The Bestmed NMMU-Madibaz cycling team will look to rekindle the form that took them to overall victory three seasons ago when the varsity host the annual University Sport South Africa champs next month.
The former champions will compete against the North-West University, University of Pretoria, Stellenbosch University and Varsity College in a three-day road tour as well as a mountain bike race at various venues in Port Elizabeth from July 10 to 13.
After finishing fourth behind champions Maties last year, Madibaz Sport cycling manager Theresa le Roux said they would be looking to make it onto the podium this time around.
She said the team would focus on the road event, where their strategy would revolve around the promising Christiaan van Aardt.
"He is in good form and I feel he will be able to produce some strong results."
Le Roux said he would be supported by riders such as Reich Lategan, Alberto Wilskut, Ayanda Dlamini, Nathan le Roux, Jared Lotz, Reinhardt Scholtz and Jean-Marie Oelofse.
"The team have been on a training programme in preparation for the week and their progress has been monitored on a regular basis.
"They have also competed in various build-up races in PE, although it can be a challenge because we do not have as many as in the Western Cape and Gauteng.
"But, in our favour, is the fact that they will be familiar with the routes and accustomed to the wind, which is always a factor here," she said, adding that the USSA champs were their major goal of the season.
Le Roux said the tour would kick off with a 75km (57km for women) road stage from NMMU on the Monday morning, followed by a 12km individual time-trial after lunch.
The second day will feature a 116km (91km) stage, which starts and finishes at the Grass Roof restaurant off Seaview Road.
The 2.4km individual hill climb time-trial on the Wednesday morning will take place from the same venue, with the criterium closing proceedings at the Aldo Scribante race track in the afternoon.
The times of the first three men and two women from each varsity would be added together for the team competition, said Le Roux.
"At the end of the tour, the team with the fastest overall time will be declared the winners," she said, while pointing out that individual men's and women's champions would also be crowned.
The mountain bike race over 40km (30km for women) was a standalone event that did not form part of the team competition, said Le Roux.
Top national stars such as Gert Heyns (Stellenbosch) and Arno du Toit (Varsity College), who teamed up to place second in the three-day PwC Great Zuurberg Trek mountain bike race near Addo last month, will be the riders to watch.
CAPTION: Gert Heyns (left), seen here leading Arno du Toit during the recent PwC Great Zuurberg Trek mountain bike race near Addo, will be the riders to watch in the mountain bike race at the University Sport South Africa championships in Port Elizabeth next month. Photo: Full Stop Communications