Drama at 2012 Argus Cycle Tour

12 March 2012

Tight racing in South Africa’s 2012 Cape Argus Pick n Pay Cycle Tour saw a number of crashes claiming some of the event’s big guns. When the dust had settled, MTN Qhubeka’s Reinhardt Janse van Rensburg and Momentum Toyota’s Ashleigh Moolman Pasio had lifted the men’s and women’s titles.

Thankfully, for the majority of the riders, the feared south easterly wind that has in the past taken a heavy toll on the big field was absent and conditions for the 110 kilometres around the picturesque Cape Peninsula were ideal.

Janse van Rensburg captured his first win in the race by about 10 bicycle lengths after pulling clear over the last half-a-kilometre. His winning time was two hours, 36 minutes and 17 seconds.

Herman Fouche of Team Bonitas finished second after placing third in 2011, while Team Nu Water/CTM’s Jaco Venter came home in third.

Bad luck

Team Bonitas, which claimed victory through Aaron Brown in 2009, Malcolm Lange in 2010, and Tyler Day in 2011, suffered some bad luck on this occasion with team captain Ian Macleod breaking a collarbone in a fall and Day then crashing to fall out of contention.

Brown, now of MTN Qhubeka, was in position to challenge for another Argus victory, but he came close to crashing in the sprint, which cost him momentum and took him out of challenging for a podium place.

The elite women set off in a big pack with the leading men’s veterans and masters and despite attempts by a number of riders to make a break, a large lead pack remained together until the end, where drama and disaster unfolded.

Fall

With the pack spread across the entire width of the road, the riders made their bid for victory with Moolman Pasio and British rider Catherine Williamson of Team bizhub FCF leading the way. Suddenly a rider behind them went down, leading to a chain reaction which resulted in more than 20 others joining her, including Moolman Pasio’s three team-mates, Robyn de Groot, Joanna van de Winkel and defending champion Cherise Taylor.

Unaware of the carnage that had happened behind her, Moolman Pasio threw her arms in the air in celebration as she crossed the finishing line a bicycle’s length clear of Williamson, with former South African and African champion, Lynette Burger of the Cycle Lab Toyota Academy team in third place.

Moolman Pasio’s winning time was two hours, 52 minutes, and 24 seconds.

“I didn’t even hear the crash behind me,” she said afterwards. “I was so focused on the finish line and there was a lot of usual finish line sounds, like music and commentator and crowd noise.

‘Bittersweet’

“It was terrible to hear shortly afterwards about the crash. A truly bittersweet victory for me,” said the 26-year-old, who heads to Europe on Friday to join the Belgian based Lotto Belisol team.

She added: “This race, in particular, is always a race where safety is an issue. But the fact that there wasn’t much wind, not much climbing, and three categories all racing for podiums made it even more dangerous.

“I could feel the tension in the bunch early on and decided to rather ride near the front and avoid any potential problems,” she explained.

Taylor, De Groot and Van de Winkel were all taken to hospital. Taylor and Van de Winkel were both discharged after being treated, while De Groot spent the night in hospital.

The 2012 field included three former Tour de France champions: Stephen Roche, Miguel Indurain and Eddy Merckx, as well as Minister of Sport and Recreation Fikile Mbalula, and Hellen Zille, the Premier of the Western Cape.

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