So the past 2 weekends was a bit of a dream for me. 2 weeks ago, I managed to win the South African Time Trial championships, finished 2nd in the Road Race and won the Cape Argus on Sunday.
The Time Trail was first up on Thursday the 1st of March on a very challenging 40km route. I knew I had a good chance to win if I arrived at the event in top form and if I was able to mentally endure for the full 40km. I literally pulled myself inside out, and rode at an average Heart Rate of 191BPM, 10BPM below my Maximum, for the entire TT. I managed to win by a slender 13s ahead of Jay Thompson (United HealthCare), with Johann Rabie (Bonitas) a further second back. The big favourite of the day, Robbie Hunter (Garmin-Barracuda) was pushed off the podium by a mere second. This was the closest Time Trail at SA’s, with the top 6 men finishing within 35s of one another as far as the records go anyway. Louis Meintjes (Toyota-CSA) won the u23 event ahead of the surprise of the day JC Nel (MTN Qhubeka) 21s behind.
I have to thank my support staff for their amazing effort ensuring I had everything I needed done and going out of their way to keep us cool in warm up in the Nelspruit heat. My background in Sport Science also help me as we decided to use ArcticHeat Cooling Vests to keep core temperatures down during the warmup.
I am extremely proud to be the new South African Time Trial Champion
On sunday it was the road race on a tough 160km course, consisting of 3 laps of 50km and 5km to and from the circuit. Somewhat short for a national champs, but it would be a big fight for the jersey nevertheless.
It was pretty evident that Robert Hunter would be dangerous after his disappointment in the Time Trial placing 4th and he made it clear in the media that he would like to win. He didn’t have any teammates to support, but Jay Thomson, completely sacrificed his chances in support for Hunter.
On the first lap a group containing Bradley Potgieter, Songezo Jim(both MTN Qhubeka), Jason Bakke, Hanco Kachelhoffer(Both Bonitas), David Maree(Tasol) and Gawie Combrink(TCS) got clear and quickly built and maintained a 2-3min advantage. Back in the main field things were calm and the pressure was on the “internationals” Thomson, Hunter and Augustyn, to close it down.
Thomson along with NUwater controlled the gap until James Tennant(NUwater) went on solo on the 2nd lap to bridge the gap. Although a strong ride he couldn’t quite make it and it resulted in him being caught in “No man’s Land”. Thompson, without any help, continued an impressive ride to control the gap between 2 and 3minutes for the better part of 100km.
On the last lap alliances up front started to break as Jason Bakke and Songezo Jim moved clear of the other 4. Initially this was a sticky situation for us, as Songezo is still u23 and technically couldn’t contest for the elite win. This forced us to chase initially, but on the last climb we could see Bradley Potgieter dropping his fellow companions and bridging across to the 2 leaders. Suddenly we were in the ideal situation, as I had full confidence to win the sprint between him and Jason and Songezo would win u23.
With Jay Thompson finally weakening Tasol took up the chase on closed it down with 20km to go and with no more climbs left, a bunch sprint seemed to be on the cards. However the wind played on last factor and the direction was just right to force a gap.
Robert Hunter made the move on the descent and Johann Rabie, Nolan Hoffman (Tasol) and Arran Brown (MTN) went along. I was slow to react but managed to ride across in time. The 5 of us quickly opened up an advantage and this would be the final move of the day. It was ironic to see 4 Fast men off the front on which was a circuit with a fair amount of climb, but the winner would be the one who’s legs were the best.
On the final hill 2km to go Johann Rabie launched his bid for victory, he managed to get away from Arran and Nolan, but I, followed by Rob, was glued to his wheel. This remained the position as we entered the final 300m.
The final sprint was quite tricky being downhill with a slight left hander 120m to go and barriers on the right on the exit. I knew if I could get into the corner with a big enough advantage that I could drift wide towards the barriers and block Rob from coming past. So I kicked first and did everything as planned, but I made one mistake and opened the door for Rob in the final 50m. He managed to take the gap and just pip me on the line.
Quite disappointing to lose by such a small margin after making one little mistake, but that’s racing and I would just have to learn from it.
Finally it was the time for the biggest timed event in the world, the Pick ‘n Pay Cape Argus cycletour. It’s a pretty important event for South Africans and the pulicity is as big as “le tour” itself, so it was a “must win event”. Our Plan was for Arran Brown for the win, with me as a backup should a breakaway ride clear.
Our biggest rivals were Bonitas’ Herman Fouche and last years winner Tyler Day and the 3 boys from Omega Pharma-Quickstep, especially Julien Vermote, who recently won Drie Daagse van West-Vlaanderen. But our biggest threat was perhaps Nolan Hoffman, and we wanted to get away from him if the oppurtunity represented itself.
The race started out quite calm and slow, but once we got to Smitswinkel a 4man group containing Shuan Ward(NUwater), Jason Bakke (Bonitas), Richard Baxter (Tasol) and JC Nel(MTN Qhubeka) rode clear. The group built up an advantage of 1minute before we decided to take up the chase and put 5 men in front to bring it back. They were finally reeled in on Chapman’s peak, as the big counter’s followed.
A small split rode clear as riders scrambled to cross to the gap. At the bottom of Suikerbossie a 12man break formed up and it was to be the winning move. We had both myself and Arran in there along with JC Nel and Dennis van Niekerk. Thus being in the box seats with only Herman Fouche as I major threat represented the break. The 3 Quickstep riders and Tasol missed the break and chased in vain to close it down.
In the final 10km just about everyone in front who had doubt of their chances in the sprint had a go. It was up to JC, Dennis and Myself to try to keep it undercontrol as we tried to set it up for Arran. Johan Rabie had the last go in the final km, but the headwind made it difficult to get away.
I was right behind Rabie at his stage and as I looked around I saw 2 climbers, Jaco Venter (NUwater) and Kevin Evans (360 Life), behind me and Herman Fouche marking Arran quite far back. I knew if I went early I would still have a chance as I felt pretty good. I got the gap I needed and held on for the win.
Unfortunately for us Arran suffered a incident, touching wheels with our leadout man Dennis and nearly crashed. Forcing him to unclip. He still managed 4th though.
Its incredible the publicity around this event and what the people make of it. It’s defnitely a good race to win to get your name out there in the view of the general public.