21 November 2006
Slovakian Martin Velits upset the Team Barloworld favourites to take the men’s title in the tenth edition of the Pick ‘n Pay 94.7 Cycle Challenge on Sunday. His girlfriend, Yolandi du Toit, claimed the women’s honours.
Velits, the Slovakian national champion, stunned his closest challengers by getting a jump on a breakaway group just 500 metres from the finish to race through to victory.
Du Toit, meanwhile, rode a more risky race that produced a great reward. She broke away after 60 kilometres and fought through to the finish to claim the women’s title, also for Konica-Minolta.
The critical move in the men’s race happened after only 10 kilometres of racing when a group of 11 riders broke away.
The group comprised Velits, Barloworld’s James Perry, Ryan Cox and Felix Cardenas, Microsoft’s Nic White, Malcolm Lange, Daryl Impey and Daniel Spence, Exel’s Hanco Kachelhoffer and Adrian Maske, and John Paul Pearton of the Wits Cycling Club.
They opened up a lead of almost a minute-and-a-half over the chasing pack with the four-strong Microsoft contingent driving the group on.
At the 60-kilometre mark there was a series of attacks, which resulted in five riders going clear, but Velits and Cardenas gritted their teeth and fought their way back to the leaders.
However, a strong headwind made conditions tough and two Microsoft riders, White and Spence, fell off the pace.
Heading towards the finish line, it was Barloworld who tried to dictate matters, with Perry and Cox attempting to set up Cardenas, a former King of the Mountains in the Tour of Spain, for the sprint to the line.
Velits, though, timed his attack to perfection, sprinting clear of the other challengers to cross the line ahead of Kachelhoffer, with Cardenas in third and Impey in fourth.
In the women’s race, Du Toit, who recently spent six months competing in Europe for the FBUK team, made her break on a long, gradual incline.
After her victory, explaining her decision to go for it so early, she said she didn’t want to end up in a sprint for the title because sprinting is not her strength.
Working on her rhythm, the 21-year-old said the first she heard of her gap over the chasing pack was when it had reached almost three minutes, which surprised her.
The last five kilometres, she reckoned, were really tough, but she kept pushing until the end to register what she described as “the biggest win of my career”.
Marissa van der Merwe claimed second place, with her Proline teammate Anriette Schoeman following in third.