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Crackerjack Carla captures national honours in Oudtshoorn

By Mark Etheridge

As Daryl Impey celebrated double delight at the SA road cycling championships in Oudtshoorn last week, it was Team Demacon’s Carla Oberholzer who rode of with elite women’s honours.

Impey won both the time trial and road races but Oberholzer put all her eggs into one basket and focused on road race honors.

And those eggs well and truly hatched for the born and bred Free Stater who is also a restaurateur and physiotherapist when she’s not riding her bike.

She celebrated her 31st birthday exactly a month ahead of Valentine’s Day but right now she’ll be very much in love with her national championships jersey.

Something of a late bloomer in the cycling fraternity, she only started the sport aged 17 after an ankle injury put an end to 10 years of gymnastics.

Gymastics’ loss was clearly cycling’s gain though!

Her time for the 121-kilometre race was 3hr 42min 23sec, more than three minutes ahead of Maroesjka Matthee, better known for her track exploits than on the road. Split-seconds later and at 38, the oldest medallist, was Lynette Burger-Pieterse former African Games gold medallist and former Cape Town Cycle Tour winner.

Oberholzer took time out to celebrate her success with Team SA from her home town of Clarens.

Said the Team Demacon rider: ‘Our main race loop had three climbs at the back end, none of them being particularly difficult or long with the most challenging aspect being their quick succession on each other.  I was really grateful for the cooler weather as the previous days’ temperatures soared to over 40 degrees, but I was slightly nervous about the wind which had picked up overnight. Our team line-up consisted of myself, Lynette and Heidi Dalton.’

Dalton, of course had won the elite women’s road title the previous year.

And Oberholzer, coached by husband Stefan, says the early race pace was frustratingly slow. ‘No team was willing to waste energy in the wind or start racing before the climbs. The first move of the day came from Jo van der Winkel [Team SA rider at the 2012 Olympics], followed by Yzette Oelofse, on the climbs. Unfortunately for them it was a block head wind and Demacon managed to cover the moves easily. The peloton crawled over the last climb and it was here that we realised we would have to start racing sooner than anticipated.’

Then it was Dalton who put in a big effort over the top of the last climb where she made full use of the wind and ended up splitting the peloton in the gutter.’

‘This left us with only 12 riders and 90km to go. The group contained all three of our Demacon riders as well as Jo and Cassandra Slingerland for CycleNation; Yzette for Bestmed; Elmari de Wet, Zanri Rossouw and Sanet Small for Clover; Liezel Jordaan, Maroesjka and Catherine Colyn (U23). We worked well together until we reached the climbs again.

‘Our team had already decided that the racing would be made in the wind with the gutter and not on the climbs due to the headwind. So we sat tight until Yzette once again tried to get away on the second climb.’

Then followed what could have been disaster for Oberholzer. ‘As I shifted gears to go with her, my chain dropped and became completely stuck between my frame and crank. I stopped and our mechanic helped me to yank it out. With a big push I was off again and had to chase over the second and halfway up the third climb to get back to the front riders.

‘Heidi and I had spoken earlier and I knew she was going to use the wind again and ride a hard gutter at the exact same place she did on the previous lap. This time I made sure I was on her wheel and she did a superb job of splitting it up in the gutter, taking me all the way to the left turn where I managed to put in a big attack with the help of a tail wind.

That effort saw the peloton disintegrating even further.

‘Only Yzette and Elmari managed to cross over and we started working together opening up a decent gap to the chasing group. I could see that Elmari was struggling a bit but Yzette was strong and we worked well together to increase the gap. Elmari dropped on the first climb of the last lap and I decided to attempt one big move to also shake Yzette as I saw her power started dropping.’

Oberholzer’s big (and race-deciding) move came with about 30km to go. ’On the second climb – the steepest part – I put in another big attack and managed to get a gap on her. I rode a steady pace over the top and on the bottom part of the third climb, going harder when I saw the gap was really opening up. I knew I had to keep the gap up to the left turn where I would have a tailwind again all the way home.’

But the race wasn’t quite done yet though and there was a further sting in the tail. ‘Unfortunately, to my surprise, the wind direction had turned which resulted in more of a cross wind. Our manager pulled up to me and said I had to go all out in order to get out of Yzette’s sight.

‘I did this for about five minutes and then settled into a steady pace which I knew I would be able to ride for another 45min for the last 25km. The gap kept opening to Yzette and the chasing bunch but it was only in the last 2km that I was really comfortable and knew for sure I was going to win. The chasing bunch caught Yzette and with good team work from Heidi and Lynette, Lynette managed to get third in the sprint.

‘Winning the SA jersey is obviously the highlight of the week and of any cyclist’s career.’

And Oberholzer is hoping her success can rub off on the next generation. ‘The most disappointing of the week was the small number of riders competing at a national event. There are very few young riders, especially in the female categories, and if I can inspire even one or two girls to take up cycling the jersey will be that much more meaningful.’

Once the excitement of her road win has sunk in she can turn her attention to the rest of the year.

‘My plans include Tour of Good Hope in March, followed by the Cape Town Cycle Tour. After that I’ll take some time off the bike and then refocus on the second half of the season.

‘If CSA is funding a team to Worlds this year, then that could become a goal. Otherwise I’d love to defend my Amashova title and hopefully a podium at the 947 Cycle Challenge.’



Meanwhile in the U23 race it was 2015 African Games team member Colyn (above) who took the honours.

Making the win so much more rewarding was the fact that the Paarl-based rider had been out of racing for 10 long months after a training fall saw her left with a severely bruised patella bone in her knee.

She won the U23 category in 3:46:01, streets ahead of Courtney Webb (3:55:46) and Danielle Strydom (4:01:04).

Describing her ride, the Maarslandster International women’s team racer, said: ‘During the first lap, the pace was set on the climb and that was the deciding factor, I made the first split with a few other elite women. We rotated through to ensure that we established a good gap from the rest of the peloton.

‘My goal was the U23 national title, so during the second lap I didn’t want to waste too many pennies in case a U23 rider came back to the group I was in.’

Going into the last lap, 22-year-old Colyn knew that her U23 lead was a big one. ‘So I helped bring back the other riders who were stuck in no-man’s land. I’m very happy to walk away with the national U23 title and finishing as seventh elite women. The long injury break last year makes this victory even more special to me.

‘Now I’m looking forward to wearing the National Champ jersey wherever I can. It’s something very special to win a national championships jersey. This result is by far my most prestigious result. My next race is Setmana València ciclista in Spain, and I’m really looking forward to meeting my Maarslandster International women’s cycling team next week.’