RoadCover rider Willie Smit will target the individual time-trial when he defends his title in the three-day Bestmed Jock Tour which gets underway in Nelspruit, Mpumalanga, on Friday.
The 23-year-old Nelspruit rider had his preparations for one of South Africa’s toughest road stage races disrupted when he was injured in a crash in the Tour de Bretagne in France in April.
Smit started the year on a high when he won the Mpumalanga Cycle Tour in January, but admitted it had been “up and down” since then.
“I definitely do not have the form I had due to my injury, which has put me quite far back.”
He said had focused on endurance during his training sessions, with rehabilitation being his main aim following his accident, in which he broke a collarbone and tore shoulder muscles and ligaments.
“Winning the Jock Tour overall this year would be a bonus as my recovery process has been quite tough and I have been pressed for time.”
He said success in Friday’s 27km time-trial, which is presented by Rudy Project, was important to him due to his limited preparations.
“It is known as the race of truth,” he said. “There are no tactics involved. It is just you and your bike against the clock.”
With intimate knowledge of the cycling conditions in the Nelspruit region, Smit knows the Jock Tour will be a tough challenge for the riders.
“The Jock is one of the most mountainous races in the country so there is great status attached to winning this event. It also always reveals new talent.”
Once the time-trial, which is mostly uphill between Nelspruit and the mountain town of Kaapsehoop, is completed the riders face two lengthy stages.
The second stage, which starts and finishes in Nelspruit, is over 140km and includes climbing tests such as Spitskop and Long Tom Pass.
The final day of 138km, via Kaapmuiden and Barberton, features 3 100m of vertical ascent and will ensure a tough finish to the tour.
The one-day Bestmed Jock Classique, which consists of three stages totalling 154km, takes place on Saturday alongside the feature event.