What seemed like a suicidal breakaway at the four-kilometre mark turned into an unlikely victory for Jason Bakke of Team Bonitas in the 114-kilometre BESTmed Jacaranda Satellite Classic, presented by ASG, on October 22.
In his first big win for his new team, the 21-year-old Johannesburg-based climber showed that the country’s one-day races are no longer the sole preserve of the sprinters.
“In the last few races a lot of climbers, including myself, have been very aggressive to try to get away early and avoid a bunch sprint. So it was good that a break succeeded.”
The previous week, at the Amashova Durban Classic, Bakke also joined an early break, which was eventually caught just 600 metres from the line. “So, in the back of my mind, I thought this one could last and that there’d be another close finish.”
The racing was hard from the outset as Bakke and the rest of his nine-man team went out aggressively in order to force a break.
“Then my team-mate Gawie (Combrinck) attacked and Dave Brown (Toyota-Supercycling) and I joined him. It worked out perfectly for us.”
The trio maintained a 30-second gap until the Hekpoort climb at the 60-kilometre mark, forcing the other teams to chase hard. They dropped Brown on the uphill and opened up a one-minute lead on the chasers.
“When we got over the climb, I thought for the first time that we might seriously stand a chance of winning because the guys would have to ride quite a lot faster than us to catch up.”
With 40 kilometres left, Combrinck and Bakke put their heads down into a strong headwind and shared the pace in a do-or-die effort to survive.
“Our biggest concern was Herman Fouche (DCM). He’s probably the fastest sprinter around at the moment, so we didn’t really want to take him to the line.”
Disaster struck for Combrinck when his legs cramped up on the final uphill drag, leaving Bakke to go it alone to the finish. “When I looked back up the finishing straight, I could see them coming.
“With about 100 metres to go, I saw Herman right behind me and coming up really quickly. With the last bit of energy I had in my legs, I sprinted and held him off.”
The former Durbanite took his first national classic win, followed by Fouche and Desmond Nkomazana.
“I’ve been peaking for a while now,” said Bakke, who placed on the podium at the U/23 national road championships in Port Elizabeth in February, “but, surprisingly, my legs are still feeling really good.”
He has had a solid season with stage wins in the Clover Tour, BESTmed Jock Cycle Classique and Tour of Lesotho and is looking forward to finishing the year on a high note at the Momentum 94.7 Cycle Challenge in Johannesburg on November 20.
“I’ve always loved that race. I think it suits me quite well because it’s such a rolling course.”
Bakke, however, remains a team player and expects sprinter Tyler Day to be back to full strength after his recent injury and ready to take on the likes of Arran Brown (MTN-Qhubeka), Nolan Hoffman (Tasol) and Fouche.
“The whole team works together; it’s not an individual sport. It just depends on the day who’s got the form.
“If there’s a whole bunch of climbers at the end, I stand a pretty good chance because I can sprint too.”
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