UK rider victorious in Tour of SA

28 February 2011

Kristian House, the 2009 British road race champion, was crowned the 2011 Tour of South Africa winner after the completion of the seventh and final stage in Paarl on the weekend.

It was just reward for House and Team Rapha Condor Sharp, which protected him well after he scored a decisive victory on the very first stage of the Tour.

Rapha Condor Sharp team manager John Herety commented on the team’s website: “Even though we knew it would be a big call to defend a lead over six stages (two of which were very mountainous), we knew that Kristian was in fantastic form, and this was the perfect opportunity to prove that the team could dictate a race at this high international standard.”

Victory was sweet for House, who praised his team for helping him to top the general classification.

‘It turned out perfectly for us’

“I can’t thank the guys enough for this week.” he said. “We took on some big teams here, as well as some really motivated locals who knew these roads much better than we did, and we had quite a fight on our hands, right to the last, but it turned out perfectly for us.”

House’s win on the 167-kilometre first stage, on Saturday, 19 February, raced between Pretoria and Johannesburg, was the decisive result of the race.

After numerous early escape attempts had been snuffed out, House and Czech rider Martin Blaha managed to escape the peleton at about the halfway mark. They opened up a nice gap until, with about 50 kilometres to go, House realised that Blaha was struggling to keep pace up a long, rising incline. He pulled clear and set out on a solo ride for victory.

Sizeable win

The peleton reacted too late to House’s decisive move and failed to challenge him as he went on to a sizeable win by two minutes and 22 seconds. DCM’s Herman Fouche was second in a sprint for the line, with Milan Kadlec of the Czech Republic taking third spot.

Apart from House’s impressive victory, the big news of the first day was the loss of pre-race favourite Anthony Charteau. The Tour de France King of the Mountains’ winner took a spill and suffered a broken collarbone, which ended his challenge almost immediately after it had begun.

Stage two of the race, starting and ending at Montecasino in Johannesburg and passing through Soweto, proved to be its low point.

Nearing the finish, in Sandton, the organisers were forced to end the racing when too many vehicles got onto the route and there not enough traffic police to deal with them. A gentle finish by the peleton, after the race commission decided to neutralise the stage, left fans at the finish scratching their heads, unaware of what had transpired a little earlier.

The coast

The Tour moved to the coast for stage three, with support crew having to undertake a long drive to Port Elizabeth. It also meant a break from racing on the Monday.

With Port Elizabeth living up to its mickname, “The Windy City”, Tuesday’s 177-kilometre stage started at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium and finished at Summer Strand, taking in Colchester, Ncanaha, and Addo en route.

It came down to a sprint finish, with Europcar’s Yohann Gene taking the honours ahead of Team Bonitas’ Johann Rabie and Gregory Habeaux of Team Willems Accent.

It was a welcome result for Europcar; after they lost Anthony Charteau on the first stage, they had changed their focus from winning the overall title to looking for stage victories.

Race leader House didn’t concede any time to the podium finishers, crossing the line in the same time, in fifth place.

Scenic beauty

Stage four covered 153 kilometres of scenic beauty, from the Bloukrans Bridge to George, taking in Wliderness, Sedgefiled, Knysna, and Plettenberg Bay along the way.

There were four climbs on the day and the first one immediately put a quarter of the peleton out of contention for the stage win. Rapha Condor Sharp, however, worked hard to look after race leader House.

Jay Thomson of Team 360 Life managed the sole break of the day, building up a lead of two-and-a-half minutes, but he was reeled in by the peleton which was not going to make the same kind of error it did on the first day when House was able to build up a lead of as much as six minutes.

The final climb of the day proved decisive. House sprung a surprise by trying to make a break for it with seven kilometres to go, but he was never going to be allowed to get away.

With five kilometres, Davide Torosantucci of D’angelo & Antenucci-Nippo made a bid for glory. It worked and he went on to victory by 18 seconds over Kevin Reza of Europcar and DCM’s Darren Lill.

Two in a row

D’angelo & Antenucci-Nippo snatched a second win in succession on stage five, covering 175 kilometres from Oudtshoorn to Barrydale, via Ladismith and Calitzdorp.

It came down to a sprint finish and Bernardo Riccio took the honours ahead of MTN-Qhubeka’s Daryl Impey and Christoff van Heerden. House, meanwhile, maintained his lead of two minutes and 22 seconds.

However, Friday’s second last stage of 140 kilometres, from Hermanus to Old Helshoogte, which featured a formidable climb, meant that nothing was yet sealed for the Briton.

Local victory

DCM’s Darren Lill, the South African road race champion, finally brought the local lads a much sought after victory when, at the end of stage six, he put the hammer down up Helshoogte and no one could hang with him.

House stayed in the chasing group and finished safely, leaving him poised for the overall victory in Saturday’s 104-kilometre stage, consisting of 10 laps, starting and finishing in Paarl.

There was no drama on the final day and the Briton claimed a convincing win. Johann Rabie of Team Bonitas finished second, two minutes and nine seconds off the pace, with MTN Qhubeka’s Daryl Impey in third, a further two seconds adrift.

Bernardo Riccio of D’angelo & Antenucci-Nippo claimed his second victory of the Tour ahead of Team Type 1’s Martijn Verschoor and Europcar’s Yohann Gene.

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