Pietermaritzburg - It was the turn of the rest of Africa to shine at the Confederation of African Cycling Road Championships as El Mehdi Chokri of Morocco and Helen Mitchell from Zimbabwe walked away with the gold medals in the Junior Men's and Women's Road Races respectively on day four of the event.
The Moroccan rider came into the race with a clear plan and with an undulating course his plan played out exactly like he wanted to and the course was well suited to his strengths, which he exploited successfully.
“I am hugely excited with my result today,” Chokri said. “We came into the race with a basic plan and that was to make sure that we didn't get down to an end sprint which is what we managed to do and I got away from the field on the final climb which was the plan and stayed clear.”
The group reassembled with about six kilometres to go but Chokri knew that if he could make a break on the final climb he was going to be in the clear so remaining in the front bunch until then was all he felt he needed to do before the break.
“I am a good climber so the course was definitely going to suit me and just staying with the front guys meant that I could make a late attack. When I got away I was always wary of what was happening around me and I felt like I was in control of the race from there and it meant that I could enjoy the moment when I came into the finish,” a satisfied Chokri stated.
Algeria's Islam Mansouri claimed the silver medal that will go with his second place in the Individual Time Trial on Tuesday.
Third place in the Junior Men's Road Race went to Namibian Brandon Plaatjies who had to compete on a different bicycle on Thursday following the theft of his own bicycle a few days prior to the event. This did not faze the young rider who was impressive on his way to a podium finish.
“It wasn't too hard to adjust to another bike for me because I had it set up to my specifications. It was a little bit inconvenient but I felt strong throughout and I am happy with a third place finish,” Plaatjies said after the race.
The Junior Women's race was also a ding-dong affair with a sprint finish deciding the winner on the day and eventual winner Helen Mitchell was surprised by her performance but was glad that the race panned out well for her and her team mate Skye Davidson.
“It was a tough race out there today and myself and Skye didn't quite know what was going to happen but we knew that we just had to stay with the South African riders and we would have a chance at the end.
“I knew that if the bunch was together going into the last bit of the race that there was going to be a sprint and I felt good going into it but was really surprised when I finished first!” she mentioned.
Her teammate Davidson felt that they worked well together throughout the race and were tactically sound all the way through to the finish and although conditions were tricky she was proud of her effort.
“There was quite a lot of wind on the course which made it a little difficult for us with only a short section where we were downwind but we didn't want to go too hard at the start of the race and saved ourselves for a sprint.
“Myself and Helen had to work hard together at stages during the race to stay with the South Africans but we were strong the whole way through the race and just really glad that we could finish first and second,” Davidson beamed.
Frances du Toit rounded out the podium in the Junior Girls Road Race and added a bronze medal to the Individual Time Trial gold medal that she won on Tuesday.
The Friday schedule at the African Continental Road Championships will commence with the Elite Women's Road Races starting at 09:30am.
The African Continental Road Champs will be streamed live on Friday 13 February (09:30-12:30) and Saturday 14 February from 09:30 to 14:30 on www.streamit360.tv.
Follow the conversation during the 2015 African Continental Road Champs on Cycling SA's social media platforms using the hashtags #CACroadchamps #africachamps on Twitter (@Cycling_SA) and Instagram (Cycling_SA).
More information, including the road closures for Wartburg and surrounds, can be found here . Entrance for spectators is free of charge.
SUMMARY OF RESULTS - CONFEDERATION OF AFRICAN CYCLING CONTINENTAL ROAD CHAMPIONSHIPS - DAY FOUR
1. El Medhi Chokri (MAR) 1:43:43.584
2. Islam Mansouri (ALG) 1:43:57.454
3. Brandon Plaatjies (NAM) 1:44:22.325
4. Ahishakiye Leonidas (BUR) 1:44:22.656
5. Mohcine El Kouraji (MAR) 1:46:16.422
Full set of Junior Men's Road Race Results can be found here.
1. Helen Mitchell (ZIM) 1:23:31.569
2. Skye Davidson (ZIM) 1:23:31.936
3. Frances du Toit (RSA) 1:23:31.984
4. Lynette Benson (RSA) 1:23:32.193
5. Manson Swart (RSA) 1:23:32.416
Full set of Junior Women's Road Race Results can be found here.