It was a great final 2 stages. I really enjoyed the circuit style racing, as it suited my abilities. The 10s Time Bonus on offer at primes, 8 on both days, and 20s at the finish kept the racing alive and exciting. As there was only bonus for 1st I would’ve liked to have converted many 2nd places in to more wins in those primes.
Stage 4- 116km 20 laps of 5.8km on Phakisa Freeway:
Quite a technical circuit as the route didn’t just stay on the normal race track but also went on and off on some of the narrow service roads and on the oval circuit. It seemed that it wouldn’t be a bunch sprint. Darren Lill, unsuccessfully attacked right out of the blocks to split the bunch. In contrast, the bunch stayed relatively intact for the first few laps.
This was good for us as no break meant that bonus seconds were up for grabs. But to my annoyance in the first 2 primes, the Belg, Jorne Carolus, with some clever riding, managed to out-sprint me. But in the 3rd I managed to get one back and get back some time for the overall.
Immediately after, the break of the day slipped away. We had no one in the there, but Tasol had 2, Matlosana 1, Cape Town Market 1 and the Europeans also 1 in the move. Also with no GC contenders in the move and no sprinter in their team, Bonitas could afford not to let it go, so all the responsibility was on our shoulders to chase.
The team did an excellent job as they slowly brought the gap down from 2mins all the way to the finish. At one moment it didn’t seem like it was going to come back in time, but the guys really pulled themselves inside out. Also our main GC rider Dennis van Niekerk put some telling pulls in the dying moments to bring it back as we managed to close it down with 300m to go and a sprint was on. I was sprinting good all day, but Nolan Hoffmann suffering from “white-line-fever”, was too quick for me in the end. I had to settle for 2nd.
It was a proud moment to show what the team can do, but I was disappointed not to reward the team with a win.
Stage 5- 88km 22 laps of 4km in Bloemfontein:
A flat and fast circuit at Vodacom Park in downtown Bloemfontein was the venue for the final stage. With Dennis 35s behind and another 100s up for grabs in primes, it wasn’t over. The legs also felt really good, so we wanted to take the battle to team Bonitas.
Darren Lill managed to get a small gap before the first prime and got the 10s gap, and closed the gap to his teammate Johann Rabie to just 5s. On the 2nd prime, Dennis and I got our timing right and I was able to deliver him to get the 10s bonus. Something we wanted to do more off when the big sprinters weren’t sprinting. On the 3rd prime Louis Meintjies got a gap but faded before the line allowing me to take it out.
Again after the 3rd prime a breakaway went. Today it was a good move for us as it created a group for Dennis and I to jump frog to if were able to escape from the Darren Lill and Johann Rabie. However one downside was that Pieter Seyffert was in the group. Due to his stage win was quite a threat to the green jersey. Pieter also took the rest of the primes.
With 6 laps to go I saw my chance and jumped clear from the Peleton, I probably got a 30s gap. I couldn’t believe my luck as they let me go, but Bonitas chased hard and managed to close me down as I joined up to the breakaway group.
Again with 2 laps to go Dennis and tried to ride away again…We got a small gap but Darren Lill managed to shut it down in time. From here on we had to concede defeat in the overall and race for a likely bunch sprint. We saved Arran Brown all day and he delivered by out-sprinting Nolan for the stage win.
It was nice to finish it off with a win, finally after we ended up 2nd 3 times in row. I was also able to secure my Green Jersey and Brad Potgieter won the King of the Mountains jersey. A big thank you goes to everybody involved in organising the event, as well as the Free State Government for making it possible.
Stage 1: 1st Jorne Carolus – Free State Invitational
Stage 2: 1st Pieter Seyffert – Matlosana
Stage 3: 1st Darren Lill – Bonitas
Stage 4: 1st Nolan Hoffmann – Tasol-GT
Stage 5: 1st Arran Brown – MTN Qhubeka
1st Johann Rabie – Bonitas
2nd Darren Lill – Bonitas @5s
3rd Dennis van Niekerk – MTN Qhubeka@ 25s
4th Louis Meintjies – Toyota CSA @59s
5th Reinardt Janse van Rensburg -MTN Qhubeka @1’27
Reinardt Janse van Rensburg -MTN Qhubeka
Bradley Potgieter – MTN Qhubeka
1st Louis Meintjies – Toyota CSA