Kevin Evans, Ian Mcleod, pic Ronelle Rust
The South African Road Race Championships took place on a circuit course through the suburbs of Klerksdorp, and although it was a relatively flat circuit, 15laps of 11.2km, it was by no means at all easy!
With loads of corners and sharp turns going into small climbs, combined with the fact that we raced along with the u/23 riders in a bunch of about 180riders on narrow twisty roads, and had a start time of 13:00 in the midday heat, it was always going to be the strongest man on the day that would win! And strongest man it was, Christoff Van Heerden (MTN/Energade), proving he really deserved the national title after an incredible ride out front all day!
The start of the race was really hard and the first two laps were crucial in terms of your positioning in the bunch. You needed to stay alert near the sharp end of the race at all times. Then halfway through lap 2, the early break, usually doomed for disaster went off the front.
In this break was the ever consistent Nic White (Medscheme), Pieter Syfert (DCM), Christoff Van Heerden (MTN/Energade), Richard Baxter (House of Paint) and J Nel. So with all the big teams who had the numbers on the day, the break was allowed to run as the teams were confident.
At one stage the move had sneaked up to 3minutes, and with the bunch too big for MTN’s liking, we decided to turn on the gas for a lap. Ian and I set a mean tempo through the suburb and after a hard lap, the bunch was thinned out considerably as the pace and heat took it’s toll on most riders. In the process however we also brought the gap down to the lead group to about 2minutes, and with the chase group much smaller, we decided to let the other teams try and control the pace.
No one team really committed and by the time we hit the final two laps, one or two riders tried to put in some hard attacks, but were always marked by other riders. Eventually James Perry (EMG) managed to slip away by himself and cross the gap to the front riders which by this stage only consisted of Nic White and Christoff. Once James had bridged them, with about half a lap remaining, they attacked Christoff and actually had ridden him off. But he was not going down without a fight and managed to get back to them with only 2kilometers remaining!
Then it was easy picking for Christoff as the other two riders couldn’t match his speed and strength as he surged for the line and the National title!
I couldn’t think of a more deserving winner of the national title and it is great to have the national jersey back in out team for another year.
So after a very successful SA Championships, with gold medals in the elite road and time trial disciplines, we head back to continue with the rest of our season that lies ahead and many more big goals.
Next race, Sunday, The Ride for Sight, and then onto our mountain bike national championships in Sabie! Till then, cheers.
1st Christoff Van Heerden (MTN/Energade) 4hrs18
2nd Nic White (Medscheme)
3rd James Perry (EMG)