Olympic Games swimming silver medallist Terence Parkin upstaged the favourites to claim a surprise win in Friday’s opening stage of the Liberty 250 cycling road race in Ballito.
The 200m breaststroke runner-up at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games and his partner Martin Hillerman broke away from their rivals with about 20km remaining of the 124km opening stage of the road race.
They were never challenged again as the four-man teams concentrated on their tactics in the run to the finish at Sugar Rush Park.
Parkin and Hillerman finished in 3hr 26min 08sec, just over a minute ahead of the leading teams in the main four-man team event.
As expected, the battle for the four-man teams saw four squads struggling for superiority.
Eventually, the Bluff Meat Supply #1 team of Deno van Heerden, Michael Viljoen, Haig Gibb and Brad Venter claimed a narrow sprint victory in a time of 3:27:38 with Thule Cornubia (Bryan Powell, Michael Rowland, Luke Chambers and Reece van Staden) on the same time in second place.
The second Bluff team (Austin Steyn, Trevor Rowe, Warren Price and Donovan Geldenhuys) is third overall, just two seconds further back going into Saturday’s 87km stage two.
The Dimension Data Masters (Stefano Madies, Gary Beneke, Tinus Schepers and Mark Beneke) were in contention until Schepers, their third and final timed rider, lost the lead group and they are lying fourth overall over 20 minutes off the pace but still ahead in the masters category.
Professional rider Ryan Harris (Office Guru) attacked from the first climb soon after the start and claimed all three king of the mountain prizes. He was caught with about 25km remaining and crossed the line with the leading bunch to take a big lead in the individual race.
Hillerman was very happy with how he and Parkin dominated things over the final few kilometres.
‘Ryan Harris went off within the first 500m and the four-man teams were just worrying about each other. He won all three of the hotspots and then I was second on all three with Terence third in the second and third,’ said the race winner after crossing the line.
‘But we sat up after the climbs and the chasers caught us and we then watched how the other teams were racing. At about 92km, we put the hammer down and made the split. I guess they were not worried about us because we are not racing against the four-man teams.
‘Terence was very strong all day. He has been training very hard so we are happy to have pulled it off. ‘
The Gauteng challenge never really materialised with only two of the Dimension Data Masters riders able to finish within the lead group.
‘The weather was totally unexpected. It was cold and raining for the first 50km and we expected sunshine,’ said former pro Gary Beneke from Dimension Data after the finish.
‘The pace was on from the start with Ryan Harris going out from the gun and he only got caught with about 25km to go. He was going for the king of the mountain prizes but I think he was a bit optimistic to go so early.
‘Terence Parkin and Hillerman were strong at the end and none of the four-man teams were going to chase them.’
In the 60km opening stage for the mountain bike event, Andrew Hill and Shaun-Nick Bester (TIB Best 4 Sport Silverback) were never challenged. The decision of Tyronne White not to compete meant Andrew Johnson had to change partners and although he claimed second with Andrew Cairns, the Ballito Bicycle Company pair was never able to put pressure on Bester and Hill.
A close and exciting race for second position in the mountain bike race was lost when the pairings of Andrew McLean and Dave de Lima (Cycle Lab KTM), and Joel Stransky and David Cooke (Team Full Gas 10) led each other off the route and then followed the wrong markers to the finish.
The road riders face a tough 67km second stage on Saturday. The long climbs of the stage mean teams are going to be under pressure to keep three riders in the lead group and with just two seconds separating the first three teams, there are sure to be changes.
There’s a R5,000 incentive for the first rider to the top of the French Club climb (the second king of the mountain point) and Harris must be favoured to collect the big prize after his dominance on the king of the mountain climbs on Friday.
The second mountain bike stage is an undulating 54km ride with Hill and Bester overwhelming favourites to claim their second stage win and build on their lead.
1 Andrew Hill and Shaun Nick Bester (TIB Best 4 Sport Silverback) 2:17:57
2 Andrew Johnson and Andrew Cairns (Ballito Bicycle Company) 2:29:43
3 Julian Bryany and Ben Killian (Beach Bums) 2:50:46
1 Henrico Erasmus 3:03:27
2 Jose Correia 3:05:29
3 Andrew Leipus 3:11:36
1 Estelle Gous and Gerhard Strydom (Team X) 3:26:00
1 Terence Parkin and Martin Hillerman (Full Throttle) 3:26:08
2 Pieter Avenant and Zanri Rossouw (Team Meme) â€“ 1st Mixed â€“ 3:53:14
3 Paul Muller and Angelique Muller (Bluff Multisport Mixed) â€“ 2nd Mixed â€“ 4:03:19.
4 Jaco Fouche and Linda Fouche (Team Fouche) â€“ 3rd Mixed â€“ 4:03:23
1 Bluff Meat Supply #1 (Deno v Heerden, Michael Viljoen, Haig Gibb, Brad Venter) 3:27:38
2 Thule Cornubia (Bryan Powell, Michael Rowland, Luke Chambers, Reece v Staden) 3:27:38
3 Bluff Meat Supply (Austin Steyn, Trevor Rowe, Warren Price, Donovan Geldenhuys) 3:27:40
4 Dimension Data Masters (Stefano Madies, Gary Beneke, Tinus Schepers, Mark Beneke) â€“ 1st Masters â€“ 3:51:16
5 Just Bluff (Garth Haig, Shaun de le Porte, Justin Hand, Grant Guerin) â€“ 2nd Masters â€“ 4:03:25
1 Ryan Harris 3:34:45
2 Martin Atterbury 3:41:07
3 Wayne Booysen 3:52:28
Photo: Hillerman and Parkin (right), by Tim Whitfield, Sports Wrighte