Johannesburg – Herman Fouche says he is confident he will successfully defend his title at the Cape Argus cycle race on Sunday.
The team Bonitas rider won last year's timed event in two hours, 39 minutes and 53 seconds (2:39:53) ahead of Tyler Day and Christoff van Heerden who finished second and third respectively.
Tour de France stage winner Robert Hunter is the only rider in 21 years to successfully defend the Argus title, with back-to-back wins in 2007 and 2008.
Fouche said he was geared up for victory despite the pressure that comes with such a big event.
“There's a lot of pressure on my shoulders to defend the title, but I'm confident I can win the race again this year,” Fouche said this week.
“I feel confident with the team behind me. We have a strong team and I believe we will do well.”
Last month, Fouche finished first in the 116km Dischem Ride for Sight Classic in his home town Boksburg and has enjoyed good form in the first quarter of the 2014 season.
However, he picked up an injury in a crash at the Carnival City Macsteel event in Brakpan last weekend and hoped it would not affect his performance on Sunday.
“After the ride for sight, I felt very confident about my performance but, unfortunately, crashing a week later gave me a finger injury and I really hope it won't affect the way I ride.”
Over the years the Cycle Tour has attracted both high-profile athletes and recreational cyclists who tackle the 109km ride through the Cape Peninsula's most scenic roads.
Fouche rated the race as one of the toughest in the country.
“This is not an easy race to do. We have three climbs and I believe the last climb at Suikerbossie will be the toughest for me. It's my biggest fear. I managed to do fine over the last three years and hopefully I can do well again.
“I'm confident I will handle the first climb at Hospital Hill very well.”
Fouche said he faced the challenge of fighting off Day and in-form Nolan Hoffman who will spearhead the Team Abantu charge.
Hoffman has been phenomenal on the local road circuit this year. Last month, he outsprinted a small lead group in the finishing straight to win his third Herald Cycle Classic title over the same distance as the Argus.
He is fresh from competing at the UCI Track World Championships in Cali, Colombia, where he finished a credible fifth place in the 15km Scratch Race.
Day, who won the Argus in 2011, got his year off to a great start winning Gauteng's traditional season opener, the Fast One race in January and finishing third in last month's Serengeti Classic Road Race.
Fouche believed both riders would be strong contenders on the day.
“I know that the Quick Step guys are sending a full team of six riders which will make it a bit difficult for us, but Europeans can't come in to this country and think they're going to win our race.
“So I have my eye on Tyler Day who won in 2011 and finished second last year. He is a really good sprinter and I know he's hungry for another win.
“Hoffman is another good sprinter and he has also been doing well lately.”
The Elite men's race starts at 6:15am on Sunday while the women's race starts at 6:24am. – Sapa