Willie Smit‘s determination and perseverance came to fruition when it was announced he had signed a deal with Katusha Alpecin today.
The Swiss team broke the news that the UCI Africa Tour leader would join their ranks for the 2018 season.
Smit, who is the first African rider to sign for the team, said the deal was great reward after he had spent much of the season racing overseas.
“I started the season with two medals in the SA National Road Championships (road and time-trial) and a gold medal in the African Continental Road Championships, too,” he said.
“I was very happy and I thought that it would open up an opportunity in professional cycling, but it didn’t happen. I decided that if professional cycling doesn’t ring at my doorbell, I had to ring it myself by travelling to Europe and showing my potential.”
The 24-year-old made his own way to Europe, where he soon made his mark by winning Vuelta a Segovia and Vuelta Ciclista a León.
He then returned to African soil, where he won the Tour of Ethiopia after he raced to victory on the fifth and final stage. He also secured his third Clover Tour title in August.
His determination and persistence paid off as he caught the eye of Katusha Alpecin’s general manager José Azevedo.
“What impressed me most, even more than his results, is his desire to reach the top,” he said.
“He invested a lot in his sport and paid all his travel expenses himself. I like his professional attitude.”