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By Bardy the Action Scribe

How do you improve a team that’s been as dominant as the MTN Microsoft professional men’s cycling team has in 2007? You look for any kind of weakness and strengthen it.

If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em! David George (in red and white) is outnumbered by MTN Microsoft team members during the 2007 South African road championships in Bloemfontein. George finished second behind MTN Microsoft’s Malcolm Lange, whose teammates filled positions 3rd to 7th. George has just signed a contract to ride for MTN Cycling for 2008.

That’s what Douglas Ryder; owner of MTN Cycling has done in an effort to ensure 2008 is an even better year for his successful racing squad, which topped more podiums than any other local team this year.

“In 2007 we did really well in single-day races, but weren’t a big enough force in the stage races. So for 2008, we’ve boosted our tour-riding capabilities by signing David George. David is this country’s leading stage racer and we believe he’ll add some genuine depth to our team for races like the Giro del Capo and the new Tour of South Africa.”

George spent 2007 without a professional team contract and raced for an amateur Cape Town squad with some guest rides for other teams at stage races, locally and abroad. Among his performances, he finished fourth at the Tour de Langkawi, Asia’s biggest tour, third at the Giro del Capo, a race he’s won three times before, and excelled in his first Absa Cape Epic mountain bike race, albeit unofficially, following the withdrawal of his original partner after Stage 3.

“Our plan is to use David as a tour specialist,” explained Ryder. “He’ll be our first-choice General Classification rider on the road team for the Giro del Capo, the Tour of South Africa and possibly also the Tour of Morocco. But we’ll also use him in the Absa Cape Epic to partner Kevin Evans.”

Another major focus for George next year will be the Olympic Games. He has been South Africa’s top finisher at the world road champs this year and last, and his silver medal at the Commonwealth Games last year was an indication of his potential in a tough single-day race. A former bronze medallist at the world time trial championships and Commonwealth Games, George will also focus on that discipline in preparation for the Olympic Games.

“My position on the team as a rider and mentor is what I’ve been looking for,” said George, who has a UCI Level 1 coaching qualification and will soon complete Level 2. “I am relishing my responsibility in helping build this team to become world class. With the backing of MTN we can be ambitious and innovative and that’s what modern cycling success requires.”

George, who started his top-flight cycling career as a pursuit rider on the track at the 1996 Olympic Games, has raced professionally on the road since 1999 and will be used to help guide younger riders on the team with training and technical (bike set-up) matters.

“David is one of the most astute professional cyclists I’ve ever met and his exceptional analytical skills and knowledge of the technical and physiological elements of cycling will be utilised to ensure the MTN team members are performing optimally,” said Ryder.

Name: David George
Born: 23 February 1976
Residence: Cape Town
Height: 1.78m
Weight: 62.5kg
Previous professional teams
1999-2000: US Postal Service; 2001: Tacconi Sport – Vini Caldirola; 2002: CCC-Polstat; 2003-2005: Team Barloworld; 2006: Relax Gam.
Career highlights
•    Olympic Games: Represented SA in 4000m individual pursuit in 1996 and road race in 2000
•    World Championships: bronze medal individual time trial Under-23 in 1997; 4th individual time trial Under-23 in 1998
•    Commonwealth Games: bronze medal individual time trial in 1998, 4th in road race 1998; silver medal in road race 2006
•    Giro del Capo: Winner in 2002, 2003, 2004; 2nd in 2006; 3rd in 2007
•    South African road championships: Five-time winner of individual time trial; winner of road race in 2003, silver medal road race in 2007.
•    Tour de Langkawi: 3rd in 2002, 8th in 2003; winner and King of the Mountains in 2006, 4th in 2007
•    Vuelta a Espana: Completed in 2006