Pretorias Willie van Zyl finally produced the kind of faultless ride that both he and his supporters have long believed him capable of, to win the South African 168km U23 road cycling championship in Pretoria on Saturday.
Ive been waiting for this for a long time, and Im just delighted the way its turned out, he gasped happily, surrounded by well-wishers at the finish.
It was a gritty exhibition of guts and determination by both the winner and the brave runner-up, defending champion, Garsfonteins Eckhard Bergh.
Bergh,who is widely believed to be physically below-par and was not even expected to defend his title, paid tribute to Van Zyls aggressive and competitive attitude. Willie did the bulk of the work, and he was in all the attacks, so it shows that you do get back what you put in, commented the generous Bergh.
He was delighted with his own performance, adding if this is what I can do when Im supposedly off-form, just wait till Im back
Bergh wasnt the rider the Konica-Minolta team had selected to go for the title. That was the prodigious John-Lee Augustyn who, unfortunately missed the early break in the race and had to work doubly hard to get back to the leading group.
He rode away from the main bunch and was closing at a rapid rate, but the race was just too short for him, and he finished a strong fourth behind the surprise-packet of the race, Bolands Dan Craven (the great Danie Cravens grandson). A massive bunch sprint for fifth place saw another rising young star, Juan van Heerden, clinch fifth.
SA national team manager, Tony Harding, was at the champs keeping an eye on future prospects, and he confirmed that the course was very hard, but the pace wasnt that fast in the beginning and some of the teams may have been caught out by the negative racing pattern which developed, but all credit to Willie it was a great ride!
Another feature event in a superb day of racing was the womens 40-44 category which was won by former world masters champion, Pretorias Elsa Karsten, from five time Argus winner, Cape Towns Cathy Carstens.
Looking to cyclings future, many are looking no further than Bloemfonteins prodigious teenager, Ariene Torsius, who clinched her fifth consecutive SA age group title, having been an U14 champ, twice the U16 winner, and now the junior champion for the past two years.
Many are already tipping Ariene as the new Anriette Schoeman and that is huge praise, indeed , for the Free State Ferrari!