Brendon Davids' outstanding form on the road continued when he rode to overall victory in the 148km three-stage Bestmed Jock Classic in Mbombela, Mpumalanga, today.
The 23-year-old RoadCover professional, who won the Knysna Cycle Tour last weekend, was able to turn a small lead going into the decisive final leg into a comfortable winning margin.
He showed his strength on Long Tom Pass shortly after the start in Sabie when repeated accelerations saw him draw clear of his closest challengers, allowing him to solo to the stage and overall win.
Davids completed what is said to be South Africa's toughest one-day road race in a total time of 3:54:00 to finish just over four minutes ahead of BCX's Steven van Heerden (3:58:07) with the latter's teammate David Maree (3:59:31) third.
With only one second splitting the front-runners following the first two stages, Davids said they reviewed their tactics before the 61km final stage and decided to light it up from the first kilometre.
"So when we turned onto Long Tom Pass after the neutral zone, Bradley (Potgieter) attacked and I countered, but the race came together again," said the former African continental mountain bike champion who hails from Fourways in Johannesburg.
"He attacked immediately again and then, about 2km into the climb, I went and got a gap."
With his lead fluctuating between 30 seconds and a minute over BCX's Reynard Butler and Van Heerden on the pass, Davids said he decided to make another big push at the top.
"From there the gap exploded to just under three minutes and I used my time-trial skills to open it up. My lead grew to about four minutes at the finish."
Davids said he was extremely relieved to claim the victory in his debut appearance.
"This is a tough race because of the way the stages are in close proximity to each other. It gives everyone enough time to recover and everyone is fresh to contest again.
"It makes for really intense racing, and when I came across the line I had nothing left."
He said another big factor was that you constantly had to pedal on the Mpumalanga roads.
"We call them dead roads. You are on the pedals the whole time and the racing is relentless throughout."
Davids gave credit to his teammates Potgieter, Clint Hendricks and Ryan Harris.
"Although we had a small team, they were on another level. Ryan is new and he rode his socks off today.
"We were constantly trying to split it up to try to whittle down the numbers. We rode aggressively to give us our best shot at the overall win."
After making his mark in mountain biking, Davids said he was now focused on a road career and admitted the win gave him confidence.
"I can't say much at this stage but I hope to be heading to Europe soon. My ultimate goal is to get a pro contract over there and possibly a chance on the World Tour.
"The only way to do that is to race in Europe and try to get noticed. I have a few leads that are looking quite positive and hope to finalise things in the next few weeks."
Van Heerden drew first blood when he won the 42km opening stage between Mbombela and White River in 1:07:41 ahead of teammate Nolan Hoffman (1:07:41) and Davids (1:07:43).
The latter then edged ahead on the line in the second stage of 45km between White River and Sabie to beat Maree and Van Heerden. All three riders were credited with a time of 1:19:03.
Davids' solo effort saw him finish the final stage back to Mbombela in 1:27:15 ahead of Butler (1:30:43) and teammate Maree (1:31:09).
After several close finishes over the years, Bestmed-ASG's Sanet Coetzee was delighted to notch up her first title in the Jock Classic, presented by Rudy Project.
She won all three stages en route to overall victory in 5:06:50. Brittany Peterson, riding for Mercedes-Benz-Adelaide-Blackchrome, finished second in 5:10:08 with Michelle Andrew of Demacon third in 5:11:50.
Having built up a lead of just over 30 seconds after the first two stages, Coetzee said she kept a steady tempo on the pass and was able to distance her competition just before the top.
"Then I just went for it," she said.
"I thought it was a bit far to go on my own, but I saw on the pass I was stronger than the other girls, so I thought there was no point in just dragging them along."
She said the victory ticked off an item on her bucket list after finishing fourth and fifth previously.
"Growing up, the Jock was always the one I wanted. So for me to win this is really special."
Stage one (42km)
1 Steven van Heerden 1:07:41
2 Nolan Hoffman 1:07:42
3 Brendon Davids 1:07:43
Stage two (45km)
1 Brendon Davids 1:19:03
2 David Maree 1:19:03
3 Steven van Heerden 1:19:03
Stage three (61km)
1 Brendon Davids 1:27:15
2 Reynard Butler 1:30:43
3 David Maree 1:31:09
1 Brendon Davids 3:54:00
2 Steve van Heerden 3:58:07
3 David Maree 3:59:31
4 Jayde Julies 3:59:42
5 Clint Hendricks 4:01:42
6 Eben Hartslief 4:04:16
7 Reynard Butler 4:05:52
8 Nolan Hoffman 4:05:55
9 Myles van Musschenbroek 4:06:17
10 Calvin Beneke 4:07:31
Stage one (42km)
1 Sanet Coetzee 1:26:26
2 Michelle Andrew 1:26:57
3 Brittany Peterson 1:26:58
Stage two (45km)
1 Sanet Coetzee 1:49:11
2 Brittany Peterson 1:49:13
3 Michelle Andrew 1:49:14
Stage three (61km)
1 Sanet Coetzee 1:51:13
2 Brittany Peterson 1:53:57
3 Michelle Andrew 1:55:38
1 Sanet Coetzee 5:06:50
2 Brittany Peterson 5:10:08
3 Michelle Andrew 5:11:50
4 Monica Glover 5:13:54
5 Delien Coetzee 5:15:19
Caption: RoadCover's Brendon Davids (centre) is closely marked by BCX's David Maree (right) in the Bestmed Jock Classic road cycling race that started and finished in Mbombela, Mpumalanga, on Saturday. Photo: Memories4U Photography