This was to be the 5th and final showdown in the league series, the GC was tight with the top 5 riders all within 40 seconds and top 9 within 46 seconds of the leader. In the team competition we were still level pegging with Daikin, however they get the benefit of more race wins and will take the honors if things stay the same.
The day’s weather was perfect for racing, crisp and cool but warming fast, there was little to no wind to speak of and the sun was shining brightly. I felt good in the warm up, my legs had been atrocious throughout the week and I took some rest to recover and had a massage. It seemed to have done the trick and I was hoping to be up to full speed today. I was 7 seconds off third place and was hoping to make the podium. I doubted I could take 8 seconds in the sprint finish and decided to use a relentless attacking style on the day.
The pace was fast all day, our team attacked from the start line and took turns trying moves off the front. I started attacking at around 10km once I’d warmed up a bit more. I got into a decent move of three guys but came back to the bunch after about one kilometer, a counter move went and I let them go. Once they had a bit of a gap I jumped again and bridged the gap. We held this advantage for a few rollers, but ended up being closed down by Daikin… this was my aim so it was already working. Clive was weary and covered my every move, every time I looked back he was there…glued to my rear wheel which is normally occupied by Flippie Schoeman.
So it went for the next 20-30 kilometers. Every time the bunch rested or was idling together I would attack, sometimes looking for boxed in rivals or counter moves, sometimes taking someone with me for some help. I knew I wouldn’t survive on my own and actually didn’t want to until much later in the race, but I did want Daikin to be constantly chasing.Luke managed a strong 2 man break which got Daikin organized into a paceline for the first time to bring him back, it took them a while so that was a great effort from the team bus.
On Windmeul road we managed a break, not exactly ideal with all my rivals joining me but it was good enough to try to stay away. I had team mate Stuart along and we had rivals Chris Botha, Clive Seebrechts, Robbie Rodriguez and Conway Oliver in a break. Chris was alone and didn’t work initially, so too for Clive although he was being lazy as he did have a team mate in Robbie. Soon we were joined by Andreas Studer from Daikin which evened the team competition out and we could all now contribute to the break. We put in some decent work and I was sure we’d maintain our advantage which we held for almost all of 10km. Cyclelab must have done the first bit of work in their lives and Anderson transport clearly missed out and they chased us down. What a pity… but that’s how it goes. I took some rest in the pack into the slight headwind for a couple of kays until Robbie R got restless again and took over my role as puncheur. We could sense some cracks appearing in the pack but could not find the right combo for a break to succeed, and nothing stuck. It’s like the whole pack had fresh legs and were on high alert.
So it was all set for a sprint finish in the final kilometers which could mean nothing in terms of the GC for me. I was so finished from all the attacking and countering that my sprint was going be as hard as a wet sandwich. Wtih 750m to go I jumped again, for no other reason than to see if I would be graced a few seconds while others organized themselves, or to throw the cat amongst the pigeons and mess up everyone’s leadouts. Alas I only succeeded in the latter as the Cyclelab guys followed and got it wrong, I had successfully proven that Chris Botha was human and his sprint was as successful as my own, so too for main rival Clive, which gave the opportunity to Stuart, who snuck up the right and took 2nd!
So in the end I had succeeded only in going backwards in the GC to 5th place. I was disappointed that I could not do any better. Maybe it’s just going to have to go into the memory bank as experience, something in which I’m vastly outnumbered in by others in the SV racing group. There were a lot of maybe’s left unanswered after the race, could I have changed my strategy and just consolidated 4th, maybe even taken 3rd with the right combination in the sprint? …but I suppose I will always want more, and there’s only one way to get it.