Herman Fouché rounded out a stellar start to the 2013 season for Team Bonitas by securing their fourth victory in as many outings at the Optimum Berge en Dale, presented by ASG, on February 9.
The event, which attained seeding status for the Cape Argus Pick n Pay Cycle Tour in December last year, saw more than 2 500 riders line up at the start at Silverstar Casino in Muldersdrift in Gauteng.
Sporting four major climbs, one of which features a gruelling seven-degree incline, the 97km race is said to be one of the tougher pre-Argus tests of fitness.
However, despite his known weakness on long ascents, Fouché boasts an impressive palmares at Berge en Dale having finished runner-up in 2012.
The sprinter, who has wins in the Momentum 94.7 Cycle Challenge and Amashova Durban Classic to his credit, said he wanted to show his mettle on the rollercoaster roads as he built towards his dream of winning the Cycle Tour.
“I was second last year and third the year before and have been preparing with that and the South African champs in mind.”
He said the Berge en Dale finish was always going to be a hard, uphill sprint, which was up his alley. “We were planning on controlling the race from start to finish and my team did a great job in protecting me.”
The race, which takes place partly in the Cradle of Humankind, happens to be familiar territory for the Bonitas riders who train there regularly. “We know the area well, so it was a matter of getting our strategy right and working together.”
The 25-year-old recalled two crucial moments when his team kept the race in check.
“Within the first 15km there was a breakaway of three, but we made sure to keep the break under one and a half minutes. Around 15km from the finish, we started bringing them back.”
Despite their strategy panning out exactly as they had hoped, Fouché said the last 500m were always anxiety-filled.
“All kinds of questions flash through your mind, like ‘Am I in the right gear?’ and ‘Where’s the wind coming from?’. You just have to power through it and it seems to have paid off.”
In the end, the Bonitas plan came together as he outsprinted Johann Rabie of Tasol-GT, whom he had marked throughout the race.
The Berge en Dale title came after successes at the Gauteng Provincial Champs, Value Logistics Fast One and The Herald VW Cycle Tour in January and early February – all courtesy of Christoff van Heerden.
Race organiser Wynand de Villiers said he was happy with how the event went down.
“Everything went smoothly and we’d like to think we made race founder Wouter van Wyk proud. He started it as a fundraiser for the Weltevreden Hervormde Kerk.”
De Villiers said the event definitely measured up to the Cycle Tour in terms of difficulty and Fouché echoed his sentiments.
“It was a fun, but hard course. The lap around the Cradle of Hamankind was especially challenging.”
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