First-year professional, Tyler Day (Team Bonitas), claimed his first major race victory when he outsprinted a strong field to win the 105km Herald VW Classic Cycle Race in Port Elizabeth on Sunday.
The 21-year-old Day, who hails from Klerksdorp in the North West Province, surprised his more experienced rivals when he outdashed them in a furious sprint from a 12-rider breakaway group for a winning time of 2hr 34min 05sec. Daryl Impey (MTN Qhubeka) finished second and David Maree (Tasol GT) third.
ÔÇ£I had a good feeling about today. Not at the start so much, because I was still feeling the effects of the SA Champs race yesterday, but after 50 kays I started to feel good and was keen to give my new team a good result,ÔÇØ said Day afterwards. ÔÇ£Our strategy before the race was to try and break it up to prevent a mass bunch sprint finish,ÔÇØ explained Day. ÔÇ£And it actually worked out perfectly. My Bonitas teammates were superb, especially Johann Rabie, who helped set me up for the sprint to the line.ÔÇØ
With 40km remaining, a group of 12 moved clear of the main pack. The break comprised riders from all the major teams and began to build up a tentative lead that reached 30 seconds with 20km remaining. Carl Pasio (RSAweb) then attacked from this front group. He was joined shortly afterwards by the vigilant Day. The pair put a 15-second lead into the breakaway group, but were eventually absorbed again with 5km remaining as they entered the city limits and began to prepare for the sprint.
ÔÇ£I wanted to be on Johann’s wheel for the last few hundred metres, but Daryl (Impey) moved onto his wheel when Johann started winding up with about 400 metres to go,ÔÇØ recalled Day. ÔÇ£I then sat on Daryl’s wheel. He took the lead from Johann with about 200 metres to go and I came around him with about 100 to go. ÔÇ£
Malcolm Lange, owner and captain of Team Bonitas, was thrilled with the result of his newest prot├®g├®. ÔÇ£Tyler was hungry for the win today. He and Johann ensured that the break got away and Tyler then went on a separate break for about 15km and still won the sprint!ÔÇØ smiled Lange. ÔÇ£I’ve been working closely with Tyler lately, teaching him some important elements about sprinting that I’ve learned over the years and it’s very rewarding to see him winning this early in the year.ÔÇØ
Team Bonitas head to India on Tuesday to compete in the Tour of Mumbai where they will be up against some of the world’s leading ProTour teams, including Radio Shack and Liquigas.
Leading results ÔÇô Elite & Under-23 Men:
1. Tyler Day (Team Bonitas) 02hrs 34min 05sec
2. Daryl Impey (MTN-Qhubeka)
3. David Maree (Tasol GT)
4. Carl Pasio (RSAWeb)
5. Christiaan Kriek (Toyota Supercycling Academy)
6. Clint Trevino Hendricks (Tasol GT)
7. Johann Rabie (Team Bonitas)
8. Shaun-Nick Bester (Team 360Life)
9. Pieter Seyffert (DCM)
10. Bradley Potgieter (MTN-Qhubeka) all same time.
Meanwhile, in the women’s race, after having to settle for the silver medal at the SA road race championship in Port Elizabeth on Saturday, Robyn de Groot (Nashua Toyota) bounced back to win the Elite title.
The 28-year-old Johannesburg professional gambled on a long sprint at the end of the race and it paid off as she just managed to hold off her fast-finishing rivals to secure the win in 2:53:49. Second place went to Catherine Williamson (Team Bizhub) with Cherise Taylor (Team USN) in third.
In complete contrast to Saturday’s race, which included gruelling climbs and searing heat, Sunday’s race profile was more rolling and the weather far cooler, with some light rain falling in places.
The women started in Category C with the 50-plus Veteran men, which allowed them to race more tactically than when they started with the 40-plus Veteran men at the Pick n Pay Fast One last weekend.
ÔÇ£The women were the aggressors today for sure. The men pretty much just let us race our race, which was good. Our Nashua Toyota team was the only team really trying to break the lead pack up but when we didn’t have any success after about 65km we decided to ease off and save our efforts into the sprint,ÔÇØ explained De Groot.
ÔÇ£We wanted to help our teammate, Ashleigh (Moolman Pasio) to defend her title and were planning to lead her out to the line. But the wet roads and a cross/headwind in the last few kays changed everything.ÔÇØ
Some crashes with 2km to go destabilised the leading pack even more and the Team MTN Qhubeka riders began to launch attacks in the final run-in to the line.
“Lisa Olivier attacked and my teammate Lynette Burger covered that, then Lylanie Lauwrens put in a counter-attack, which I then followed. Instead of sitting up when I caught her, I just carried on sprinting for the line because it didn’t seem that far away. But it was rather!ÔÇØ
De Groot had established a big enough gap on the hesitant pack behind to reach the finish line just centimetres before her rivals, with Williamson getting close to the barrier on her right and Taylor coming down her left, in what is one of the tightest finishes ever seen in a major women’s road race.
ÔÇ£I’ve had quite a few second places in my career, it’s always great to get a win. An early win in the year is also good because it boosts my confidence and that of the team. I think we’re in for an exciting year with our team having such depth and lots of different cards to play,ÔÇØ smiled De Groot.
Leading results ÔÇô Elite women:
1. Robyn de Groot (Nashua Toyota) 2hr 53min 49sec
2. Catherine Williamson (Team Bizhub)
3. Cherise Taylor (Team USN)
4. Jennie Stenerhag (Alpha Pharm)
5. Jeaun-Mari Breytenbach (MTN-Qhubeka)
6. Lizanne Naude (Nashua Toyota)
7. Isabel Moolman (Cycle Lab)
8. Ashleigh Moolman Pasio (Nashua Toyota)
9. Charlotte van der Merwe (MTN Qhubeka)
10 Anriette Schoeman (Nashua Toyota) all same time