Another great Cape Town day dawned, with very little wind and warm sunny conditions. The start time today was a bit later than normal and I was quite relieved to only have to leave home at 6am, the sun was already up and it was an hour long drive. I sat contemplating the day ahead, the points, the opponents and how to possibly pull off a win.
I had effectively made matters worse the day before in the sprint and now I had three title contenders to fight off, Shaun who led the points, Neil who had actually leapfrogged me into 2nd and Moolman was also close behind and all could possibly win. It was very tight and the race was going to be both tactical and hard. I thought of various scenarios in my head all the way to the race and even more once I was there.
The night before I was down, I thought I’d thrown it all away and now I was going to battle with proper sprinters, race winners and highly experienced riders, I was having serious doubts about my chances, then I got a call from my great friend Andy Lambert. We talked things over and he put my mind more at ease, reassured me of my ability and kept saying he had a good feeling, like he knew what the outcome was going to be. That gave me strength and I went into the race positively, my legs felt good, I told myself that I just have to do my best and leave it at that, the day will turn out the way it should.
The race was to be 10 laps of a 7.7km circuit, deceptively difficult as half was slightly uphill and half downhill but windy everywhere, plus it was going to be fast, over 40kmph so breaking away would be hard at that speed but chasing a move back turned out to be harder. My plan was to do very little early on, have my team cover all the moves and then hot things up in the last 3 laps. Needless to say that didn’t happen. I was cruising around at the back of the field on lap 3 when a move went off, some counters and guys crossed over and then the bunch sat up. I took stock of the situation after allowing some time for anyone to take up the chase, nobody did. Shaun was with me, so was Moolies, but Neil was up the road. SH*T.
Not only was Neil up the road, but so was Robby, Jacques Caledon and Warren who had countered and joined the break and were sitting on, that left me with half a team to chase. I got the remaining men on the front and they began working away at the gap, soon after though Rob punctured, the pace was too high for Ronney to help much on the flats and Jacques P was fading after big turns. JP was clocking up chase miles and I was trying to sit in but had to roll through to give him some rest. A lap later I dug in and began taking my turns flat out. JP and I rolled through each other and Jacques came through when he could. the gap was only 30 sec but it looked like miles to pull back. We were working hard and I began to worry as we were only pulling in about 5 sec a lap and after three laps it still felt like we were not much closer. JP had turned himself inside out, still trying to insist that I rest, but I couldn’t, I had to chase or it was game over, soon after that he said he had no more to give. I put my mind in TT mode and rode as aero as possible taking big pulls at watts that I knew were burning matches, while all the way Shaun and Moolies sat in and watched me. I had no choice but to keep going, I wanted this…
On the 4th chase lap the gap was visibly smaller, we had close to within 10 seconds and it was time to burn the 2nd last match and close it for once and for all. Just then Moolies saw a gap too and put in a big effort to get over, Chris Botha was on his wheel and I knew I had to follow. I sat the wheel while Moolies closed half the gap, Chris wouldn’t help so I went through as hard as I could and once we were very close Warren saw us closing and waited for me to take us the rest of the way.
We were now all back together and I had three fresh men from the break, but the rest didn’t last at all, Shaun started attacking and then Neil again, as each GC rider tried to gain time and the magical points that would win the league. I countered, my team closed gaps, and all together we rolled on into the final lap. Guys were still taking final flurries, the wind holding them up and the other guys chasing to not lose out.
I had noticed a change in the wind though, the final 400m was on a bend and initially I thought this would be a headwind sprint to be left as late as possible, but now as we cornered into the final 300m the wind died, and came side on nullifying any effect. I spoke to JP and he’d recovered to lead me out, We’d go up the right instead of the left. As we jostled for position I took JP’s wheel with Moolies on my inside, the last flyer came and went and now we were well positioned with JP in front of me and a fading early launcher from Moore Stephens clogging up the inside line. GO! I shouted to JP and he kicked up a gear taking me clear of the front, and as I saw space to go inside I went as hard as I could, It was far, still easily 300m but I knew that once up to speed it would be hard to close with no shelter.
It felt like forever, I skipped over the raised manhole cover and could hear the meshing gears of Moolies’ bike up my inside, I had left the door half open and I knew it, I pressed harder on the pedals and with 20m to go I knew my speed was too high to eclipse, I rolled over the line still pedaling, but elated, overwhelmed an physically and mentally drained. I had done what I though was the impossible, I had worked for it every minute today and it felt amazing.
I turned around and hugged Theo our team manager, Then I looked for JP… the smile on his face said it all. I thanked him anyway, then each of my team mates. as they came up to join me in celebrating.
Then I thought of Andy, he had wanted to come watch, but couldn’t make it, he sent a good luck message in the morning and reminded me of his good feeling about today, it turns out he was right, as always and everything had worked out just perfectly 🙂
I had won the race, taken maximum points and secured the overall Pink leaders jersey for the season! I stared 5 races out of 6, had 2 wins, two 5th places and a breakaway 4th place. The season was consistent and I am happy my hard work through winter had paid off.