By Bardy the Action Scribe

Cycling in South Africa received yet another boost on Monday when it was officially announced that MTN has become the title sponsor of the country’s premier and only international road cycling stage race, the Giro del Capo.

Top South African cyclists (from left) David George, Daryl Impey and Robert Hunter all enjoyed success at the 2007 Giro del Capo. The event has been important in helping nurture some of this country’s most talented young riders over the past 16 years.

The MTN Giro del Capo, a five-day stage race which takes place annually in the Western Cape, and which culminates the day before the world famous Cape Argus Pick n Pay Cycle Tour, has been South Africa’s only international stage race since the demise of the Rapport Tour in 1999.

Since its inception in 1992, the Giro del Capo has provided an important platform for local cyclists to compete in their home country against riders from abroad. This has raised the standard of local Elite and Under-23 racing which has helped launch the international careers of some of the most promising South Africans, including three-time winner, David George, the current Commonwealth Game silver medalist, 2000 winner, Nicholas White, the reigning African Continental champion and Daryl Impey, the reigning African Games champion.

Top local teams and a range of international teams race on some of the most scenic routes in the world in the MTN Giro del Capo, which is based in the Western Cape.

“With our sponsorship of the top South African professional team, MTN Energade, it is important for MTN to ensure that the country’s premier stage race, the Giro del Capo, is also given the support it needs to grow,” said Anthony Garstang, MTN SA Senior Manager: Sponsorships.

“MTN is fully committed to the growth of cycling and our sponsorship of the sport is multi-dimensional reaching all the disciplines, road cycling, mountain biking and BMX. The Giro del Capo is a high-profile race that’s got local, African and international significance and we want to ensure this event improves each year,” added Garstang.

The MTN Giro del Capo holds a 2.2 rating from the International Cycling Union (UCI) and is a key event on the UCI Africa Tour calendar, making it one of the most prestigious road cycling events on the continent.

‘Giro del Capo’ is Italian for Tour of the Cape. And part of the MTN Giro del Capo’s charm is the scenic region in which the race takes place, starting with the rolling fertile greenery of the Winelands and finishing with the ever-popular and breathtaking Signal Hill hill-climb during the final stage.

The 2008 MTN Giro del Capo is from 4-8 March and has attracted all of the country’s top professional teams as well as developing teams and a good mix of international squads that should ensure high quality, world-class racing.

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

MTN Giro del Capo – Previous winners:
1992 Andrew McLean (RSA)
1993 Andrew McLean (RSA)
1994 Andrew McLean (RSA)
1995 Michael Anderson (Sweden)
1996 Scott Mercier (USA)
1997 Andrew McLean (RSA)
1998 Tim Jones (Zimbabwe)
1999 Davy Dubbledam (Netherlands)
2000 Nicholas White (RSA)
2001 Piotr Chmielewski (Poland)
2002 David George (RSA)
2003 David George (RSA)
2004 David George (RSA)
2005 Tiaan Kannemeyer (RSA)
2006 Peter Velits (Slovakia)
2007 Alex Efimkin (Russia)