We headed back out to the flatter rolling hills of Paarl for the 123km race. We were greeted by fine and war weather, which became very hot later on as we got back into Paarl. We only needed to control the race and keep it together for a sprint, it didn’t quite turn out like that.
As the neutral zone ended Steven Hayes was away, the long leadup to the climb at 45km served as a deterrent to the chase group and he was allowed a long leash, soon enough he was joined by our own Robbie Rodriquez, and the pair of them worked together to gain a gap of over 2 minutes by the climb.
Back in the bunch things were tactical as riders played chess and conserved energy for the climb, I tried a few moves, to get Rob up the road but the pack would allow no more room and everything was closed down.
Along the leadup to the climb after the Hermon turn off, we faced a headwind. No-one wanted to be on the front, so we ambled along at a measly 25kmph. This suited the break and allowed them to still climb at a slower tempo to go over with the leaders. I placed myself up front with Warren and paced out the climbs lower slopes, this way we could control the pace. Anderson lept at the first sign of gradient and it was time to hit the hard yards up the climb. The pace was hard but not impossible to keep up, I wavered on the back of the faster guys but eventually got dropped and ended up in no man’s land following as fast as I could go. I made it back to Warren just nearing the top of the climb and we were off about 80m. Together we worked to get back to the lead group, the pace was high and we both took big turns to close them down.
The chase took longer than I would have liked and I was burning matches in getting back. Eventually though we closed in by the left hand turn for home, but it was no easier as more attacks came straight away. It was hang on or ride home alone, so I gritted my teeth and set my legs alight again to hold on. Once the pace eased I sat in and recovered as much as I could. A few kilometers ticked by and then it was time for more games, riders took turns attacking the bunch, including me, toying off the front and getting chased. after a few moves Robbie struck again, this time with Marius Nel, a good TT rider too and the pair worked away quite quickly. We had full confidence in Robbie and let him go, Anderson did too as this move suited them well. Some chasing ensued but more time gains went the way of the break.
I realised the break would dent our GC chances, and set about chasing ourselves, we rested Clive and he held out to wait for the sprint. Several other guys joined in and the pace was very hard over the final 30km, some heavy rollers and attacking made it a crazy hard pace to hang on. The break stayed, we could see them but they weren’t coming back to our tired legs.
The last flurry of a chase was on the downhill slopes toward Paarl main road, but again our efforts were in vain as we couldn’t close and turned our attentions to the sprint for the final podium place. I was fading fast and waited a long time before attempting a leadout. With 2km to go I took Clive to the fore and couldn’t stay there, and falling behind just before the right turn to begin the sprint.
I was off the back, but tucked in as aero as I could to recover and make back some meters, the plan worked and I closed in on the bend and was travelling faster than the bunch too! I rolled around the right and kicked into a sprint into open space. Clive meanwhile had gone way up the left and we almost merged at the front as I came around. With Clive needing the points I backed off a touch to allow him the podium, but MC came around us both to take the 3rd place. Clive ended 4th with me 5th.
The team competition went brilliantly for Aurecon as Robbie took the win and maximum points and another 2 in the top 5 placings, not exactly the plan but we’ll take it gladly!