By Bardy the Action Scribe

David George will bring a strong MTN Energade team to support him in his quest for a record-equalling fourth title at the MTN Giro del Capo, South Africa’s premier international road cycling stage race, which starts in Wellington on Tuesday.

George, the current Commonwealth Games road race silver medallist, is in peak form following a solid performance at the recent Tour de Langkawi in Malaysia where he raced in a support role on the national team and finished 21st overall.

George dominated the Giro del Capo for three years, winning from 2002-2004, but it’s been a long time since he sprayed champagne from the top step of the final podium. And after finishing second in 2006 and third last year, the 32-year-old Capetonian is hungry for that elusive fourth victory that will confirm his status as one of this country’s best ever stage racers.

George is a classy climber and is also the current South African individual time trial champion. With two significant climbing stages and a hillclimb time trial epilogue stage, the format of this year’s Giro ideally suits his strengths.

“I expect the second and fourth stages to be decisive because of the high percentage of climbing on those days,” said George.

Stage 2 is over 179.5km on the Vissershok Circuit in Bellville, while Stage 4 is a 148km haul that includes the Hellshoogte Circuit in Stellenbosch.

Unlike last year, when George raced on a relatively weak composite team at the Giro and still finished third, he’s assembled a powerful MTN Energade squad to assist him in his title quest this year.

“We’ve got depth, experience and versatility in this team,” explained George. “Ian McLeod just had a top-10 finish at the Tour de Langkawi, while Nic White, a former Giro winner, is in superb form right now. Waylon Woolcock is a strong tour rider and then we’ve got Malcolm Lange and Jay Thomson for the sprints.”

Thomson’s confidence is at a high following his recent victory at the Tour d’Egypte, including two stage wins. He’ll be looking for more success on home soil, while Lange, the current South African road race champion, brings with him good form and vast experience.

Woolcock also rode a very respectable Tour de Langkawi alongside George and McLeod and is expected to play a pivotal role in riding support for George on the climbs this week. White, a strong climber and time triallist, will be riding in the white jersey denoting his leadership in the UCI Africa Tour, the continent’s most prestigious competition. After missing the recent Tour d’Egypte due to a family tragedy, White is fired up for a strong stage-race performance.

“We need a team with depth if we want to win the Giro,” said George, who believes his biggest opposition will come from Team Barloworld who won a stage and the overall Giro title in 2007. “I am confident in this team and believe we have a very real chance of winning.”

MTN Energade for 2008 MTN Giro del Capo: David George, Nicholas White, Ian McLeod, Waylon Woolcock, Malcolm Lange, Jay Thomson. Manager: Jacques Fullard. Mechanic: Gary Blem

The 2008 MTN Giro del Capo
Stage 1: Tuesday 4 March, 105km – Wellington-Tulbach-Wellington
Stage 2: Wednesday 5 March, 179.5km – Vissershok Circuit, Durbanville
Stage 3: Thursday 6 March, 174.5km – Paarl-Franschoek-Villiersdorp-Paarl
Stage 4: Friday 7 March, 148.5km – Stellenbosch-Paardeberg-Hellshoogte-Stellenbosch
Stage 5: Saturday 8 March: 5.5km individual time trial – Signal Hill, Cape Town