Starting only 1km from the foot of Stellenbosch’s Old Hellshoogte Road, a 3.6km climb averaging 4.4%, Die Burger Cycle Tour started fast and furious. Riders were attacking constantly as we hit the steeper sections of the winding climb. I found myself in a 5 man break with Darren Lill, Shaun Ward, James Tennent and David Garrett.
As we crested the summit, the bunch over 30 seconds in our debt, Lill put in one last surge and set off solo into the headwind. We set out to chase but Ward was uninterested and the lack of cooperation saw our efforts wasted. We were promptly swept up by the main bunch and, 20km later, Lill was also reeled back.
Despite countless attacks, it wasn’t until Wellington, about 40km later, that the race started to heat up again. Eight riders opened a gap off the front and, with no representative from RSAWeb, we started attacking and pacing to shut the move down. The break began to disintegrate, one by one, but when Ward bridged across with our teammate Chris Jooste, only one of the original eight that attacked managed to stick. Happy with our teammate in the break, Carl Pasio and I sat in the bunch and waited for the final deciding rollers to launch another move.
The final approach back to Stellenbosch has 2 climbs of opportunity and with 10km to go I followed an uphill attack on the first roller. With 4 other riders, we set off in pursuit of the 3 leaders and quickly opened a gap of 15 seconds on the peloton, which was no barrier to the “man-beast” Pasio, who bridged across solo almost immediately after. With a clear plan already hatched in my head, I set of off solo on the last uphill stretch. All I needed to do was to make the final bridge to the leaders in the final kilometre. I dug as deep as I could but the finish came too soon. I finished 3 seconds behind the sprint in a good but personally disappointed 4th place. Pasio, hot on my wheel, finished 2 seconds later. With Jooste in 3rd, followed by myself and Pasio taking 4th and 5th respectively, it wasn’t a bad way to close off the South African season, especially for a team of only 3 riders.