The in-form Brendon Davids achieved a career first when he raced to victory in the three-day Bestmed Jock Tour, which culminated at the Mbombela Stadium in Mpumalanga today.
The RoadCover pro finished the 138km final stage, which included 3 100m of ascent, in third to cement his overall lead in what is, on paper, South Africa’s toughest road cycling event.
Stage three was won by ProTouch’s James Fourie with Dimension Data’s Kent Main, who wore the yellow jersey yesterday after winning the opening day individual time-trial, in second.
ProTouch’s Jayde Julius finished runner-up in the general classification after a gutsy long-distance attack that saw him take the honours in yesterday’s 154km stage over Spitskop and Long Tom Pass.
Completing the overall podium was his teammate Myles van Musschenbroek, who has been on top of his game after returning from injury earlier this month.
“I’m happy with how this weekend turned out, it’s a really cool feeling,” said Davids, a former African continental mountain bike champion who switched to the road after missing out on selection for the Rio Olympics.
“It’s my first tour win, the first time I’ve worn a yellow jersey on the road, so I’m pretty happy with how things have turned out,” said the 23-year-old from Fourways in Johannesburg.
He explained that he had started the stage with the sole intention of holding on to the yellow jersey, which he secured the previous day after just failing to haul in a tiring Julius.
The final day included the feared Boulders climb early on, but it was status quo for the GC contenders until they hit the base of the Hilltop ascent after 131km of racing.
Team ProTouch showed their hand first on the climb when Pieter Seyffert and Gustav Basson tried to set Julius up for a final assault on yellow, but Davids was content to follow the wheels of Main and teammate Mornay van Heerden.
RoadCover’s Clint Hendricks then paced Davids up to the three attackers, with Main on Davids’ wheel. Job done, Hendricks peeled off, leaving Davids and Main to continue the uphill battle.
“Pieter and Gustav had gone too deep so they left Jayde isolated and it was just him, Kent and myself from there,” said Davids.
“Halfway up, I attacked on one of the switchbacks and only Kent really responded. Jayde laboured onto the wheel and I knew the next move would be the one that would give us the gap.”
The former teammates duly disposed of Julius only to realise there was one more hurdle to clear.
“With two kilometres to go we realised there was another rider up the road,” said Davids. “I completely buried myself to try and get within a winning distance, but it was too little too late.”
The new champion said he was waiting for a visa to come through to race overseas and was only able to confirm his entry a few days before the start.
“I had a big week of training coming into the tour so, to be honest, I didn’t think I’d have as good a time-trial as I did. I thought we’d ride for Mornay if he had a good opening stage.
“But one thing led to another and my legs continued to do well.”
Julius’ attacking riding saw him take both the Optimum Financial Services king of the mountains and points jerseys.
Demacon’s overnight leader Carla Oberholzer won her second stage in a row to secure overall victory in what she termed as “probably the most difficult road tour in South Africa”.
Stage one winner Yolandi du Toit, riding for Garmin, minimised her losses to take second ahead of former national road champion Cherise Willeit.
Oberholzer, from Clarens in the Free State, was part of a three-woman sprint for the finish after she and Bestmed-ASG’s Sanet Coetzee formed an early breakaway a mere 3km after the start.
They were joined by Willeit, Lynette Burger, Zanri Roussouw, Du Toit and Daleen van der Leek soon after Boulders and the group stayed together until Hilltop.
“We got a decent gap on the others on Hilltop and rolled together until the finish, where we sprinted it out,” said Oberholzer.
The 32-year-old said the overall victory had been her objective and she was extremely happy with the outcome.
“The main goal today was to keep the lead and anything we took on top of that was a bonus. It’s always great when you pull something like this off with great teamwork.”
Bestmed’s marketing executive Chris Luyt announced that the medical scheme would donate R200 for every member who completed the Jock Tour, split equally among Cansa and Helping Hands, a corporate social investment driven by Clicks.