South Africa’s European based cyclists continue to impress in races all over the continent.

On a near perfect day on the Italian Riviera, Fassa Bortolo flexed their muscles in the 42nd Trofeo Laigueglia, the traditional Italian season opener, and it was 26 year old Kim Kirchen who stole the victor’s laurels from a break of four riders, after getting a flawless lead-out from Fassa teammate, Dario Frigo. It was the third consecutive win for Fassa, and their man for the day on this occasion was the talented Luxemburger, Kirchen.

In the middle of all the action was FDJeux’s resident South African, Ian McLeod, who wasn’t overawed in the slightest by the elite company. “It was quite a hard race with the three big climbs, all of them over 10km long,” McLeod recalled. “It was a good surprise to see the Barloworld boys on the start list, it’s always good to see some of the guys from back home.”

Ian commented that the “race was pretty steady at the beginning, and then a break went early and stretched the lead to close to 10 minutes before the Liquigas-Bianchi squad put the hammer down just before the last climb.

“At that point I wasn’t feeling too great because I had finished the Tour Mediterraneen just two days earlier, but the climb was pretty comfortable and I was in the group with two kilometres to go.”

That was when the bunch split into a dozen pieces, and Ian went over the top with the second group, demonstrating that there’s not much wrong with his climbing, either.

An excellent finish in the bunch to claim 27th spot revealed that his overall form is definitely starting to bloom
At the earlier Tour Mediterraneen, the CSC team secured overall victory in the 32nd edition of the race, with Jens Voigt and Frank Schleck taking the top two places overall.

The five day race finished with a 122 km stage between Cabriès and Marseille, won in a bunch sprint by Phonak’s South African ace, Robert Hunter, ahead of the powerful trio of Gerolsteiner’s Danilo Hondo, Fassa Bortolo’s Fabio Sacchi and Quick Step’s Stefano Zanini.
Again, McLeod acquitted himself with considerable honour, finishing in the main bunch on the final stage and claiming a spot inside the top 50 on the GC. Even the great Mario Cipollini and his star-studded Liquigas-Bianchi squad couldn’t manage that!

But the bottom line is that the South Africans have served notice on the European cycling community.