Words: Dave Macleod | Photo: Anthony Grote
Reynard Butler and Lise Olivier were crowned new champions of the aQuellé Tour Durban cycle race on Monday as locally based teams dominated the 105km road race that saw plenty of aggressive, fast racing in ideal warm and windless weather conditions.
Butler, who was installed as the heir apparent to triple champion Nolan Hoffman, was brought to the line perfectly by his Durban based Team Abantu team mates, and claimed his first ever classic title, on his debut ride in the Durban event.
Team Abantu managed their lead-in perfectly with Butler taking the win from teammate David Maree, with Under 23 star Thulasizwe Mxenge (InterActive) claiming the bronze medal ahead of Luthando Kaka (Bonitas) . Defending champion Nolan Hoffman finished just off the bunch in seventh while Team Bonitas' danger man Herman Fouche ended ninth.
"It felt like a dream to me, crossing the line to win my first classic," said Butler.
He admitted that once team manager Dean Edwards had made the decision to structure the team strategy around getting him to the line first, the nerves had kicked in.
"Dean (Edwards) told me two weeks ago to start getting prepared for the win. That made me pretty nervous, but with the guidance of the guys like Nolan (Hoffman) and Dean (Edwards) himself, it became a task that we had to pull off," said Butler.
"This team has an incredible bond," he added. "We lay it out on the road for each other, no matter what. The guys always remind me that we have to take the opportunities and make the racing for ourselves."
"I had to work hard to be there through all the moves. If I hadn't been there then it was going to come down to a bunch sprint for Nolan (Hoffman)", he admitted afterwards.
The race started with some ferocious breaks, largely driven by the Team Abantu sprinters and climbers. Bonitas speedster HB Kruger got the jump on the Abantu men to win the King of the Mountain hotspot, while Abantu made up for that disappointment when David Maree clinched the second hotspot outside Umhlanga.
"It was flat out attack the whole time," said Butler. "The pace was fast and there was pressure to stay with all the moves."
He said that he had felt particular pressure because he had never done the race before, and therefore didn't know what to expect. The unique finish with two sharp right hand turns over the Argyle Road bridge had been tricky in the seven rider bunch that was jockeying for position in the end-sprint.
"Particularly with the turn going from normal traffic into contra-flow, you had to judge your speed carefully. Fortunately it worked out well for the team," he said.
The women's race was tightly controlled by the newly formed team Time Freight VELOLife and by the time the race had turned in Pinetown there were only seven riders together, four of which were from the KZN team, with Jeannie Bomford, and Bestmed's Monique Gerber trying to put on the pressure in a bid to wrestle control away from them.
Team Time Freight VELOLife worked together to set up the experienced Pretoria-based road star and team captain Lise Olivier to take the end sprint comfortably in the end.
"We tried to make it really hard on the first climb to Pinetown and we attacked there, but once we had gone over the top at Pinetown fortunately there were four of our team in the bunch of seven.
Oliver said that she was exposed by her lack of knowledge of the course. "I went at the bottom of the climb to Pinetown but I totally underestimated what a long climb it was!"
Olivier paid tribute to the hard work done on the course by her team mates, many of whom are better known as mountain bikers or multi-sport athletes.
"Ashleigh Moffatt made it really hard with about ten kilometres to go, then Carla van Huyssteen went just before the last corners, then I was going to take the long sprint while Candice Neethling covered the short sprint, and it all worked out really well in the end," said Olivier.
The 55km cyclo-cross race for Mountain Bike enthusiasts was won by former champion Andrew Hill (TIB Insurance). Hill streaked away alone at the front as soon as the race left the tar and hit the single track, and comfortably added the cyclo-cross scalp to the aQuellé Tour Durban MTB title he won several years ago, bringing his tally of wins at this event to four in five years.
"I managed to get a gap on a sharp climb shortly after we left the road," said Hill. "The problem was that there were three guys behind me, and if they worked well together they could have hauled me in."
Talented rider Travis Walker's race ended with a puncture, largely because he gambled by using a cyclo-cross tyre that wasn't able to withstand the hammering on the single track sections. Julian Jessop took the silver from Brian Powell.
"It was always going to be interesting and technical and the set-up for a race like this gets the guys talking. it is a race I have supported from the beginning and I am chuffed to get another win," Hill added.
The event was raced in ideal weather conditions, and the massive field of serious and recreational cyclists enjoyed the conditions, particularly as the Sunday, when the race was originally scheduled to be held, was buffeted by gale force winds.
All proceeds from the race are channelled into the Domino Foundation that supports the Amaoti community north of the city.
More information can be found at www.tourdurban.co.za
1 Reynard Butler (Abantu) 2:27:37
2 David Maree (Abantu)
3 Thulasizwe Mxenge (InterActive, 1st U23))
4 Luthando Kaka (Bonitas)
5 Christopher Jennings (Bonitas)
6 Myles van Musschenbroek (Abantu),
7 Nolan Hoffman (Abantu)
8 Clint Hendricks (Bonitas)
9 Herman Fouche (Bonitas)
10 Peter-Lee Jefferies (InterActive)
1 Lise Olivier (Time Freight/Velolife) 2:58:50
2 Monique Gerber (Best-Med)
3 Candice Neethling (Time Freight/Velolife)
55km MTB Cyclocross
1 Andrew Hill (TIB Insurance)
2 Julian Jessop (Team Jeep)
3 Brian Powell