MTN Qhubeka’s never say die attitude pays off at Tour de Freestate

Arran Brown (MTN-Qhubeka) proved himself to be true to his word when, on Sunday (28 August), he outsprinted Nolan Hoffman (Tasol) to win the last stage of the Tour de Free State.

“It was a great stage. I owe much to my teammates who tactically rode a brilliant race. They set up everything for me so perfectly that I had the luxury of saving myself for the final sprint to the line,” Brown said.  He predicted the day before the race that, if given half a chance, he would win.

“It was a case of ‘race on’ right from the start. We wanted to keep the pressure on the other teams throughout the stage. In the end everything came together and I managed to time my sprint to perfection to beat Nolan (Hoffman) by half a bike length. Dusty Day (Matlosana) was third.”

This result means that the contest for the honour of being called South Africa’s fastest rider, is starting to heat up between Brown, Hoffman, Tyler Day (Bonitas) and Dusty Day.

In the sprinting contests during the past four weeks, Brown was victorious twice, Hoffman once and Tyler Day once. Dusty Day has two third-place finishes to his name.

Brown reckons the best is yet to come.

“I have only begun to do sprint-specific training during the past few weeks. I am nowhere near my best yet.”

Although team MTN-Qhubeka did not have the best of starts in the Tour de Freestate, they deserve credit for the way in which they kept on taking the fight to the other teams, never giving up.

This never-say-die attitude paid off, because Dennis van Niekerk eventually finished 3rd overall. Bradley Potgieter won the King of the Mountains competition and Reinardt Janse van Rensburg the Points Classification.

“We also achieved three second-place finishes on stages 2,3 and 4.  It was really a great team effort.

“It is wonderful that Hendrik Lemmer and Barry Austin have given us the opportunity to have these professional cycling races in South Africa. It was also encouraging to see the Freestate supporting cycling as a sport,” Brown said.

The following is Brown’s blow-by-blow account of how the tour played out.

Stage 1: Criterium (80km): Reinardt 5th and Dennis 8th on the first stage in Parys. A group of nine riders managed to get away in a break after about 40 kilometres of racing. Jorne Carolus (Belgium) won, Reinardt was 5th and Dennis 8th.

Stage 2: Bradley Potgieter went in an early breakaway with Christian Kriek (Toyota).

The South African teams wanted the European team to control and defend their lead, but they allowed the gap to grow to 4 minutes before they tried to gain control.

The race then split up on the first real climb before Surrender Hill.  Towards Clarens a few small groups joined up to make the lead bunch about 40 riders strong.

Tasol-GT controlled the last 20km.  After a long day, with 20km to go, Bradley and Christian were brought back.

At the end Pieter Seyffert (Matlosana) spoilt the sprinters party with a well-timed attack from behind with 800m to go. He took the victory, in a downhill finish, from Reinardt and Hanco Kachelhoffer (Bonitas).

Stage 3: The stage started with six laps of 5km’s in and around the town of Clarens.  The route then took us to Golden Gate, with a lap through and around the reserve and back across, to finish up the steep 26% percent gradient concrete climb.

Dennis, Johann Rabie (Bonitas), Pieter Seyffert (Matlosana) and David Maree (Tasol-GT) broke away early up the steep climb into Clarens. They gained a gap that was 2:45 at one stage, before the European Invitational Team and Toyota u.23 team increased their pace to bring the break back.

Dennis and Rabie stayed clear until 250m to go up the steep climb to the finish.  There Darren Lill (Bonitas) managed to slip past Dennis to win the stage by about 2 seconds and Johann Rabie rounded off the podium in third position.

Stage 4: James Perry (Tasol) won.

Stage 5: MTN Qhubeka’s Arran Brown won the final stage in the city of Bloemfontein, but it was Rabie, who finished safely in the main pack, who clinched the overall title in the prestigious five-day event. The 2nd place overall went to Rabie’s teammate, Darren Lill, with Dennis van Niekerk (MTN Qhubeka) in the 3rd place on the podium. Team Bonitas also won the team competition.