Defending champion Gustav Basson (TEG Continental) rode a smart race to clinch the opening 180-kilometre stage of the Tour de Limpopo when he crossed the line in three hours 57 minutes and 10 seconds. Team Dimension Data Continental’s Alexander Konychev (ITA) and Officeguru Racing’s Marc Pritzen (RSA) finished in second and third places respectively to round out the podium. Nineteen domestic and international cycling teams are competing for top honours over the four-day UCI Africa Tour 2.2 stage race taking place in the province from 14-18 May.
Basson was impressed with his team’s performance and was happy to take the win. “I’m not sure how my form is at the moment but I’m happy to have won this stage. The team rode phenomenally well and I’m happy with their strength and performance as well today. The race was quite hectic with a lot of guys leaving small gaps early on and it felt like chaos for the first 120km until the big group got away and then the race settled a bit.”
The early parts of the race were littered by a number of breakaways that did not stay out for long before being reeled in again. The breakaways were mostly caught after the Sprint hotspots 1 and 2, at the 26km and 68km marks. It was Nolan Hoffman (Proud Beginners) who claimed the first Sprint and Jason Oosthuizen (TEG Continental) who won the second Sprint. Oosthuizen also won the third Sprint hotspot at 118.5km.
At around the 110km mark, a large break of 21 riders went ahead and opened a gap of around two minutes, as they stayed together until Ysterberg. The climb took its toll as riders popped off the lead group, leaving 12 riders, who stayed together out in front until the end. It was South African Connor Brown (Team Dimension Data Continental) who won the KOM hotspot at 142km. At around the 157km mark, the group of 12 had opened a gap of seven minutes, which they held until the finish. The section through the streets of Polokwane remained tight, and it was Basson who edged ahead to take the win at the Peter Mokabe Stadium.
In the race, American Orion Craigue (37), who is racing for Team Cycle Power, had a disappointing day. “I had my mind on the stage win for weeks and months already, and to get dropped between 130-140km was tough. It was just Jayde (Julius – ProTouch) and I in a break, and I was thinking I was doing the right thing, but I was just spent. By the time the other riders caught me, I could barely hold the wheel up the drag. I held back and my teammate Bradley Potgieter was not far behind and we brought it back in but it was too late to climb back to the GC position. The GC guys had already made a lot of ground.”
“Aeroman” as he is known in the peloton recently started racing in the Elite category a year-and-a-half ago and has relished the opportunity to compete in the UCI 2.2 tour this year.
Competing in the Brunei Continental Cycling Team, Capetonian Alexander Parsons said it was a good stage. “It was long and at 50km there was a big split in the peloton with all the favourites breaking away. It was pretty much race done so we just stayed in the bunch and rode with the bunch. Unfortunately, none of our riders made it into the breakaway group. Otherwise, we look forward to tomorrow and more opportunities.”
Kinetic Pro Cycling’s Carl Bonthuys shared his views of the stage: “It was our goal today to get through the stage. We don’t have a big GC hopeful at the moment so we just wanted to make it through safely and not expend too much energy early in the tour. We achieved that, but we also lost some time on the guys in the breakaway. For a lot of our team riders, this is a new experience. Already this year we’ve had the opportunity to compete in three UCI races, two of them tours and we are learning on the job. Tomorrow, we’ll assess where we are on the GC and then take it from there.”
Thando Zothe (Team Sampada) said the race went well, especially in the first 80km as they chased the Sprint hotspots as their goal. “After the second hotspot, we tried to chase down the big lead group, but the breakaway was too strong. Tomorrow is another day and we will try and to get into a better position for the team.”
Tomorrow’s Stage 2 begins at the Peter Mokabe Stadium in Polokwane along 96.2km to Tzaneen. There is one SPRINT hotspot at 26.6km at the Paledi Mall, and one King of the Mountain hotspot at 56.6km in Magoebaskloof. Teams are expected to arrive in Tzaneen before 12 noon on a stage that offers some climbing to test the legs and the lungs after a long opening stage.
The 2019 Tour de Limpopo will be available to view on live streaming on race days and will go live at the following times:
- Thursday 16 May from 10:00
- Friday 17 May from 10:00
- Saturday 18 May from 09:00
Live streaming can be viewed at www.tourdelimpopo.co.za.
Live results and provisional results can be found immediately after the race at Mobii Timing: http://www.mobiielite.com/results/results.php?RaceID=a08f2b4d-6afd-4449-ac40-094b8d6c3aad