South Africa’s road cycling squad completed their recent international campaign when the 2014 UCI Road World Championships, which was held in Ponferrada, Spain from 21-28 September, came to a close on Sunday.
The road race teams began their competition on Friday 26 September, with representation from South Africa in the Junior Women’s and under-23 Men’s races. With all eyes on an on-form Louis Meintjes to go one-up on his 2013 silver medal result, the 22-year-old put on a brave display of guts and determination.
The solid four-man team of Meintjes, Willie Smit, Jayde Julius and Kevin Patten tackled the 182km distance, which started at a frenetic pace. Smit counter-attacked with four laps of the 10-lap event to go, and the charging Australian team opened the throttle to chase. Meintjes made his move with two laps to go, overtaking the earlier break in the process. But the counter-attack reeled him in quickly. It was Norwegian Sven Erik Bystrom who took the victory in 4 hours 32 minutes 39 seconds, breaking clear of the group by seven seconds. Aussie Caleb Ewan claimed silver, and fellow Norwegian Kristoffer Skjerping, bronze. Meintjes finished with the chase group in 28th place, with Smit, Julius and Patten more than 20 minutes behind.
“Last race of the season done,” Meintjes told Road to Rio 2016’s Mark Etheridge. “It was fun to liven things up a bit. Now time for a lot of rest.”
Junior rider Catherine Colyn was South Africa’s highest finisher in the women’s race, in 69th place and 9:43 off the pace. The 72.8km distance was made up of four laps of the 18.2km circuit, which took its toll on the riders. Amalie Dideriksen (DEN) claimed the gold medal in 02:02:59, with Italian Sofia Bertizzolo second and Agnieszka Skalniak (POL) third. Colyn said her 69th place was disappointing after getting caught up in the crashes in the race. Michelle Benson finished in 80th place, and Monique Gerber in 85th place.
The Junior Men’s race unfolded on Saturday 27 September, over seven laps totalling 127.4km. German Jonas Bokeloh claimed the gold medal in 3:07:00, with Alexandr Kulikovskiy of Russia second, and Peter Lenderink of The Netherlands third. SA’s Ivan Venter finished in 63rd place, 4:23 adrift, with Gustav Basson and Graeme Ockhuis finishing 74th and 99th respectively.
Later in the day, the Elite Women tackled the same 127.4km distance in sunny conditions. Three South African women competed with the nation’s firm favourite being Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio, fresh off her Commonwealth Games bronze medal. A series of crashes, which resulted into one mass crash, occurred during the second lap. This affected almost half the field as several riders were taken away by ambulance, and many others abandoned the race. Only 77 riders continued with the race after 134 riders started. The top favourites remained as they regrouped and changed their strategies with their remaining teammates. Moolman-Pasio’s compatriots, An-Li Kachelhoffer and Heidi Dalton were both affected by the crash, leaving Moolman-Pasio to soldier on for a chance at the title.
The rain began to fall at 30km to go, which unsettled the competitors, and Moolman-Pasio remained in the front of the race, watching all the moves and following those worth chasing down.
An extraordinary game of cat-and-mouse ensued on the final straight where Marianne Vos (NED) was looking set to claim yet another World title, but the breakaway did not want to work together on the flat section towards the finish line. The chasing group, which contained Frenchwoman Pauline Ferrand-Prevot, sprinted past the breakaway, with Ferrand-Prevot claiming the gold medal in 3:29:21, Lisa Brennauer (GER) silver, and Emma Johansson (SWE), bronze. Moolman-Pasio finished 41 seconds off the pace, with a 20th place result.
“Another World Champs done and dusted,” said Pasio afterwards. “Not the result I was looking for, but I’ll be back to fight for the top in 2015!”
The final day of racing took place on Sunday 28 September, with Daryl Impey, Reinardt Janse van Rensburg and Jacques Janse van Rensburg flying the flag high for the SA Elite Men’s team. Impey recorded a 16th place result, only seven seconds off the winner’s time over the gruelling 254.8km course, made up of 14 laps. Reinardt was the only other South African to finish, six minutes behind Polish winner, Michal Kwiatkowski, who crossed the line in 6 hours 29 minutes 7 seconds.
Numerous attacks ensued as the race unfolded in wet conditions. But Impey remained in the front sector of the race in the final laps. Kwiatkowski made a break and kept it open in the last seven kilometres of the race. The tactical efforts of the polished Polish team resulted in Kwiatkowski claiming Poland’s first World Championship title.
Impey’s Orica GreenEdge teammate, Simon Gerrans, claimed the silver medal while Spanish local Alejandro Valverde settled for bronze.
Summary of results - 2014 UCI Road World Championships - Ponferrada, Spain
Road Race – Junior Women – 26 Sep
1 Amalie DIDERIKSEN (DEN) 2:02:59
2 Sofia BERTIZZOLO (ITA) 0
3 Agnieszka SKALNIAK (POL) 0
69 Catherine COLYN (RSA) +9:43
80 Michelle BENSON (RSA) +16:21
85 Monique GERBER (RSA) +16:34
Road Race – U23 Men – 26 Sep
1 Sven Erik BYSTROM (NOR) 4:32:39
2 Caleb EWAN (AUS) +7
3 Kristoffer SKJERPING (NOR) +7
28 Louis MEINTJES (RSA) +7
114 Willem SMIT (RSA) +20:47
118 Jayde JULIUS (RSA) +27:00
119 Kevin PATTEN (RSA) +27:00
Road Race – Junior Men – 27 Sep
1 Jonas BOKELOH (GER) 3:07:00
2 Alexandr KULIKOVSKIY (RUS) 0
3 Peter LENDERINK (NED) 0
63 Ivan VENTER (RSA) +4:23
74 Gustav BASSON (RSA) +7:05
99 Graeme OCKHUIS (RSA) +15:01
Road Race – Elite Women – 27 Sep
1 Pauline FERRAND PREVOT (FRA) 3:29:21
2 Lisa BRENNAUER (GER) 0
3 Emma JOHANSSON (SWE) 0
20 Ashleigh MOOLMAN-PASIO (RSA) +41
Road Race – Elite Men – 28 Sep
1 Michal KWIATKOWSKI (POL) 6:29:07
2 Simon GERRANS (AUS) +1
3 Alejandro VALVERDE BELMONTE (ESP) +1
16 Daryl IMPEY (RSA) +7
73 Reinardt JANSE VAN RENSBURG (RSA) +6:11