Mountaintop grand finale for Tour de Boland

Riders and spectators can look forward to another mountaintop finish at the Bestmed Tour de Boland – this time at the Taal Monument near Paarl on March 6.

CAPTION: Riders and spectators at the five-stage Bestmed Tour de Boland can look forward to another mountaintop finish – this time at the Taal Monument near Paarl on March 6. Photo: Capcha Photography

Riders and spectators can look forward to another mountaintop finish at the Bestmed Tour de Boland – this time at the Taal Monument near Paarl on March 6.

The 2015 edition of the prestigious five-day road tour, which is presented by Pinarello, moves deeper into the heart of the Boland from March 2.

More than 700 participants are expected for the 465km stage race, which has replaced the Giro del Capo in the lead-up to the annual Cape Town Cycle Tour.

Offering a serious challenge – and prizes – to South Africa’s top pro and amateur teams, it aims to re-establish the tradition of the iconic road tour.

According to event coordinator Wynand de Villiers, the Paarl climb had featured strongly in earlier incarnations of the Tour de Boland.

“We have a good relationship with Drakenstein Municipality and wanted to give them a chance to host the finale this year,” said De Villiers.

“The finish ticks all the boxes as far as presenting a proper finale up to an epic Western Cape landmark goes.”

He said the 4km final climb would be shorter and steeper than last year’s 9km Franschhoek Pass finale, which now makes its appearance on the opening stage.

“Our tour director, Carinus Lemmer, is known for keeping things interesting and sometimes offbeat. We like his approach, which means we’ll try and change things every year.”

According to Lemmer, adding a fifth stage was yet another step in building the tradition of a classic road tour.

“We want to make this an authentic tour of the Boland. We’ve had requests from many towns to include them, so we try and showcase as much of the region as possible.”

Lemmer said the 113km opening stage would take riders from the centre of Paarl to Worcester via Villiersdorp.

On day two, he said the field would cover 111km to Op-die-Berg, climbing 1 278m and ending with two signature ascents – Mitchell’s Pass and Gydo Pass.

After two intense days of riding, the 30km individual time-trial between Ceres and Tulbagh would be a welcome respite, said Lemmer.

“It’s a flattish course and almost like a rest day.”

He said the “rest” would be much needed as the 138km queen stage towards Riebeek-Kasteel – the sole surviving host town from the 2014 tour – loomed on stage four.

“The tour wraps up with a quick 74km dash back to Paarl, and up the mountain, via Wellington.”

For the elite riders, Lemmer says this would involve summiting Paarl Mountain via a gravel road to finish at the Taal Monument.

“We’re going easier on the veterans and amateur racing bunches – their ascent will be on tar.”

De Villiers said the addition of an amateur team competition was another new feature that organisers had introduced due to popular demand.

“The amateur category personifies the spirit of the Tour de Boland – working together towards a common goal. Very few tours afford amateurs the opportunity of feeling and being rewarded like the pros, and we’ll be announcing some amazing prizes, worth more than R250 000, shortly.”

He said the top five elite men and women overall would receive cash prizes, as well as the top three licensed vets.

“There are also prizes for the top three men’s elite teams and top three amateur squads.”

De Villiers said all open or seeded riders who finished within the allotted times would receive a commemorative trophy.

Visit www.tourdeboland.co.za, e-mail eventsupport@asgworld.co.za or phone 076 621 1807. Alternatively, find the race on Facebook or follow @TourdeBoland.