In-form Conrad Viljoen (Mecer-NMMU) overcame sweltering conditions and a stern challenge from Friendly City Cycles to complete a hat-trick of wins in the Beachfront Lodges Premier Cycling League in Port Elizabeth on Saturday.

Viljoen attacked breakaway companions Mario Nell and Welcome Stokwe (both from Friendly City Cycles) within sight of the finish of the 96km eighth leg to cross the line on his own in 2:35:15.

Nell, who was given the tag of favourite on the decidedly flat course, claimed second in 2:35:29, while Stokwe, a former national development rider, completed the podium in 2:35:44.

“Although it was supposedly an easy course, I thought it was one of the toughest races of the series,” Viljoen said afterwards. “The heat was a huge factor and the course levelled the playing field.

“Being outnumbered towards the end, I tried to look after myself as much as possible. I knew I had to go from far out to neutralise Mario’s kick.”

After failing to get away earlier, Viljoen launched another stinging attack just after the feeding zone on the fifth of eight laps in an effort to bridge the gap to a leading group of five that included Stokwe, Mark Murray (Mecer-NMMU), Doug Shadwell (Toyota-Cycle Lab), Michael O’Halloren (Wayne Pheiffer Cycles) and Terry Syphus (Volkswagen).

He was immediately joined by the ever-attentive Antal Meiswinkel (Toyota-Cycle Lab) and Nell. Meiswinkel, however, succumbed to the pace a few kilometres later, leaving Viljoen and Nell to chase down the leaders, who had started to wilt under the continuous pressure and the heat.

The two chasers caught up to Stokwe, the only survivor of the initial group, at the beginning of lap six to form the final break and together they were able to extend their lead to a maximum of 1:34 over the peloton after seven laps.

Kevin Dorfling (Toyota-Cycle Lab) caused a minor flutter among the leading trio when he broke clear from the pack towards the end of lap seven, but he narrowly failed to make the juncture and was eventually caught two kilometres from the finish.

Former Bok sprinter Wayne Pheiffer (Walmer Club; 2:36:05) brought the bunch home less than a minute behind Viljoen in fourth, with multiple national champion Anriëtte Schoeman (Toyota-Cycle Lab; 2:36:06) taking advantage of a conservative strategy to place fifth.

Luthando Fatyi (Friendly City Cycles; 2:36:07), Dorfling (2:36:08), Weslee Todkil (Toyota-Cycle Lab; 2:36:14), Ronnie Scheffer (Mecer-NMMU; 2:36:17) and Riaan Vosloo (Volkswagen; 2:36:19) completed the top ten.

Toyota-Cycle Lab accumulated the most points to win the team prize, followed by Friendly City Cycles and Volkswagen. Overall, Mecer-NMMU (91 points) still leads from Toyota-Cycle Lab (84) and Friendly City Cycles (75).

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