I had hoped for a bit of wind on this course, but it wasn’t to be, although the wide open plains meant there was always a bit of resistance, not enough for a gutter, but breakaways would have their work cut out for them.
This was the first race of the season and would be a good test of the new teams and race dynamic, I didn’t expect a break to stick, and certainly not in the opening kilometers, but that’s what happened. Craft attacked (Gerber), Aurecon (Jacques) and Anderson Transport (Tomek) and Moore Stephens (Paxton) countered. The four of them rolled off the front and dangled about 200m up the road for a while. Cyclelab were slow on the uptake and sat this one out. They were the only team to have missed it, and then the whole bunch lay low, no-one eager to chase and CL not taking up the reigns just yet. The break had over 2 minutes after lap one of the 40km loop and were now out of sight before CL decided they had better get a move on.
Three CL riders took up the charge and we all watched as they worked away. I took some time to admire the view as I’d never seen the boys in Red work on the front of a peloton before. Refreshing I thought 🙂 Meanwhile the gap only grew with Craig in great form, Tomek and Jacques the uber domestiques taking turns and Paxton chipping in, the CL boys were digging a deeper hole. The gap was 4 minutes to the break after 60km of racing and we began getting complacent.
I started attacking the bunch after the turn and was quickly followed, I went again and again, but felt the effects of my two week long lung infection and the head cold that followed, I rested and recovered for the rollers, JP attacked and I skirted along in the bunch. Over the rise I went off the front after JP and wanted to go across but the group pursued me again.. we were all back together at the left turn onto Voorpaardeberg road and heading towards the start finish. There was a split at the turn and a few riders snuck off, JP and Robby got in the mix and the riders worked in echelon. I found myself in no mans land and decided to get across, I picked up Jacques 2 on my way over and began working, the rider behind chasing feverishly at this dangerous prospect. The secondary break had a few key role player and could hardly be allowed to simply roll away, plus everyone was still fairly fresh.
The main three teams were again doing the racing despite all having men in the break. Along the road back to the start finish the rollers loomed and the racing was still hard and fast, a small sidewind was now present, I had recovered and was feeling good. I attacked as the bunch slowed over the crest and onto the plateau, Stuart Strang of Craft covered my wheel and I dragged him away with me, the bunch did not react and my team sat up to allow me some room.
I pressed hard and built a lead, I descended fast and the gap grew and by the time I got to the final roller at the start finish I could afford to ride it at my own pace. Stuart did not contribute and in fact I tried to shake him. He simply followed and sat behind me. I knew if I could crest this area away i could build on my lead on the fast downhill that followed. I made it over and stretched the lead, I was working hard and alone and started to cramp in my calves, I took a brief second or two where I could to stretch them out, but couldn’t stop pedaling. I was also weary of showing weakness but Stuart did not once show his wheel in front of mine.
A few kays later we passed a lone Richard Paxton who has blown off the back of the break, I kept rolling and tried to maintain some strength for the last test at Grand Prix Hill at the end of Voorpaardeberg road. I was looking behind me to check the time gap and I realized I had enough time, but could certainly not slow down. I rode a steady bu hard pace up the climb and drank all i could to recover my cramps. They later subsided enough to press on at a normal rate. Still Stuart was behind me. I spoke out to him for the first time with around 10km to go and he agreed to work a little but didn’t mind being caught. He would roll through enough for me to breathe a few seconds and I would resume my time trial.
We drew nearer to the finish and I was weary that Stuart had spared himself way more than me and I’d tow him only to blow past me. We had a large gap and I could afford to slow down to recover before going up the final double drag to the uphill sprint. We rode side by side keeping check of each other, very slowly, which suited me to the ground… We went over the first roller gently and I recovered on the flat transition area into the last drag up to the line. about 250m out and I was still watching and waiting, I made sure I was next to him and that he couldn’t jump me from either side, I kept him on my right and managed to slip behind his wheel opportunistically. With 150m to go I leaped from behind him and caught him by surprise, I quickly opened a 15m advantage and looked behind me, he’d conceded, I cramped up but dare not show it or let up….I pressed onwards and over the line to take 4th place behind Craig who I knew would win it, from Jacques exuberantly in 2nd place and Tomek 3rd. It was a great result for Jacques and the team to be on the podium in the first race and a great result overall as the sprint was not suitable for us.