Team bizhub’s Lise Olivier outsprinted MTN’s Casandra Slingerland in the Sungardens Carousel Classic, which was contested over 110 kilometres in Johannesburg on Women’s Day, to secure the first classic victory of her professional career.
Olivier, who studied in the United States on an athletics bursary before joining the bizhub outfit this season, gave her victory salute after 3 hours 17 minutes and 24 seconds of intense battle with Slingerland, who crossed the line two seconds later.
MTN team-mates An-Li Pretorius (3:18:34) and Douwene Cartwright (3:21:17) crossed the line on their own in third and fourth, with Team bizhub’s Yolandi du Toit (3:25:13) winning a small group sprint to place fifth.
Bradley Potgieter of Club 100, who stopped the clock on 3:22:12, was the overall winner in the 152-kilometre men’s race.
“Casandra twice almost got away early on and I realised that she was the one to watch today,” said an elated Olivier, who showed signs of her increasing road racing stature when she won the PriceWaterhouseCoopers Magoebaskloof Cycle Challenge in mid-May before heading to the United States where she placed 17th in the Cascade Classic six-day tour in Oregon last month.
The early stages of Monday’s race was characterised by a flurry of attacks, one of which saw Olivier, national time-trial champion Slingerland, Pretorius and National Junior Tour winner Sarah Chemley briefly going clear.
Slingerland, who had shown her intentions early on, was the architect of the decisive breakaway move after about 30 kilometres.
“Casandra attacked from the right-hand side of the bunch and at that point I was on the left about nine riders back,” Olivier explained. “I somehow managed to get past and was able to ride up to her back wheel after a short chase.”
Olivier and Slingerland formed an alliance and worked superbly together for the next 25 kilometres, but the latter was ordered not to contribute anymore after team-mates Pretorius and Cartwright had freed themselves from the chasing pack and were closing in on them.
“With my team-mates in the main bunch, I had no option other than to continue working in the hope that our break would succeed,” said Olivier. “When it became clear that we weren’t going to get caught, Casandra attacked from behind and I could not respond.”
Slingerland quickly gained 50 seconds on her former breakaway companion and eventually stretched her lead to a minute.
“I just kept focusing and rode my own pace into the headwind and with about 15 kilometres to go I noticed that the gap to her team car was starting to narrow,” said Olivier, who eventually bridged the gap five from the end.
“Although it was a hard chase, I was feeling reasonably fresh at that point. I felt I had a good chance if I went for a long sprint and fortunately it worked out.
“It’s obviously exciting to win a race of this magnitude. It shows that I’ve come out of the tour extremely well and that I’m in good shape for next week’s race,” said the 27-year-old, referring to the 230-kilometre Trans Baviaans mountain bike event just outside Port Elizabeth.
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