robert hunter back in pro tour after barloworld withdraws from south africa1   Robert Hunter back in Pro Tour after Barloworld withdraws from South Africa

Robert Hunter has joined the Garmin-Transitions Team for 2010. He was a former Barloworld rider until his teammate Nolan Hoffman tested positive for EPO and then Barloworld withdrew from the teams sponsor list. Robert Hunter has moved to the Garmin-Transitions team with the aim of becoming a stage winner in Grand Tours again after two difficult seasons with Barloworld.

“It’s great to be back in a big team,” said Hunter, who spent three years with Pro Continental outfit Barloworld after the Phonak folded. In 2006, Hunter was a dedicated domestique for Floyd Landis, who tested positive after winning the Tour de France. “I’ve enjoyed my time with Barloworld, but our start was never secured in all the races we wanted to take part in, and it made our life as bike riders difficult.”

Hunter was offered a position with Garmin two years ago, but turned it down because he felt a loyalty to Barloworld as a native South African. Hunter won a 2007 Tour stage in Montpellier. The 2008 Tour was a totally different story, though, with Barloworld drawing world attention for Moises DueƱas’ positive doping test.

“It was a big investment for this South African company to sponsor a cycling team, but the return for them would have been much bigger, had they invested a little bit more after our successful first Tour de France,” Hunter said. “At the end, it’s a big waste and a missed opportunity for South African cycling. Most of the South African cyclists hired by Barloworld also haven’t taken this opportunity to become true professional bike racers.”

While English-speaking teams are flourishing worldwide – see examples such as RadioShack, Sky, Garmin-Transitions, – South African teams have taken a step backward.

Robert Hunter plans to enter the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France this year. “The team also respects me for what I’ve done in the past, and there will be more than enough opportunities for trying to win sprints myself as well,” said Hunter, who is expected to play an important role at the Santos Tour Down Under. “I probably had my best winter training ever,” he said. “I didn’t come here to drink beers. I’ll play as hard as possible.”

His “winter training” took place in South Africa. In the Garmin-Transitions line up for the South Australian event, Canadian Christian Meier is the only rider who hasn’t spent the past two months training in the Southern Hemisphere, so Hunter is expecting efficient back-up from Australians Matt Wilson, Cameron Meyer, Jack Bobridge and Trent Lowe as well as New Zealander Julian Dean, who is now famous for being one of the best lead-out men in the pro peloton.