The province’s top climber, Conrad Viljoen, showed that he is also a man for the flat roads when he stormed away from a classy field to win the first leg of the Beachfront Lodges Premier Cycling League in Port Elizabeth on Saturday.
The leader of the Mecer-NMMU team completed the 82 largely flat kilometres over five laps of the Butterfield circuit in 2hrs 05min 10sec.
He was followed home more than three-and-a-half minutes later by a tiring Raynard Tissink (Friendly City Cycles; 2:08:45), with former Bok sprinter Wayne Pheiffer (Walmer Club; 2:08:54) leading the bunch over the line in third.
The pressure was on from the gun and a series of attacks and counter moves by the leading teams saw Viljoen go clear after just four kilometres.
He was joined by Ironman Tissink and the EP Invitation team’s Andrew Crossman, but the latter soon faltered, leaving the duo to battle strong winds and a chasing peloton for the rest of the afternoon.
Viljoen – the Eastern Province road and time trial champion – and Tissink combined well to stretch their lead to 2:30 after two 16,4-kilometre laps and 3:30 after three.
On lap four Tissink also cracked under the pressure, leaving the 24-year-old Viljoen on his own more than four minutes up the road.
“I did not plan to attack so early. It was a huge risk,” an exhausted Viljoen said afterwards.
“Everyone thinks this is an easy route, but the wind makes it extremely tough – especially if you’re on your own.”
It seemed game over for Tissink as the bunch started to snap at his heels in the closing stages, but he was the deserved beneficiary of some tactical manoeuvring by the sprinters and he managed to hold on by nine seconds.
“I was feeling quite fresh and was hoping that the sprint would start early so that we had a shot at catching Raynard (Tissink),” said Pheiffer. “But it seems there were a lot of tired legs in the bunch.”
Ronnie Scheffer (Mecer-NMMU; 2:08:55), EP under 23 champion Mark Murray (Mecer-NMMU; 2:08: 56), Mario Nell (Friendly City Cycles; 2:08:57), Phillip Erasmus (Friendly City Cycles; 2:08:58), Ryan Raffan (PE Club; 2:08:59), Theo van den Berg (EP Invitation; 2:09:00) and Jimmie Baillie (Mecer-NMMU; 2:09:01) completed the top 10.
Mecer-NMMU lead the team standings ahead of Friendly City Cycles and Toyota-Cycle Lab.
Meanwhile, PE’s 20-year-old mountain bike star, Wesley Augustyn (Mecer-NMMU Mongoose), placed second overall in the fifth and final leg of the elite National Downhill Cup in Klapperkop, Pretoria, on Sunday.
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