The unprecedented R250 000 first place, the biggest in the history of South African cycling, was won by Reinardt Janse van Rensburg (Giant Shimano) and Ashleigh Pasio (Momentum) at the Unite4Mandela cycling event on Saturday morning.
The event took place in the heart of the city in remembrance of Nelson Mandela and included some of the most spectacular landmarks Pretoria has to offer.
This was the first time Chris Froome (Team Sky) has actively raced in South Africa since his win at the Tour de France and it was no surprise that the first move of the day came shortly after leaving Loftus Versveld stadium on Nelson Mandela drive.
Froome drove the tempo up the Fort Klapperkop climb but after a six week off-season the effort cost him and he was quickly swallowed by a furious peleton.
The early break formed on the slopes of the Telkom tower climb where a small group of riders managed to escape including the likes of Africa’s first ever yellow jersey wearer at the Tour de France, Orica GreenEdge’s Daryl Impey, Darren Lill (Cannondale Blend), Hanco Kachelhoffer (Altech), HB Kruger (Bonitas), Louis Meintjes and Jacques Janse van Rensburg (both MTN Qhubeka) as well as eventual winner Reinardt Janse van Rensburg (Giant Shimano).
It was Lill who launched the first attack up the Heritage Hill climb and was only caught near the top of the Voortrekker Monument climb only 8km from the finish at the Union Buildings.
The blow by blow attacks were matched and countered coming in to the finish but it was Janse van Rensburg who proved strongest on the day crossing the line ahead of a storming Kachelhoffer and Kruger who finished second and third respectively.
According to an elated Janse van Rensburg it was not only great to win on home ground but he was motivated to win for his girlfriend Leilani van Nieuwenhuizen, who was watching from hospital after a kidney transplant.
Dary Impey said: ‘It was really a great route, quite challenging with that hard start and I just didn’t had the legs at the end.
Third place Kruger commented ‘It was by far the most positive race we’ve had in South Africa this year, the guys really went for it.’
Chris Froome said “It was really great to see everyone get together for a great cause, it was really a great vibe out there. I really liked the hilly course and we passed some iconic landmarks that kept it interesting and not easy by any means’.
The classy women’s field saw the two European campaigners Ashleigh Pasio (Momentum) and Marianne Vos (Rabobank) show their class with an early break that they managed to maintain all the way to the finish.
The hilly course clearly suited the South African climbing sensation Passio with multiple past world champion Vos unable to shake her on the 67km course.
The duo took the race down to the wire with Pasio emerging the winner in a mad dash to the line. Vos finished in second with Cherise Stander (RECM) rounding off the podium in third place.
‘Today was really a special day with a really beautiful route taking in all the sights of Pretoria and I’m really happy that I managed to take the win over a class rider like Marianne today,’ commented Moolman Pasio.
She went on to say ‘It was really great to ride in Mandela’s honour today like he always said sport is a great way to unite a country and it was really special to be a part of it.’
Dutch cycling legend Vos said: ‘It is a little shorter than I’m used to but it was quite tough – it was really special seeing all the monuments and special landmarks celebrating Mandela’s memory!”
Picture of the men’s leaders by Zoon Cronje