While RoadCover’s defending champion Willie Smit, who won the Mpumalanga Tour this year, looms as a strong contender in his home race, ProTouch’s Nel said he was looking forward to one of the country’s most gruelling tours.
“The Jock Tour is the sort of race we don’t often have because it’s a really hilly route with a time-trial included and lends itself to a specific type of rider,” said the 24-year-old ProTouch rider from Honeydew, who placed fourth in the 304km race last year.
“We don’t get a lot of opportunities to race a tour where it can be won or lost on time-trials or climbing.”
Nel said the Jock Tour provided a completely different test than the one-day Classique, which is now a supporting event.
“The Classique, which I won in 2014, is very different as it is fast-paced and everything happens so quickly and there is no room for error.
“The three-day tour on the other hand lends itself to more of a harder rider. You have to be absolutely prepared and completely focused.
“You can’t go there with only a little bit of form and think you are going to win.
“I think, personally, I’ll be happy if I can walk away with a podium position.”
Nel identified Smit as the hot favourite along with fellow locals Gawie Combrink and Nico Bell. The latter was runner-up last year and the two teamed up to win the nine-day joBerg2c mountain bike race in April.
He was confident that his preparations were on track for the Jock.
“The beginning of the year wasn’t the best. I did okay in the Mpumalanga Tour (he placed sixth) in January but overall I wasn’t where I wanted to be.
“But I have had a decent block of training and am feeling much stronger.
“The Jock carries a lot of weight in terms of how hard it is and everyone knows that if you have done well at the Jock you are a decent rider.”
Wynand de Villiers of ASG Events confirmed Nel’s view.
“We wanted to create an honest test for the country’s elite riders when we formulated the three-day race. There is simply nowhere to hide.”
He said the 27km uphill time-trial between Nelspruit and the mountain town of Kaapsehoop on the opening day would set the tone for the event.