The emperor’s palace covers a windy 105km in quite flat terrain, followed by a 45min Criterium in the Emperor’s Palace parking lot. It’s the only race on the calendar still to feature a post-race crit, which was so common in the days I was Juvinile and Junior. And hats off to the organisers for making a spectacle out of it.
The race started out quite slowish, until we got made the first left turn and the attacks started. After the next right hander we got a slight crosswind us and Bonitas saw a chance to reduce the field, but the wind was never strong enough and we couldn’t create the split we were looking for.
Eventually a break of 5, containing Jani Tewelde(MTN Qhubeka), Neil Mcdonald(Bonitas), Dylan Girdlestone(Westvaal-BMC), Alex Pavlov(NorthCliff) and AB van Der Walt(Mecer) got up to a minutes advantage. From such a group Alex or Jani would have been the favourites to win so we were happy to let it go.
Toyota CSA and EOH had no men in the front on combined to bring it back. They managed to get onto terms with 7km to go. Soon after disaster struck for me as I had my first crash of the day. Being the first mass sprint for everybody…it was a nervous affair. A slight twitch snaking its way down from the front caught me off gaurd and I touched wheels and went down. Fortunately I wasn’t injured and only needed a quick wheel change and I was on my bike again.
To my advantage it was also headwind and Jacques and Adrien waited to bring me back. I managed to get back into with 2.5km to go, just as the Bonitas’ leadout train got its engine firing. They did a great job for Herman, but Bradley Potgieter did an excellent job in the last 500m to get up there right on the wheel. I passed Herman in the final 50m. A sweet victory after being so close last weekend.
1st: Reinardt Janse van Rensburg (MTN Qhubeka)
2nd: Herman Fouche (Bonitas)
3rd: Christoff van Heerden (NorthCliff Cycles)
4th: Bradley Potgieter (MTN Qhubeka)
A few hours later and it was time for the crit. Its quite a short technical circuit with a 2 left handers, and 1 left-right corner and a few speed bumps. We could only enter 4 per team, and our team composed of Myself, Brad Potgiet, Jani Tewelde and Tesfay Abraha. We wanted to race aggresively as the final corner was only 40m from the line and that Christoff van Heerden has got somewhat of a special skill sprinting around corners.
After being set-up by the rest of the team I got away on my own. I was increasing my gap each lap, but I was pushing it on the limit. Halfway into the crit and around the final corner, I lost control and got dumped on the floor. My gap was about 15-20s at the time. I am still quite angry at myself for taking too much risk.
I couldn’t see the rest of it, but I know Brad Potgieter and Dylan Girdlestone were up the road for a while followed by Tesfay. Tesfay still had a 3s gap going into the final lap, but was caught in the final 100m. As predicted Christoff went through the corner first and took the win, and his second for the season.
1st: Christoph van Heerden (Northcliff Cycles)
2nd: JC Jooste (EOH)
3rd: Herman Fouche (Bonitas)