Kent Main plans to use his international experience to his advantage when he lines up for the three-day Bestmed Jock Tour in Mbombela, Mpumalanga, on Friday.
The 21-year-old cyclist signed for Dimension Data shortly after winning the five-day Tour of Good Hope in March and almost immediately packed his bags for Italy.
"I'm really keen to get back into racing and the Jock will be my first race in South Africa since the Tour of Good Hope," said Main, who described his European season as a great learning curve.
"We did some really big races and it gave me a lot of experience so I think in general my level has really improved."
After lining up at events like the Baby Giro and Giro Valle d'Aosta, Main said he was well prepared and confident of shaking up the local racing scene.
"I'm really looking forward to being competitive and delivering a good result for my team," said the lanky climber, who placed seventh last year. "I know some of the local teams have been very dominant recently, so it will be good to hopefully see someone else on the top step."
Although the Jock, presented by Rudy Project, covered 304km with a mammoth 7 200m of vertical ascent, the Linden resident believed the day one individual time-trial would be the most crucial of the three stages.
Without the backing of a full team, he singled out the hilly 27km test against the clock between the Lowveld towns of Mbombela and Kaapsehoop as an opportunity to make his mark.
"I'll have a good time-trial, I'm confident in my abilities for that," said Main, who had spectators on their feet as he turned a 51-second deficit into a one-second victory over ProTouch's Myles van Musschenbroek on the final climb of the Bestmed Tour of Good Hope.
"I'm going to take it day by day, but, if I have a strong time-trial, then there's no doubt I'll have a good race going into the rest of the stages."
Despite his confidence, he admitted his task would be far from easy as the DiData colours would place "a target" on his back when he set out on the road stages on Saturday and Sunday.
"Without having the numbers to help, it's going to make it harder because the pressure will be on me to do everything. I can't conserve energy like the other general classification riders would be able to do."
Main, who matriculated at Northcliff High School, said he expected the tour to attract some of the country's biggest names and predicted "some good racing".
With teams such as RoadCover and ProTouch confirmed to start, the former RoadCover star said it would make for an interesting dynamic to compete against his old team.
"I'm looking forward to having a good time out there and enjoy racing against my friends and old teammates. It's definitely going to be interesting to see how the racing unfolds."
Demacon's Carla Oberholzer, winner of the Cycle4Cansa last month, and Bestmed-ASG's Sanet Coetzee, who won the one-day Jock Classic in July, are the women to watch.
Stage two will take riders over 140km with 2 900m of climbing while the final day will be contested over 138km with 3 100m of vertical gain. Both stages start and finish in Mbombela.
Go to www.thejock.co.za for more information.
CAPTION: Time in Europe has prepared Dimension Data's Kent Main for the challenging three-day Bestmed Jock Tour that starts in Mbombela this weekend. Photo: Supplied