Though they will turn out for different teams, South African riders Daryl Impey and Ryan Gibbons will both be looking to make an impact at the Tour de France.
Returning for his eighth appearance at the prestigious race, which was set to start on Saturday, Impey was eager to build on his impressive record at the gruelling event.
The 35-year-old Mitchelton-Scott rider became the first South African to wear the yellow jersey when he led the race briefly in 2013, and after winning the ninth stage of last year’s contest, he was hoping to shine again.
“Last year was hugely successful and will be difficult to repeat, but we will certainly be going all out to achieve that,” Impey said.
Following his breakthrough performance last season, he felt some of the pressure had been released, and Impey looked forward to testing himself once more against the world’s best riders.
“I can certainly think more clearly now without having to think ‘what if this is my only chance’,” he said.
“Having won at that level, and from a break of many specialists on that day, gives me confidence in the sense that I know I can do it.”
Gibbons, meanwhile, was set to form part of an eight-man team representing SA-registered outfit NTT Pro Cycling.
The 26-year-old national champion won a stage at the Virtual Tour de France which was held during the global lockdown, and his team expected him to play a key role as they aimed to punch above their weight at the three-week Grand Tour race, which had been postponed by two months due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“What’s important is that we take care of our team, do the right things and race intelligently at the tour… and somehow save a little bit for the last week because I believe that will be very difficult,” said NTT team manager Bjarne Riis.
“Many will suffer and hopefully we can save something for that.”