Hunter Edges Narrow SA Champs Sprint Victory

The Mpumalanga Sport Council 2012 SA National Road Cycling and Time Trial Championships culminated with the Men’s road race in Nelspruit yesterday as they took to the streets to battle it out over 160km in perfect weather conditions.

South African road cycling sensation Robbie Hunter, who races professionally for the international Garmin-Barracuda team, achieved his goal of claiming the SA National Champion title and the green and gold stripes in a tightly contested battle!

The 35-year-old icon, originally from the West Rand and currently residing in Switzerland for most of the racing season, flew back home to South Africa especially for this race, and for one purpose only – to don the national jersey.

Hunter’s manager in SA, JP van Tonder was in full praise of the event and the race itself. “We cannot fault the organisation and the official side of the SA Road Champs, and congratulations must go to Denis (Human) and Hendrik (Wagenaar) for the way it was run – everything was on time, and the course itself was
safe and suited the riders and presented a great challenge.

“Robbie was determined to come to South Africa to race in the national championships, and his goal was to win and take the jersey to race in Europe, and to start the Tour de France in his national jersey,” Van Tonder continued.  “With this win, the Garmin-Barracuda team collects 100 points towards their UCI account, and this strengthens their position in the global team standings.”

Although racing without the support of his international team, there were two riders helping Hunter on the day, Jay Thomson (United Healthcare Procycling Team) and John-Lee Augustyn (Utensilnord Named).  “They were great Lieutenants! Jay excelled during his performance in keeping Robbie up front – he paced for over 100 kilometres of the 160km race!  In terms of the racing, it was very negative out there as everyone was just marking Hunter, so Thomson paced on his own. Despite being dropped once or twice, and being stung by a bee near his eye, Thomson just kept coming back, going straight to the front and closing the gaps down,” said Van Tonder.

With 20km to go, Hunter surged to the front of the group and turned up the heat, splitting the group from about 40 riders to about eight, and then put in another effort whittling the pack down to five riders.  At 3km to go, there were only three riders remaining for the final onslaught, Hunter, Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg (Team MTN Qhubeka) and Johann Rabie (Team Bonitas), who ultimately made up the final podium respectively.  Hunter’s tactics panned out well as he claimed the victory after four hours and seven minutes of racing.

Hunter, who was simply ecstatic with his victory, left South Africa early Sunday evening on a flight to Italy, where he is racing this week.

Race organiser Hendrik Wagenaar was very pleased with how the 4-day event unfolded. “Everything went well and according to plan,” said Wagenaar.  “We were watching the weather closely but even this did not let us down. And to hear Robbie tell us after the race that this is one of the best race routes he has ever ridden in South Africa was a fantastic compliment. The route presented solid racing for all types of racers – there were great hills for the climbers, and the descents were long enough for the sprinters to come back each time.  This is why the race boiled down to an exciting sprint finish! I couldn’t have asked for a better weekend.”

Cycling South Africa’s Road Director Louis Rossouw was also in praise of the SA Road Champs event, commending the “outstanding race organisation, excellent spirit in which the race was conducted, and the high quality of the officiating.”

The Under-23 race also resulted in a sprint for victory as Calvin Beneke (Team MTN Qhubeka) crossed the finish line first to claim gold, finishing the 3-lap 160km race in 04:09:52, with Louis Meintjes (CyclingSA Toyota National Academy) second and Shaun-Nick Bester (Top Club Westvaal – BMC) third.

In the junior race, Kellan Gouveris (Top Club Tasol Solar – GT) nudged ahead in yet another sprint finish with Ryan Felgate (Top Club a[s]g Jnr) and Ryan Gibbons claiming silver and bronze respectively.  All three riders recorded the same finish time as they completed 109km (2-laps) in 03:08:03.

The inaugural Student category also crowned a new champion, also by sprint finish – it was Viehann Du Plessis (Top Club a[s]g U23) who claimed gold followed by Willem Smit and Kevin Patten (Top Club a[s]g U23) who all recorded a finish time of 04:09:52.

RESULTS – Mpumalanga Sport Council 2012 SA National Road Cycling and Time Trial Championships – Sunday – 04 March 2012

Elite Men
1 Robert Hunter (Garmin-Barracuda) 04:07:43
2 Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg (Team MTN Qhubeka) 04:07:43
3 Johann Rabie (Team Bonitas) 04:07:46

Under 23 Men
1 Calvin Beneke (Team MTN Qhubeka) 04:09:52
2 Louis Meintjes (CyclingSA Toyota National Academy) 04:09:52
3 Shaun-Nick Bester (Top Club Westvaal – BMC) 04:09:52

Junior Men
1 Kellan Gouveris (Top Club Tasol Solar – GT) 03:08:03
2 Ryan Felgate (Top Club a[s]g Jnr) 03:08:03
3 Ryan Gibbons 03:08:03

Elite Men – Student
1 Viehann Du Plessis (Top Club a[s]g U23) 04:09:52
2 Willem Smit 04:09:52
3 Kevin Patten (Top Club a[s]g U23) 04:09:52