It may not have been the biggest event of the year, but solid on the calendar and well attended, the Sondela Bela Bela Cycle Challenge was won by Willie Smit of Toyota CSA Academy on Saturday
Arriving at the finish with Pieter Seyffert of Westvaal BMC, Smit managed to out sprint his more experienced opponent at the and of the 101km race. They had been together in a number of breakaway groups, eventually just the two of them, over a rather flat route, and with a good two minutes to spare at the finish over the bunch.
"I have been riding hard since the U23 tour earlier in the year, and was very excited to win here today. It is tough fitting my training in with university, but I am working hard to try and fit both in!" Smit the ever modest rider said of his form. "I am not sure how I will feel with the racing coming up, but I hope to be good for the Student Champs in July, as I believe I have a good chance for that. I will race as well as I can in the events leading up to that!" Willie is a first year Law student at TUKS university.
The prize giving at Sondela
The race did not attract the biggest teams of Tasol GT, Bonitas, and MTN Qhubeka but there were plenty of young riders and small teams like Europcar, some from Westvaal BMC, a(s)g juniors, and Club 100. This was a good thing as the 'smaller riders' could race without being intimidated by the bigger teams.
In the race for third place, junior, Rohan Du Plooy escaped the field and took the final podium spot, then it was Peter Lee Jefferies of Europcar alone for fourth. The bunch sprint was won by Martin Scheppel of Toyota CSA.
1st Willie Smit (Toyota CSA)
2nd Pieter Seyffert (Westvaal BMC)
3rd Rohan Du Plooy (a(s)g juniors)
4th Peter Lee Jefferies (Europcar)
5th Martin Scheppel (Toyota CSA)
6th Emile Jacobs (Toyota CSA)
This gives the Toyota CSA team a little confidence ahead of this weekend's upcoming Tour of the Freestate. There will be a greater level of competition at the tour, with all the top teams competing. As well as very different and hilly terrain in the Eastern Freestate, but the young teamwill have a little more confidence knowing that they have shown the ability to win.
The three day stage race will commence on friday in Clarens, with a 100km lap race around the town, then a race around the familiar loop of Clarens, Bethlehem, Fouriesburg Clarens 120kms of it! The final day is a race from Kestel, through Phuthaditjhaba and Golden Gate to Clarens, 75kms. The tour will be run on a points format for stage finish positions, with the winner being the rider who amasses the most points.
It is and interesting concept, but the mens race runs along side the more important UCI Ladies event which includes riders and teams from around the world. The five day ladies event is one of the first UCI categorized ladies events in the country, and will no doubt be the best quality ladies race SA has seen. www.tourdefreestate.co.za