When national team manager Peter-Lee Jefferies jetted off to Eritrea yesterday his objective was to make his young charges believe they are capable of winning on the international stage.
“I’m a rider myself, so it helps being able to relate to the riders, to understand the stresses and strains that go with high-level competition,” said the 34-year-old from Hillcrest in KwaZulu-Natal.
“Hopefully this goes a long way in guiding the team towards the best possible results.”
Jefferies, a former national rider himself, and his team of six departed for the north-eastern African country where they will start off their campaign at the Fenkil Northern Red Sea Challenge on Friday.
Thereafter, they will head to the Massawa Circuit event on April 16 before taking to the start of the five-day Tour of Eritrea two days later. Their tour will conclude with the Asmara Circuit race on April 23.
It is the third time that Jefferies is managing the national team after also being appointed for the Tour of Ethiopia and Tour du Rwanda last season.
In the build-up to Eritrea, he reflected on where his “career” as a manager started.
He was involved with the Omega team – which included Gary Beneke, Martin Saunders, Rupert Rheeder and an up-and-coming Waylon Woolcock – at the Giro del Capo as a youngster and, at the age of 18, became the youngest South African to receive a manager’s licence.
The former professional joked that his cycling career had not been nearly as successful as he had hoped.
“I think my most memorable ride was when I went 120km at the Circuito Montañés (in Spain) in 2010 with a broken collarbone for the national team.
“It was the first time I’d put on the national jersey and I didn’t want to leave the tour on my debut.”
Despite his best intentions, Jefferies was unable to complete the next day’s stage.
“I still compete these days and naturally I still go to every race with the highest expectations,” he said.
Jefferies said his racing helped him to stay in tune with the riders on the pro circuit and he used it as a way of gauging how well some of them were performing ahead of international competition.