The race started off as a shock to the cold legs as Cape Town Market’s Theuns van der Bank took the first two kilometres as if it were his last two. Maybe he had something to prove after the Double Century or it was just his customary attack on this particular route.
Old Helshoogte was the first obstacle to cross and with a bunch of this stature and numbers you don’t need a prophet to tell you it was going to be hard! I say obstacle because the wind was howling the night before leaving the road looking like the Cape Town Stadium the day after a Premiership Football Game. Again the men in green dictated the pace until halfway up until Peter Lambert from RSA Web moved to front to make the pace hard but steady, eliminating any planned attacks in intensity. As the top of the new pass was reached a group of about 15 to 20 climbers went over together with Lance Muller and Paul-Dean Rörich representing the Brothers.
This group was however quickly chased down as the gap was nothing much to write home about, re-joining most of the bunch again. The norm for this part of the race is for teams to attack and attack again until a breakaway group is formed. PD took his usual position in the front of the pack covering the attacks from RSA Web (Red), CT Market (Green) and Daikin (Blue). Lance was also present carefully judging the bigger profile attacks and covering them. The men in Black (Brothers) had to make sure they are represented should a break get away; otherwise it will be their job to do the hard miles in chasing down the smaller bunch of carrots.
As the heat in the kitchen reached Fahrenheit numbers in a Celsius environment, Lance threw a hard attack. He went up the road with a red target of a podium at WP Champs on his back, drawing the needles from the haystack like a 100W speaker magnet. The peloton was not prepared to give him daylight and the bunch regrouped again. Then immediately Theuns attacked, David Garret (Dainkin) followed and Peter saw the potential of a successful break also joining. PD sat in the front of the bunch and quickly did the math, “green, blue, red…WHERE’S BLACK!” So putting his Focus into gear he quickly crossed the gap and completed the rainbow.
The break was hard work with most of the effort coming from blue and red. Blue knew his team was not up for a sprint finish win against the likes of pro rider Herman Fouche, so he had to give it his best. Red saw the chance for a podium and unselfishly gave his all to make this happen. Green however did not see why he had to do anything as he had the top sprinter in his team, sitting behind in the bunch. PD was just glad to be in a break of this stature and sacrificed himself to take the pressure of his team and also to bring his fair share of labour to the job at hand.
This is where green started to attack PD who seemed to be the weaker rider in the break. The gap reached 1:40 at a stage, before the men in green represented in the main bunch decided it was time to put down the pedal with some serious gutter winds blowing as the left Wellington.
Mean while back in the bunch RSA web put in a few attacks and caused a split which Jaco Venter and Lance bridged and soon after the bunch responded. It was on the R44 that guys put the hammer down, decimating the bunch. The right-hand gutter into oncoming traffic was aggressive and dangerous. This saw riders crashing into pedestrians and going “farming.” Lance got caught up in Stefan’s crash but luckily managed to reintegrate with front of the gutter formation with the help of MC. PD’s break was then caught 15km out by the select group of 10 riders or so. Lance thanked PD for his excellent contribution and MC and Lance took over “watch”. PD had allowed Lance to look after himself well in the bunch and enjoy a free ride. It was great riding from PD choosing the right move to go with and sticking it out while in spite of the aggressive riding from CTM.
The R44’s aggressive kick ups saw the pace surge as MC said his goodbyes after a great ride in the elite field being very unfortunate to puncture. Luckily he had his saddle bag with a spare tube; else it was up to the thumb to get him home. Then with 5km to go PD also punctured as he followed shortly behind the leaders over the last rolling hill. This left Lance as the last man standing to fly the Brother’s flag high in the streets of Stellenbosch. Carl Pasio went off the front from 9km to 1km mark and CTM did a Lions share of chasing. Carl had a mechanical on the final left corner with one km to go destroying his chances. Lance, being known more as a climber than a sprinter, knew it was a waiting game for this sprint and perhaps waited too late and walked away with 4th. Just off the podium but a respectable finish given the presence of the CTM JHB pro’s still down for the DC the previous week. The top 4 home read as follows.
Well done guys, and a “Get Well Soon” note to the Brothers who were the victims of a devastating crash over the railway lines. As the lyrics of the song goed, Relax, take it e-a-sy!