prologue in Paarl on Tuesday evening.
At sunrise on Tuesday, there was ample of expectation among the 150 local and international riders, but the setting of the sun behind the Paarlberg mountain brought the curtain down on many of those hoping to shine in Africa’s most prestigious stage race.
Quickest on the 5,5km stage was MTN Microsoft’s Daryl Impey (7:23,93), with Barloworld’s Robbie Hunter (7:24,34) coming in a close second.
Not even Belgian under-23 time-trial champion Dominique Cornu could catch the flying South Africans. Cornu managed a credible fifth spot, finishing in a time of 7:37,71.
In the team standings, MTN Microsoft are in the early lead with Barloworld in second and CSC Marcello in third.
However, the Giro is never won in one day and the frontrunners—Impey, Hunter, Lill and George—will have to labour ever so hard if they intend to wear the overall winner’s pink jersey on Sunday.
Hurling the cat among the pigeons is the fact that this year’s edition of the race sees no less than five former winners participating, with George and Lill among the four on the honours board.
The other two former winners are defending champion Peter Velits, who last year rode for South African outfit Konica Minolta but now rides for the German team Wiesenhof, and 2005 winner Tiaan Kannemeyer, back this time in the colours of Minolta.
Nicholas White, who won the race six years ago in 2000 while riding for HSBC, will be in familiar territory as he and his teammates could be key in handing Impey the pink jersey.
The determining factor to who will ride into Sunday’s last stage will be what happens in the outskirts of the winelands of the Western Cape, where the race will meander over the next few days.
In years gone by, George has been able to steal the race up the second-last stage, which is the steep time trial up Signal Hill.
Important at this stage to all the riders, though, will be to gain an ascendancy over other teams in Wednesday’s 128km stage-one ride in Paarl and up the treacherous Helshoogte in Stellenbosch.—Sapa
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