Clint Hendricks (ProTouch Continental) snuck up on Hendrik Kruger (Alfa Bodyworks Giant) and pipped him on the line to claim the fourth and final stage of the Tour de Limpopo in a time of two hours 51 minutes and 41 seconds at the Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane on 18 May 2019.
The victory was almost Kruger’s, who raised his arms early in anticipation of his achievement, only for Hendricks to clinch it away on the finish line. This results in Kruger accepting second place while Jason Oosthuizen (TEG Continental) rounded out the podium in the five-man sprint. For the General Classification contention, Team Dimension Data Continental safely guarded their key man, the multiple jersey holder Samuele Battistella, to secure the overall GC victory.
Battistella said after the race that they never saw the GC contender Dylan Girdlestone (ProTouch) attack and break away from the peloton. With the one minute gap in place, Team Dimension Data Continental pushed to close the gap. Girdlestone was fifth on the GC at the start of today’s stage.
Speaking about earlier in the day, Battistella said, “There was a climb in the early part of the race, so we just rode a regular pace to drop some of the riders. On the top, I saw that two guys were ahead and I managed to get third place in the KOM. This has been a good tour for the team and for me as I am preparing for the Giro d’Italia U23 race. My teammates have been very strong and supported me a lot yesterday and today, so I am very happy with the victory.
The race began with an early break four kilometres in, with Jean-Bosco Nsengimana (Benediction Excel Energy), Henrick Kruger, Remi Sarreboubee (Club Cycliste St Louisien) and Siyabonga Somchiza (Sampada), with the latter two dropping off by the eight kilometre mark. At the sprint hotspot at 18.5km, it was Nsengimana and Kruger who crossed the line first, with Jason Oosthuizen and Nolan Hoffman claiming the points for third and fourth places.
Heading up Magoebaskloof Pass, Kruger saw the peloton closing in and broke away from Nsengimana, claiming the King of the Mountain in the process. He was followed by the Rwandan’s teammate Didier Munyaneza, Battistella and Alexander Worsdale (Officeguru Racing) for the KOM positions. At 31km, the familiar attack from David Maree (Proud Beginners) came, where he rode solo for the next 30km, the peloton maintaining a consistent time behind him the whole way.
A new breakaway developed at 65km, which would contain the lead six who claimed the top six positions of the stage, these were Girdlestone, Worsdale, Hendricks, Oosthuizen, Hendrik Kruger, and Casper Kruger (ACDC Luso). A crash in the peloton dashed Maree’s chances of bridging the gap to the group as he lost too much time getting going again. The race was between these six riders at the Peter Mokaba Stadium precinct, where five laps of the circuit were completed to determine Hendricks as the stage winner.
Hendricks said, “This is one of the biggest races of the year for me. I didn’t come here with all the firepower as I was sick about two weeks before the tour started. I came in support of Kent Main, especially with a mountain top finish like yesterday. The tour was really good this year, the level of racing was very high and there were more international teams. The plan today was to win the tour but we had our work cut out for us with Team Dimension Data Continental and particularly the Italian Samuele Battistella.”
A disappointed Kruger said, “I was in some of the moves of the day, so it was a hard day from the gun. I had no ambition to win the sprint early on, so I didn’t contest for that, but I was going for KOM and I needed that gap up the mountain. I tried my luck for the KOM jersey, but I am now tie with Battistella. I got into another move to the finish fortunately we stuck to the line, and I made an amateur mistake to celebrate too early and lost the win, so it’s a bittersweet finish for me.
Speaking about the KOM jersey, Kruger added, “I won the KOM on Stage 2 and that opened the competition. I tried on yesterday’s stage but I didn’t have the legs for the finish up Mt. Agatha, so I missed out on that. Today played into my hands again but the competition was quite stiff. I feel better knowing that I gave it my all and didn’t give up.”
“Break-maker” David Maree showed us that he just wanted to race again today. “I tried to go for the stage win today but the day didn’t end too well for me, I was involved in the crash where we were in the line and some wheels touched and about seven guys came down and that was the end – I couldn’t chase when its flat out for the last 30km. I’ve enjoyed the tour and I gave it my best.”
Team Limpopo’s Alan Gordon glad to finish today’s hard stage. “I think I went out too fast in the beginning and had to work hard with a small group to stay in touch and just to see the front guys ahead. Luckily we were not involved in the crash.”
Competing in his first UCI tour and road stage race, teammate Sheldon Muller said, “It was a nice stage today, at the top of the climb we got split a lot in the bunch. We went over the top and caught some more guys and formed a nice group. On the flats by Moria, there were a couple of guys working but we battled to catch them, they were never close enough. I’ll definitely be back, I really enjoyed it.”
ProTouch Continental’s Tony Harding said, “We were only behind on the GC by one second this morning, so we needed to gain two seconds to win the tour. It was always going to be hard the way the Di-Data guys are riding. The move worked well when the Officeguru guys went as it did put Di-Data under pressure. We were happy for the race to go. It was a good stage and a good result – I’m happy with the win and to finish one second behind a team like Di-Data.”
That’s a wrap of the 2019 Tour de Limpopo, where all the teams and crew, officials, dignitaries and support teams celebrated four superb days of racing while experiencing the varied climate and diverse terrain, and incredible culture and cuisine that Limpopo province has to offer. We wish everybody a safe trip home and will see you back in 2020!
All photographs and recorded highlights packages from the Tour de Limpopo can be viewed here: https://www.tourdelimpopo.co.za/media