Queen stage. A phrase that might excite some of us, with the promise of jewels, gold or silver or even diamonds. A queen with her crown jewels stepping onto a stage for a big event perhaps? To any cyclist, this can either be an exciting day of racing or it can give you nightmares the night before.
But as the cyclists taking part in the Takealot Tour of Good Hope 2019, were cooling down and preparing for Stage 4 the next day, the race organisers had to change the route of Stage 4 due to safety concerns. This resulted in the riders having to spend more time in the saddle, on a very challenging day, with the distance now set at approximately 145km. The riders were in for a treat, departing from the hub of the tour (Boland Landbou school), very early on Thursday morning. The iconic Bainskloof pass, has become the Alpe d‘Huez of The Takealot Tour of Good Hope, with a total elevation of approximately 1725m. During this stage, legs are pushed to their full capacity, and heart rates are pushed in the red, while climbing the rolling hills of these passes in the Paarl Valley, but inclement weather was forecast as the stage was to start, that would ultimately test the grit of all the riders.
With the Kross Racing team, in the driver’s seat at this point of the week, the race leader for the ladies’ race, Maja Wloszczowska, was surely planning on holding on to the yellow jersey. It was not going to be easy with the target on her back from the start of the stage.
Maja, traditionally a mountain biker and 2008 and 2016 Olympicsilver medallist, found this part the toughest stage of the week. ‘’It was the hardest stage of The Tour of Good Hope, 150kms with two long uphills, with weather change and rain and a headwind’’
After the first climb in the ladies’ race there was a break of four riders, and the yellow jersey was part of this break. The group of four stayed together for the majority of the distance, with an attack coming on the second down hill
‘’We were working very well, so the pace was nice when we reached the second uphill, staying in the group of four, and on the last downhill, Ariane and Catherine, the best South African girl attacked really strongly and superfast and we stayed in three. We knew we had to take the opportunity of the advantage, we started to attack one by one, so when Ariane attacked Catherine had to follow’’
In the end the strategy for the team paid off as well as the well timed breakaway from the rest of the group. The change in weather and temperature did not seem to bother Maya, as they were moving through the mountain with poise and ease. A slight misjudgement however, with last few kilometres almost jeopardized Maya’s position, when the end was further away than what she thought. ‘’I just didn’t know if was so far from the finish, I thought it was 15km to the finish line and it was 30km. It was hard especially with the rain and headwind but I managed to hold the gap and I took the victory. I am super happy and look forward for tomorrow’s stage.
What worked very well for this Elite ladies team is textbook teamwork, and communication. Timing the break also perfectly worked well in this very strong team’s favour. The ladies went up the pass twice, with each loop being about 60km long. The two riders are also preparing for the ABSA Cape Epic, starting in a few days’ time.
Ariane welcomed the tough day, as it also prepared them for what is to come in the following weeks. ‘’Stage 4 of TOGH was a really tough one. I would say it was proper training for ABSA cape Epic for Maya and I. We got a proper day out there and I think my TSS was about 280, so a good day in the saddle’’
Confirming what a tough day it was, Ariane noted her TSS (Training Stress Score). This is a number that elite athletes use to quantify the intensity of their ride on the day. The Kross Racing team finished first and second, holding on the leader’s jersey for yet another day.
During the men’s race, there was a break early on in the stage. Steven v Heerden (Team Enza Construction) and HB Kruger (Alpha Bodyworks-Giant) broke away only 8km into the race, and were away for most of the day. They opened up the gap to 48sec, where Nolan Hoffmann was part of it. The first King of the Mountain (KOM) at 19km was won by Kruger, with Van Heerdenin second.
Straight after the first KOM, an error in judgement from Wynand Hofmeyr caused him to go over the edge of the pass which would cause any seasoned cyclist’s blood to run cold. The cyclist grabbed on to a branch of a tree, not to fall off the mountain. It literally was a sight that you would only see during International races like the Tour de France. The race doctor attended to him immediately and on the doctor’s recommendation he was advised to sadly stop his race.
Van Heerden and Kruger extended the gap between them and the bunch, to 2min26sec after 72km. At the second KOM, Kruger won again, with Van Heerden second and Frans Claes in third and the yellow jersey, Pritzen in fifth. After the KOM Van Heerden pushed harder, and extended the lead to 2mins ahead of the peloton, but with 12km to go and down Bainskloof pass, the riders were chased down by 8 riders, including Callum Ormiston(Protouch) and Charles Mcfall. With just 10km to go the gap was closed down to 35sec, and Van Heerden and Kruger were caught. Officeguru’s Dylan Girdlestone came to spoil the party with his surge to victory, seven seconds ahead of TEG Procycling’s Kent Main and Jason Oosthuizen. Girdlestone extended his lead in the general classification as well, by 39sec.
Tomorrow is the last day that Paarl locals can see these elite athletes in action, with the last stage of 66km finishing at the Taal Monument, an iconic landmark in the town.
Stage 4 results:
1. Maja Wloszczowska 4:30:55
2. Ariane Luthi 4:34:32
3. Catherine Colyn 4:34:44
1. Dylan Girdlestone (OfficeGuru) 3:41:42
2. Kent Main (TEG Procycling) 3:41:49
3. Jason Oosthuizen(TEG Procycling) 3:41:55
1. Dylan Girdlestone
2. Kent Main
3. Jason Oosthuizen
4. Marc Pritzen
5. Travis Barrett
6. Frans Claes
7. Clint Hendricks
8. Steven van Heerden
9. Christopher Lagane
10. Byron Munton
1. Maja Wloszczowska
2. Ariane Luthi
3. Catherine Colyn
4. Lucy James
5. Julie Borgers
6. Yolandi du Toit
7. Sophie Housden
8. Chanel Hannah
9. Hanlie Booyens
10. Vivien Sa Joe
If you are going in support of this event, please adhere to the rules of the road and the traffic officials as you make your way to the event to show your support, but most importantly respect our cyclists.
Live feeds can be found on the tour’s official twitter account. Please follow: @tourofgoodhope for the latest news and race updates during the race every day, during every stage.