17 August 2012
South African cyclist Jay Thomson was in winning form as the Tour of Portugal got under way on Thursday. He took the honours on the opening stage of the race, which gave him the overall lead after a brave early move.
Racing for the American United Healthcare team, Thomson worked hard for his victory, surviving a 174km-long breakaway to claim a solo victory in a time of five hours, 15 minutes and four seconds for the 200km leg from Termas Monfortinho to Oliveira do Hospital.
Thomson was also the first cyclist to summit all six of the day’s categorised climbs, which put him in the lead in the King of the Mountains’ classification.
After only 26 kilometres, the South African and Spaniard Luis Mas Bonet (Burgos BH/Castilla e Leon) established a successful two-man break.
At one point their lead had grown to over 15 minutes, but a concerted chase, led by the Portuguese Carmin Prio team, saw the peloton eventually reel in a tiring Mas Bonet. However, the pack failed to catch Thomson, who won by 40 seconds.
The 12-day tour carries a 2.1 International Cycling Union grading, which is one level below the Grand Tours of France, Italy and Spain.
Two wins in two days
Thomson’s victory made it two wins in two days for South Africans after MTN Qhubeka’s Reinardt Janse van Rensburg claimed the honours in the opening 2.2km individual time trial prologue stage on Wednesday.
Team Bonitas is also competing in the Tour of Portugal, giving a strong South African presence in the event, which has attracted 17 teams from five continents.
The early successes on the Tour of Portugal are a further indication that South African cycling is in rude health.
Top South African results
Burry Stander recently finished fifth in the cross-country mountain bike competition at the London Olympic Games.
His wife, Cherise, claimed a stage win in the Route de France, the women’s version of the Tour de France, while Lise Olivier, riding with Stander on the Lotto- Belisol team, finished second in the overall classification.
Pietermaritzburg is set to host the UCI World Tour Final next weekend, which will give South Africans another chance to make an impact on the world stage, when the best amateur age group riders in the world go head-to-head.
With the country’s strong culture of mass participation in long distance cycling events, it is likely to produce a number of world champions.
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