South Africa

After a 30 hour journey, team Drapac arrived in South Africa ready for the Tour de Boland and the Cape Town Cycle Classic, an important trip to visit our sponsor Swift Carbon Bikes and represent their brand in their home country.

Arriving in Cape Town, our small team of myself, Peter Koning, Malcom Rudolph, Bernie Sulzberger and local South African Dylan Girdlestone, enjoyed the amazing roads and coastline along the Western Cape. Making our final preparations, we were ready to take on our first race in South Africa, the Tour de Boland.

I would liken this race to Australia’s NRS series, similar event operations, team set-ups and standard of riders.

Stage one was an 111km road race that included a 7km climb after just 25 kilometres of racing. The climb split the bunch, but those just off the back re-joined and it was going to be a bunch sprint for first stage honours.

In the sprint, I kicked at 400-500m to go and was in a drag race with a Bontias Cycling team rider. I was waiting for teammate Mal Rudolph to jump around and finish the job off, but he just wasn’t able too and I ended up placing a close second on the line. We had a laugh at the team meeting later that night as he didn’t expect me to keep up the speed, waiting for me to fatigue, but after looking at my data, we confirmed that I was holding a solid amount of watts for the last 30secounds.

The team was in high spirits at dinner, planning how we would win the next day and get onto the top step.

Stage two was a hot stage, featuring two climbs and cross-winds along the way.

The temperature got hotter as the race went on and in a town called Ceres, the temperature peaked at 51 degrees – the hottest place in the world on that day!

I struggled in the heat, but teammates Dylan, Peter and Bernie raced aggressively at the front and got the win we wanted with Dylan going solo to victory and Peter placing fifth.

A yellow jersey, a victory and a happy team made the drive back from the finish a little more rewarding.

After my crash at the Herald Sun Tour, my form was improving slowly and the body was getting stronger everyday.

Stage three was an important one for our GC riders, a 30km individual time trial on a slightly downhill course.

Bernie and I were the only guys not on time-trial bikes, so we cruised through the race being as aero as we could on the Swift road bikes.

Mal is know to smash out a good time-trial from time to time and today he was on a flyer! He smoked the race in a time of 37minutes, 18seconds with Peter placing in third and Dylan in fourth. It was a great effort from the guys, with Dylan only losing the yellow jersey to the second placed Bontias rider by 12 seconds.

The longest road stage of the Tour didn’t look overly tough on the course profile, but the final 40km’s were undulating and open to some cross-winds making for a hard finish.

We shared the workload around, getting in small breaks, helping get bottles from the team car and supporting the GC guys as best we could.

Peter was very aggressive with 50km to go and after trying and trying to establish a move, he finally succeeded in a small group of three.

The trio broke away and went on to take the stage honors with Pete happy to finish third, his hard work paying off after collecting the yellow jersey at the conclusion of the stage. Dylan remained in third place overall and we were all set to defend the lead going into the final stage.

Leading the Tour with Pete in the yellow jersey, the final stage was fortunately a bit shorter, only 94km’s long with three, 8 kilometre laps of a finishing circuit which we reached after 75km’s.

Our task was for Mal and I to ride the front, control any attacks as best we could and get Dylan and Peter to the circuits in as best shape we could.

The fast roads and cross-winds meant for some aggressive parts of the stage but we held it together and made sure no one was getting up the road.

Pete and Dylan finished the job of nicely, cruising over the circuits and the dirt road sections to reach the line and retain the yellow jersey and third overall. Dylan was also second on the stage.

A great team effort which was finished off superbly. We ended up with two wins, two seconds, and one third and first and second on the overall GC, not bad at all.

In conclusion, it was a solid week of racing around the Western Cape, racing against new competition and experiencing some incredible roads, which was great fun. Highlights for me were meeting new people, exploring what the local produce had to offer at our team dinners and seeing baboons on the sides of the roads we raced along.

With the Tour done and dusted, our final race in South Africa was the well-known Cape Town Cycle Classic.

A super bright and early wake up call was needed for a race that started at an unusual time of 6:15am. We had to use the street lighting to find the start location with Peter informing us it was the earliest he’d ever ridden on his bike.

I’m used to early starts, having completed many early training sessions and local bunch rides on numerous occasions before.

An incredible total of 35,000 people took part in the 2015 Cape Town Cycle Tour and with large groups separated by only a few minutes, it was definitely the biggest event I’ve ever been apart of.

There were 200 elite men and alongside some of South Africa’s most talented riders, the start list included former World MTB Champion, Nino Schurter and arguably the fastest man in the world, Mark Cavendish, joined by his number one lead-out man, Mark Renshaw.

It was excited to have the opportunity to race against some high profile riders and gain experience from how they performed. Looking back on the race, I really learnt a lot from it.

A shortened race due to the Cape Town fires the week before the race made for a fast and furious criterium style sprint race. The 47km flew by quite fast, racing at high speeds along the main highway, which saw rolling hills stretch the peloton.

From the first few kilometers, I locked myself onto Cav’s wheel, watching his movements. He is someone I’ve loved to watch in the big races and to be racing against him, on the back of his wheel was pretty cool.

There were some riders who tried to take his wheel but a clear word of warning and if needed, an elbow, sent them away.

A super fast sprint was on the cards and with two kilometers to go, I was fifth wheel in perfect position behind Cav and Renshaw.

Renshaw waited a little too late with 600m to go and left both Cav and I too far back. A tight round a bout with 500 to go was sketchy but we came out safely. I saw the line and Cav looked like he knew he wasn’t going to be able to do much from his position. I opened up my sprint on the left-hand side hoping to at least make the podium, passing a few guys to find the podium in third, Cavendish placed sixth.

I really should have gone from the corner as I had a 55-tooth chain ring on and it was a slight tailwind, but there was a lot going through my head when I was on the back of one of the fastest men in the world.

A respectable podium finish, a good learning experience and I got some confidence back in my sprint after my crash.

Big thank you to our staff, Jono Breekveldt – Manager, Nico Beyns  - Soigneur and our mechanic from South Africa, JJ, thanks for all your support guys. To all of our sponsors, thank you for your continued support, the year continues to produce good results for us all.

Swift Carbon Bikes are South African based and the team of staff have played host and tour guides to all of us whilst in SA, so thanks for your support, we had the best time and loved the riding.

After a week of training and sightseeing in Cape Town, Pete and I head to Italy where we will meet up with Martin Kohler, Lachlan Norris, Tim Roe and Sam Spokes ahead of the next couple of races over there.

Keep posted for my next blog about our Italian races, it’s sure to be some quality, but hard racing.


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