ProTouch, a Johannesburg-based team, are set to register a Continental team in 2019, the team announced today.
The team will kick-start this mission by funding a ProTouch-branded federation side to take part at the Tour du Rwanda, a five-stage race starting on August 5.
“The Tour du Rwanda will be a great gauge to set the target for what training and commitments are required in the 2019 season for South African riders to achieve results,” said ProTouch co-founder and sport director Tony Harding.
“The African Tours will also allow us to assist with the further development of younger riders against tough competition in sometimes harsher environments than at home.”
Registering a Continental team, Harding said, was important for the growth of SA cycling on a larger scale.
That includes getting the country back to the number one position in the UCI Africa Tour rankings. They are currently ranked fourth behind Rwanda in third, Algeria second and Eritrea first.
“Being the number one nation on the UCI Africa Tour, South Africa would then be able to qualify for additional rider entries in the World Championships, Commonwealth Games and Olympic Games. Currently we only have three,” he said.
“This would also open more doors for invitations to other UCI events.”
Harding said in time the team would not only comprise ProTouch riders, but other local riders and European-based South Africans as well.
“This, we believe, is our purpose and why we have spearheaded the Support SA Talent Project.
“We are challenging every SA rider and team to get behind this mission and invest into the Support SA Talent dream too.”
ProTouch is also set to take part in the Tour de Maurice, a non-UCI six-day event in Mauritius, starting on September 10.
Harding said the Mauritius race, despite not being UCI-rated, would play a vital role in their objective of gaining Continental status.
“It will form part of our relationship-building and sharing of ideas and it will give us the opportunity to race at tours where we can fine-tune the athletes.
“This includes their preparation, tactics and targeting aspects that are not necessarily being addressed at the one-day local events.”