Looking to defend his crown after three successive victories in South Africa’s foremost stage race, the Cape Argus Pick ‘n Pay Giro del Capo, Barloworld/Valsir’s David George, faces his toughest challenge to date not only from the opposing teams, but from within his own camp.
The British based team have entered the best team ever in the event’s 14 year history.
Winners of the Argus team competition last year, this star-studded team includes Ryan Cox, the sensational overall winner in this year’s Tour of Langkawi; the former winner of the Tour of Egypt, and Giro runner-up last year, Tiaan Kannemeyer; the super-domestique, Jock Green, himself a former national road race champion; plus the defending Cape Argus Pick ‘n Pay Cycle Tour and Pick ‘n Pay 94.7 champion, Antonio Salamone.
Dominant on the local scene in 2005, the Microsoft team will rely on their new signing, Nic White, the millennium Giro winner and regular (Giro) podium-finisher, and Daniel Spence, 2nd overall in 2002, to spearhead their efforts in the battle for the overall leader’s rose-pink jersey.
Regular visitors to the event, the German Wiesenhof team, who came in third in the team competition last year, have also ridden in this year’s Tour of Langkawi, and have several menacing options at their disposal rider-wise. This extremely professional team has Jens Heppner, a former Telekom rider and team-mate of Jan Ullrich, as its leader.
Eleventh overall in The Giro last year, Heppner at 40 years of age has heaps of experience including a Tour de France stage-win, as well as enjoying the honour of wearing the “Maglia Rosa” in the Giro d’Italia.
Heppner’s Wiesenhof team-mate, Enrico Poitschke, is a former Giro del Capo stage-winner and he finished 7th overall last year. David Kapp, winner of the Pickfords points competition in addition to being runner-up in the Heinz king of the mountains competition, and finishing 8th overall last year, has left the Lamonta team to join forces with Heppner’s men, making this a formidable outfit this year.
As experienced and successful as Heppner, is Bart Voskamp, leader of the Dutch Skil-Moser squad. A professional since 1993, Voskamp is a Tour de France stage-winner (1996) and a double stage-winner in the Tour of Spain (1994 and 1996).  His feats, which coupled to his two Dutch National Time-Trial titles (1999 and 2001), make him a certain overall challenger.
Great-Britain’s leading professional team, MG-XPower/Litespeed, boasts 2 Olympic medallists, Paul Manning and Chris Newton. They also have a member of the track World Cup, Team Pursuit’s Russell Downing, in their ranks.
Their Irish rider, 24 year-old Paul Sharman, the top points scorer in UK events in 2004, appears to be their main challenger for overall honours.
After visiting last year on “early season legs”, the Warsaw-based Polish professional team, Action, are certain to again be a force to be reckoned with having ridden in the recent Tour of Langkawi. Their German rider, Dennis Kraft, won a tough stage in the 2004 Peace Race and is capable of a podium finish in the Giro.
Another German team that regularly visits our shores, team Lamonta, ended up 4th in the team competition last year. Their well-balanced team includes the Tour of Langkawi stage-winner, Jan Bratkowski. Holger Sievers, winner of the Henninger Turm classic, along with former Gerolsteiner professional, Uwe Hardter, 62nd in the Giro d Italia in 2003. The final member in their squad is sprinter, Bjorn Glasner, a stage-winner in previous editions of the Giro del Capo.
As a result of the withdrawal of the British Driving Force Logistics team, the Czech Republic’s powerful e’D Systems team has been included as starters. Their team includes the legendary Tour de France sprinter, Jan Svorada, a multiple stage-winner in the world’s greatest cycle races whom these days will still be a big contender in the stage-finishes.
The last stage, which also forms the professional aspect of the Cape Argus Pick ‘n Pay Cycle Tour, is worthy of its own speculation. Previous winners, will have to contend with the likes of  the defending champion, Barloworld’s Antonio Salamone, along with Dean Downing, the Recycling.co.uk/MG-XPower/Litespeed sprinter; Bjorn Glasner, the un-sponsored Jamie Ball, and of course, Jan Svorada, in what promises to be a real humdinger!