Women road riders take on male vets

THE Toyota Supercycling professional road cycling team riders haven't set foot near a podium over the past few weeks, which would normally be a cause for concern - but not in this case.

THE Toyota Supercycling professional road cycling team riders haven't set foot near a podium over the past few weeks, which would normally be a cause for concern - but not in this case.

The team, one of the top women's outfits in South Africa, has decided to skip racing in the women's category for a while in favour of competing in the tougher veteran men's division. This is in order to prepare them for the Tour de Ardeche, a top international stage race in France from September 8-12.

 "It's the best way to prepare for an overseas event, especially one of this calibre," said Lynette Burger, the current South African women's road race champion and captain of the team.

"For the last month we have forfeited potential prize money and media exposure to race with the veteran men in order to up our level of conditioning.

"The racing with the men is of a higher intensity at all times. We are actually very fortunate that our sponsors also see the bigger picture and have been so supportive of our strategy. We don't just want to race overseas and get horribly beaten. We want to contribute to the racing and be competitive."

Burger said the strategy has worked.

"In the beginning we found it quite hard to race with the men. There are a number of former professionals and some really strong riders in the division."

The Tour de Ardeche has the second-highest grading for a women's stage race.

It has attracted most of the world's top teams and riders, many of whom will be using the event as part of their preparation for the world championships in Switzerland next month. - Sapa

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