Starting the stage in the King of the Mountain jersey, Team Dimension Data Continental’s Connor Brown (RSA) made his move to stay ahead of the pack on the 96-kilometre Tour de Limpopo Stage 2 and secure the stage victory in a time of two hours 16 minutes and 46 seconds.
ProTouch Continental’s Clint Hendricks (RSA) and Brown’s teammate Alexander Konychev (ITA) finished in second and third places respectively. 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.
Brown (20) said that the team played it safe in the early parts of the race until the break at 20km in. That’s when we thought the move looked pretty dangerous, so on the climb, we went out to get the break back. When we came down Magoebaskloof descent, that’s when our group noticed that the yellow jersey wasn’t there and all the guys decided to put the gas on.”
The 20-year-old, who has been racing in Australia and competed in the Tour of Utah last year, was happy to take the victory, with his teammates positioned in the top 10 as well.
Before the first 10km was complete, a break group of five riders launched an attack which was quickly closed down. The peloton reacted swiftly to a couple of the early breaks, pulling everybody back in the bunch. The Sprint hotspot at 26.6km was taken by Jason Oosthuizen (TEG Continental), who edged out a rampant Nolan Hoffman (Proud Beginners) by a whisker. Herman Keller (NCCS Namibia) and Calvin Beneke (ProTouch Continental) claimed the third and fourth positions for the Sprint.
Shortly after 30km, a big crash occurred in the peloton after touching of wheels, which saw “Aeroman” Orion Craigue (Cycle Power), the animated American, forced to abandon due to injury. A six-rider break got away immediately, with Clint Hendricks (Protocuh Continental), Callum Ormiston (ACDC Luso), Jan Montshioa (Sampada), Travis Barrett (Officeguru Racing), David Maree (Proud Beginners) and Hendrik Kruger (Alfa Bodyworks Giant) get the edge, extending the gap to as much as 50 seconds at one point. With riders dropping off and some others joining, it was Kruger, Maree, Brown and Kent Main (ProTouch Continental) who were the first four riders to cross the King of the Mountain hotspot.
At 78km, Konychev launched an attack but by 81km, a bunch of 15 riders had developed, including the eventual top 10 riders of the stage results.
Brown’s teammate, Samuele Battistella (ITA) said he had a good day in the saddle and was happy with his fourth place result. “The aim of the team was to keep Connor covered and to push on the climb and eliminate the sprinters on the other team. We pushed a lot on the climbs and we raced hard to the end. At the finish, in the sprint it was first for Connor, third for Kony and fourth for me, which is very good for the team.”
Speaking of the event, Battistella added, “It’s my first time in South Africa. In Italy, it is cold and raining now, so this race gives me a chance to push my form for the Giro d’Italia U23 race – it forms part of my training.”
Racing for the British team Velo Schils, James Jobber (GBR) said he spent a week here prior to the race in order to acclimatise. “It’s a high altitude here, so I’m feeling good because I’ve prepared for it, but the rest of the team is still struggling with that. The first stage went well and I was sitting in the front group and I got a top 10 there (sixth place) so the tour is going well for me. Two weeks ago, I was racing in five degrees temperatures at home, so it’s nice to get some sun here.”
The Tour de Limpopo has provided a great opportunity for the team to gain some UCI points in an event of this calibre. “This race is in the middle of our season and its nice to come out here. We struggle for UCI 2.2 races in England so any opportunity is good for us. Hopefully we can come back next year.”
Local cycling team heroes, Team Limpopo Province, have had a tough start to the tour, but they remain strong with two team riders left. Alan Gordon, a Tzaneen local, said, “I was invited to be part of this team and also suggested Sheldon Muller participate as well. So far it is me and him left – unfortunately the other riders had to pull out. Today I was involved in the crash about 40km out but luckily I recovered and go back to the bunch. It was fast down Magoebaskloof but a good race. I’m looking forward to the climbing tomorrow from my home town.
Today’s Red Jersey winner for most combative was none other than Hendrik Kruger (Alfa Bodyworks Giant), who could be found in the front of the race throughout the distance. Kruger said, “Yesterday I found myself in a difficult position as we were chasing for about 70km and just couldn’t catch the front group, so we lost about 10 minutes on them. So today I tried to see if I could get into a break.”
Claiming the KOM points was initially not on Kruger’s radar, “Especially after the huge effort yesterday, it’s hard to know how my legs will respond over the next days.”
Speaking about the terrain, he added, “I loved the route, the profile is great and I’m looking forward to the next few days. This is only one of two UCI tours in the country and it’s not often that we get to race in Limpopo or across Limpopo – I just love this part of the country especially Magoebaskloof. I raced here years ago and its really good to see this part of the country again.”
Thula Mxenge from Proud Beginners said, “The guys in this race are very strong, it’s a very tough and challenging race from the get go. Racing like this with the overseas teams is pushing us and taking our racing to another level. I’m happy with how the race is going and look for more opportunities tomorrow. For tomorrow, I’ll only enjoy the mountain when I’m at the top,” he laughs.
Botswana’s Thabiso Mokalake (Team Swift) said his racing has improved since competing in last year’s tour. “I am able to stay with the peloton a bit longer. Last year’s race really helped my because when I got to my country I was really strong in the races. My team is doing well at the moment and we’re having a good tour. Now it’s time to get my mind ready on tomorrow’s stage.”
Tomorrow’s Stage 3 begins in Tzaneen and travels 103km to finish at the Coach House Hote, a mountain top finish, in Tzaneen. There is one King of the Mountain hotspot at 36.9km. Teams are expected to arrive at Coach House Hotel before 12 noon. After a fast second stage with an introduction to some climbing today, legs will burn again tomorrow as we discover yet another side of Limpopo province.
The 2019 Tour de Limpopo will be available to view on live streaming on race days and will go live at the following times:
- 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