Team Bestmed-ASG are set on making a significant impression on the South African cycling scene this year after unveiling an outfit of elite riders at the weekend.
Their immediate challenge will be the SA National Road Championships in Wellington this week where team leader and Olympian An-Li Kachelhoffer will be looking for a second successive road race title on Saturday.
He added the team would work with Belgian manager Steven Sergeant this year to create a cohesive unit for the country’s top races.
“All the riders are elites and the aim is to support senior member An-Li. But she also wants to play her part by using her knowledge to help the younger members in the squad.
Botha said they were planning training camps in the Western Cape under the guidance of Sergeant to ensure they were on the right track.
Besides signing Kachelhoffer, he said they had also brought in Zanele Tshoko and Skye Davidson.
“We have been keen to get Zanele to join us but she was committed elsewhere in the past two years,” he said.
“In fact, we tried to get Lise Olivier to sign with Zanele because they have done a lot of work together in the past, but Lise is moving into the corporate world at this stage.”
Botha said Davidson had impressed him with her climbing skills and that she would play an important role in the team.
“We need someone to assist An-Li as a powerful domestique. Skye has a very good CV and plenty to offer to the team.”
He said they believed Davidson had the right qualities and the aim would be to teach her how to handle the longer distances as an elite rider.
Botha added that they had also signed Bernette Beyers but she was currently in Switzerland on a training programme to improve her track cycling skills. She is due to return in April.
The team made their debut at the Bestmed Berge en Dale Championship on Saturday, with Kachelhoffer taking second in a sprint finish.
The 29-year-old said she felt she was ideally suited to play a role as a mentor.
“At this stage of my career I feel this is a chance for me to give back to some younger riders,” she said.
“We have a lot of diversity and it will be great for the younger riders to learn how a professional women’s team is run.”
She said she wanted to impart her experience of riding in Europe on the younger riders so they knew what to expect when competing overseas.
Kachelhoffer said they had a good first race at the Berge en Dale in Muldersdrift on the West Rand, which had been a learning experience.
“For example, Chante (Van der Merwe) told me it was the first time she had been in a sprint finish in a women’s race, so it’s those sorts of situations they need to experience.
“The team dynamic is more about the girls coming together to set personal goals and to grow as cyclists.”
The team members are An-Li Kachelhoffer, Chante van der Merwe, Nina Sender, Zanele Tshoko, Nicolene Marais, Sanet Coetzee, Skye Davidson, Lynette Benson and Bernette Beyers.
The management staff are Owen Botha (manager), Steven Sergeant (sporting director road), Peter Lambert (sporting director track) and Linda Warren (assistant sports director).