Mecer-NMMU produced a metronomic performance to win the grand finale of the inaugural Beachfront Lodges Premier Cycling League, a 66km team time-trial, in Port Elizabeth on Saturday.
The six-man student outfit – consisting of Conrad Viljoen, Jade Muller, Jimmy Baillie, Mark Murray, Reghardt Koen and Ronnie Scheffer – clocked six laps within 14 seconds of each other on the windswept 11km course to turn the tables on the fancied Friendly City Cycles team, who had won the same discipline earlier in the season.
Mecer-NMMU produced lap times of 15:23, 15:15, 15:16, 15:15, 15:26 and 15:12 to stop the clock on 1:31:47, a mere 45 seconds faster than Friendly City Cycles. Toyota-Cycle Lab were well off the pace in third.
It was a tight affair throughout, with both teams setting the same split times on the first lap. Friendly City Cycles – represented by Mario Nell, Welcome Stokwe, Francois Geldenhuys, Phillip Erasmus, Luthando Fatyi and Mike Bosch – drew clear by 18 seconds after two laps, but conceded much of their advantage to lead by only five going into the second half of the race.
Mecer-NMMU, who had lost two of their star riders on lap three, showed remarkable powers of concentration and stamina to maintain their rhythm on lap four as Friendly City Cycles, who had also sacrificed a rider, started to falter and fell 11 seconds behind.
Even though Mecer-NMMU’s penultimate lap was their slowest, they all but made sure of victory when they distanced their rivals – who were also down to four riders at that stage – by a further 14 seconds. They then proceeded to drive the final nail into Friendly City Cycles’ coffin with their quickest lap.
“We badly wanted this,” a smiling Viljoen said after the race. “We wanted to prove that we are worthy winners of the league.”
Mecer-NMMU’s cumulative points total (99) after nine events saw them take the league title ahead of Toyota-Cycle Lab (79), Friendly City Cycles (73), Walmer Club (53) and Volkswagen (49).
Viljoen was voted rider of the series, while Stokwe, a former national development rider, was named the most improved. Volkswagen were named the most improved team.
Vice-president of Eastern Province Cycling and one of the masterminds behind the series, Shane Bradfield, said on Tuesday the series succeeded in bringing back competitive team racing to the province. “It also gave our elite riders a winter platform to hone their fitness and skills ahead of summer.”
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