SA’s Impey and Janse van Rensburg set for Tour de France
Impey’s inclusion comes on a run of form after injury put him out of cycling for much of 2021
After a time of uncertainty, redemption but not of doubt, Daryl Impey and Reinardt Janse van Rensburg had their names confirmed as starters at the 109th Tour de France on Wednesday.
For Impey, 37, it came on a wave of form after losing much of 2021 to an injury that had many wondering if he would retire. His crash at the Ruta del Sol in May last year left him with a broken pelvis and collarbone. He did not take part in a race for nine months, having to, in his words, “learn to walk again”.
For Janse van Rensburg, his professional career seemed finished at 33 after his Qhubeka-NextHash team collapsed at the end of last year, contracting from the heights of a World Tour team feasting at the top table to a Pro Continental outfit looking to start again. He could not get a professional contract for love nor, sadly, for money.
He went solo, pushing his personal and nickname as the “Beast” and won the national championship. It was not until May this year that Belgian outfit Lotto-Soudall came calling with a contract. A month later, they announced he would start the Tour for them.
His role, as it was with Qhubeka, will be as a lead-out man, this time for Australian sprinter Caleb Ewan instead of Tour superstar Mark Cavendish.
“What an unbelievable journey it’s been to get here. Would not have dreamt it only a few months ago!” posted Janse van Rensburg, who will take part in his sixth Tour.
“But the real work starts now! Let’s go!
“After last season I have prepared myself as I have always done, even though I did not have a team. Of course, sometimes it was difficult to keep making all the sacrifices without knowing if I would be able to race at the highest level,” Janse van Rensburg told Cycling Weekly earlier this year.
“But luckily, all those sacrifices are rewarded now. I am very motivated to make something good out of this. A period like I have had just now makes you value the life of a pro cyclist even more.”
A statement from Lotto Soudal CEO John Lelangue made the case for the team. “With these eight we can play our part on almost every terrain in this Tour de France,” it read.
“With Caleb Ewan we have one of the fastest riders of the peloton. He is our biggest chance of a stage win and therefore we have made sure he is well surrounded with Reinardt Janse van Rensburg, Frederik Frison, Florian Vermeersch and Brent Van Moer.”
There was a sense that Impey would always be included in the Israel-Premier Tech squad for the Tour despite his lack of racing in 2021, but a win on the fourth stage of the Tour de Suisse pretty much locked his spot in the squad. He will line up with long-time friend and fellow African Chris Froome, the four-time Tour de France champion, in a team that will be looking for stage wins.
Froome, whose form has been steadily improving, will ride in his 10th Tour and will provide strength to team leaders Michael Woods and former Absa Cape Epic winner Jacob Fuglsang. The latter is the same age as Impey and will be rolling down the start of the Tour in Copenhagen in his home country Denmark.
Impey will be waiting for opportunities for stage wins, as he did in 2019. “In this Tour, the main priority for us is to win a stage. With Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España stage wins to our name, we would like to complete the Grand Tour trifecta with a Tour de France win so it’s certainly our main focus to begin with,” said team manager Kjell Carlström.
“We also want to keep our options open and see what may be possible in terms of fighting for a leader’s jersey like we did last year, when we had Michael Woods fighting for the KOM [king of the mountain] jersey. However, hunting for stages is definitely the most important goal for us in this year’s Tour de France.”
There has been talk that South African Louis Meintjes, a two-time top 10 finisher at the Tour de France, will be included in the Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux team when they finalise their squad.
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