Team bizhub’s Sanet Smal timed her sprint to perfection to record her first road race victory as a professional at the Powerade Lost City Classic over 103 kilometres on Saturday.
Smal, drafted in mid-May by the Gauteng-based team to fill the sprinting void, left her effort as late as possible into a slight headwind to relegate Lynette Burger (Toyota-Cycle Lab) and An-Li Pretorius (MTN-Energade) into second and third respectively. Her winning time was 2:54:11.
The men’s race was won by Reinhardt Janse van Rensburg (MTN-Energade) in 2:22:56. Medscheme team-mates Malcolm Lange and Arran Brown completed the podium.
“It was the perfect setting for a mass sprint – the road was wide and it was slightly downhill,” said the 26-year-old Smal, who lives in Pretoria. “With the headwind, I knew I had to leave it as late as possible.”
National time-trial champion Casandra Slingerland took control of the main bunch – which was 17 riders strong – about a kilometre out with team-mate Pretorius on her wheel. “I sat on An-Li’s wheel with Lynette on mine,” explained Smal.
“An-Li kicked first, but I think she went a bit too early and when she faded I went around her on the right and Lynette on the left.
“We were shoulder to shoulder over the last 30 metres. I could see her out of the corner of my eye. It was only in the last few metres that I pulled clear.”
Smal admitted that she was confident that she could win if the race came down to a sprint – and on the largely flat course few would’ve bet against a bunch finish.
“I’m really, really happy with this win. It’s my first for bizhub. Recently I’ve been on the podium quite a lot, but winning is winning.”
Smal paid tribute to her team-mates, and especially Lise Olivier, whose hard work throughout the race helped set the victory up. “Lise chased a number of breaks down. She was awesome today.”
Olivier, meanwhile, completed a fantastic weekend for the team by winning the Cansa Lost City Mountain Bike Challenge, contested over two loops of 25 kilometres each, in 1:44:50 the following day.
“I didn’t push too hard at the beginning – I could still feel the Trans Baviaans in my legs,” Olivier said afterwards. “And then Yolandi (du Toit) and I and a few others took a wrong turn.”
After getting back on course, Olivier once again lost ground – this time to Du Toit – when she was forced to dismount on a rocky uphill.
“It took me about five kilometres to catch back up to her and from there we rode together until we caught and passed Sanet (Team Ghost) at the start of lap two.”
Olivier, who said she felt stronger and stronger as the race progressed, then took the lead for the first time as Du Toit started to falter.
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