Jacques Janse van Rensburg of Team MTN-Qhubeka showed no surrender on Surrender Hill on the first stage of the Mzansi Tour, powered by Cathsseta, on Wednesday as he stormed across the finish line in Clarens for his first victory in a long time.
It was just about a hometown win for Janse van Rensburg, who was raised in the Free State town Virginia. By beating Britain’s Jonathan Handley (Rapha-Condor-JLT) and Carl Pasio, the captain of the South African team, by 13 seconds on the tough 140km stage, Janse van Rensburg now leads four of the five categories at the Mzansi Tour. It was a dominant day for MTN-Qhubeka with their Eritrean rider, Merhawi Kudus, also leading the Europcar Young Rider classification.
Janse van Rensburg leads the Cathsseta African Rider, Compendium King of the Mountains, Echelon Events Points and the Cathsseta General Classification categories. His team will be looking to defend their dominance on the second stage of the Mzansi Tour on Thursday, the queen stage of the race. Janse van Rensburg is 11 seconds ahead of Handley, the highly-rated British climber, and one minute and three seconds up on Pasio.
“The plan for (Thursday) will be to conserve ourselves,” said Janse van Rensburg. “The last 12km of the stage, which is a mountain-top finish in the Golden Gate National Park, will be hard, and if there is no wind like today a select group will go to the last 12km. The job is to control the race.”
The first stage of the Mzansi Tour was a test of nerves for the 15 teams, with several attacks within the first 60km. There were crashes, one of which involved the yellow jersey holder, Kristian House (Rapha-Condor-JLT), but he recovered to end with the bunch in Clarens. His teammate, Michael Cuming, was not so lucky, however, and a crash ended his race as he fractured his collar bone and dislocated his shoulder. He was taken to Bethlehem for surgery on Wednesday afternoon and was recovering well.
The decisive break of the day came in Bethlehem as the bunch flew through the little town. MTN-Qhubeka attacked and a group of 18 broke away. Most of the major teams were represented, but after a series of attacks and counter attacks, a select group of six formed with 70km to go. Janse van Rensburg, Handley, Pasio, Abantu’s Nolan Hoffman, Matthew Brammier (Synergy Baku) and Cissa (Africa Mixed Team). They built up a gap of four minutes before Bonitas and the German Rad-Net Rose team tried to pull them back.
At Surrender Hill, a National Monument where 3000 Boers surrendered in 1900 during the Anglo-Boer Away, Janse van Rensburg broke up the group. “On Surrender Hill I decided to do an attack to see who was going to go with me on the climb and it ended up with the two guys,” said Janse van Rensburg. “Last week we did a recon of the finish, and I knew the stiff little kicker of a climb at the end and it would be the deciding factor of the stage. I knew it flattened out in the middle. Just before the middle I pulled off and got behind the other two, and then came with a slingshot from behind. My legs just felt the best of the three guys in the group and I won.
“It’s my first victory in quite a long time, and after my surgery in October last year I’m quite happy to be on my best form again. The surgery was for a hiatus hernia and I was struggling. I lost a lot of weight after the surgery as well. My system was quite messed up, but it’s good to be healthy again.”
The Mzansi Tour, powered by CATHSSETA, runs from April 8-12.
- April 8: Prologue - Emmaremtia Dam (5,5km)
- April 9: Stage 1 – Golden Gate to Clarens (140km)
- April 10: Stage 2 – Clarens to Golden Gate National Park (159km)
- April 11: Stage 3 – Bethlehem to Vanderbijlpark (201km)
- April 12: Stage 4 – Blue Hills Estate Circuit (79,5km - 15 laps of 5.3km circuit)
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Cycling SA National Team Captain, Carl Pasio, said: “Jacques was way stronger today, he pulled us on the last few climbs and if it wasn't for him, we wouldn't have stayed away on the break. When we hit the steep hill at about 1km to go, he attacked and we just didn't have an answer. Our team played a crucial role today. Chris (Jooste) got on the front of the chase bunch at around 60km, and brought us back within about 100m, which allowed for me to bridge across. Then I attacked with Nolan (Hoffman), which created the split. The gap just grew and we managed to keep it to the line. I am happy with third.”
Summary of Results – 2014 Mzansi Tour – Stage 1
(Golden Gate Hotel – Clarens – Bethlehem – Fouriesburg – Clarens)
- Jacques Janse van Rensburg (Team MTN-Qhubeka) RSA 03:17’42”
- Richard Handley (Rapha Condor JLT) GBR 11”
- Carl Pasio (SA National Team) RSA 01’03”
- Merhawi Kudus (Team MTN-Qhubeka) ERI 01’43”
- Elliot Porter (Rapha Condor JLT) GBR 01’48”
- Luke Grivell-Mellor (Rapha Condor JLT) GBR 01’48”
- Daniel Teklehaimanot (Team MTN-Qhubeka) ERI 01’50”
- Louis Meintjes (Team MTN-Qhubeka) RSA 01’52”
- Metkel Tewedeberhan (WCC Africa Mixed Team) ERI 01’58”
- Tesfom Okubamarian (WCC Africa Mixed Team) ERI 01’58”
Team General Classification
- Team MTN-Qhubeka 09:43’27”
- Rapha Condor JLT +19”
- SA National Team +02’05”
- Africa Mixed Team +02’05”
- Bonitas Pro Cycling +02’38”
Best Young Rider – GC
- Merhawi Kudus (Team MTN-Qhubeka) ERI 03:19’25”
- Luke Grivell-Mellor (Rapha Condor JLT) GBR +05”
- Louis Meintjes (Team MTN-Qhubeka) RSA +09”
- Metkel Tewedeberhan (WCC Africa Mixed Team) ERI +15”
- Emanuel Buchmann (Rad-Net Rose Team) GER +18”
African Rider – GC
- Jacques Janse van Rensburg (Team MTN-Qhubeka) 03:17’42”
- Carl Pasio (SA National Team) +01’03”
- Merhawi Kudus (Team MTN-Qhubeka) +01’43”
- Daniel Teklehaimont (Team MTN-Qhubeka) +01’50”
- Louis Meintjes (Team MTN-Qhubeka) +01’52”
Issued on behalf of the Mzansi Tour
Photo: Sonoko Tanaka/Mzansi Tour