In what was an exhilarating race around the streets of Westiville, KwaZulu-Natal today. The South African Road Race Championships saw Louis Meintjes come away with the national jersey. Daryl Impey (Orica-GreenEdge) took the silver with defending champion, Jay Thomson taking the bronze medal.
The days racing was hard and fast from the gun, with numerous attacks going off the front in the early stages. After 36km of racing the break for the day was finally established. Jacques Janse Van Rensburg, Jayde Julius (Bonitas), James Fourie (Europcar SA) and Darren Lill (Cannondale-Blend) were the riders that found themselves out ahead.
The leaders steadily managed to build their lead over the undulating course. They managed to push out a maximum advantage of just over 4 minutes around the halfway stage of the race. It was at this point that the peloton started the chase in earnest. With seeing their gap decreasing, Janse Van Rensburg attacked his breakaway counterparts in order to up the ante. This resulted in Julius and Fourie dropping from the lead group. With 36km to Janse Van Rensburg also dropped Lill and set off in pursuit off the finish.
With the final lap of 18km left to race, Janse Van Rensburg was reeled in by an 7 man chase group to make it 8 riders clear. Impey, Nolan Hoffman (Team Abantu), Christopher Jennings (Bonitas), Dylan Girdlestone (Bonitas), Lill and the three Team MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung riders, Thomson, Meintjes and Janse Van Rensburg were the riders in with a chance.
Team MTN Qhubeka p/b Samsung used its superior numbers to whittle down the group even further. Janse Van Rensburg, after spending the majority of the day in the break, sacrificed himself to put Thomson, Meintjes and Impey out front with 6km to go.
“Jay and I had a discussion and he said with the way he was feeling, it would be better for me to have a go at the finish. So the plan was for him to attack early and make Daryl have to chase. I would just sit and cover the move and then on the last little climb I will try make the acceleration. So yeah, luckily it worked out,” Meintjes said modestly.
Team Principal, Douglas Ryder, was really happy with the teams’ victory. “We are incredibly excited to have the national jersey going back into the European season. Louis was second at the world championships last year and to become elite national champion at his age, still being an u23 is fantastic,” Ryder continued. “He will do the jersey proud. He is going to ride a lot of stage races this year, so he will be very visible in the European peloton. It’s just fantastic that he will be wearing the national jersey.”
In the final push to line, some drama did seem to unfold where Impey may have had some mechanical issues. Ryder shared his thoughts on the incident, “It would have been wonderful for Daryl to win, he is a great campaigner for South African cycling and would also do the jersey absolutely proud. We did work really, really, hard for this though and so we super excited to take the jersey into Europe for another year.” concluded Ryder.