Team South Africa concluded the 2017 African Continental Road Championships with another two medals to bring the overall medal tally to five upon the completion of the road races at the weekend. Charlene du Preez secured a bronze medal in the Elite Women’s race, while Willie Smit triumphed in the Elite Men’s race claiming a gold medal with thrilling finishes in Luxor, Egypt, on Saturday 18 and Sunday 19 February.
Smit, who set the fourth fastest time overall in the Time Trial on Thursday, had said prior to the Road Race that he felt confident, and that he was part of the strongest South African team at a Continental Championship event.
The 169-kilometre route was made up of a 14-kilometre lap, of which the Elite Men had to complete 14 laps plus one kilometre. Smit felt that the strong winds would work to the South African team’s advantage on the dead-flat course come race day.
Cycling SA Road Commission Director, Bosseau Boshoff, said: “I think we had the Pharaoh’s Curse with us for the Men’s race. We had such a strong team going to Egypt, and the night before the race, Brendon Davids had fallen ill and had to withdraw. On the start line, Stefan de Bod mentioned that he wasn’t feeling too great, but he gave it a go. In the first hundred metres of the race Nic Dlamini then suffered a technical which affected the derailleur, the spokes and the frame – so that was him gone.
“De Bod tried his utmost to remain in the game, and did brilliant work with getting bottles to the team, but very soon after three laps realised that he was ill.”
After the team was very quickly reduced to three members, it was then time to re-think the game-plan. “Nolan (Hofman) and Clint (Hendricks) managed to score a break for a while, and got close to over a minute ahead of the chasers. They did extremely well to work for the team,” said Boshoff.
“Willie (Smit) actually punctured three laps before the finish,” said Boshoff. But the car managed to get him sorted straight away, and off he went. He managed to stay in the lead group until the end of the race, where he pipped Eritrean Arham Brhane Meron (silver) and Moroccan Ahmed Amine Galdoune (bronze) to the post to claim the gold medal in 3 hours 45 minutes and 54 seconds. “It was at the last corner where he began his sprint – 500m to go he just rode away,” said Boshoff.
In the Women’s race, Boshoff said that it went almost as expected. “Many of the other riders had it out for our girls, there were 26 of them against us,” he said.
Boshoff added that the National Women’s team tried their utmost to make it hard for the other riders. “It was an bunch sprint from the beginning. And we judged it on the heavy winds a few days before and the quality of riders that we had going into the race on the day,” he said.
“The girls tried hard to split the race up a number of times. Carla, Juanita and An-Li were so great at this. An-Li then unfortunately punctured, twice, and we then had to put her onto a ten-speed wheel, which ultimately took her out of the sprint. The sprint in the end is always going to be a gamble, and the two Mauritians almost went discreetly unnoticed until the very end, making it quite an easy race for themselves. Charlene (du Preez) rode like a champ to finish in third place,” said Boshoff,
Mauritian Aurelie Halbwachs kept her front wheel ahead and crossed the line first to claim the gold medal along the 99-kilometre course in a time of 02:47:53. Halbwachs was closely followed by compatriot Kimberley Le Court, while South African Charlene Du Preez rounded out the podium, claiming a bronze medal in the process.
Du Preez’s teammate An-Li Kachelhoffer finished in the top ten, crossing the line in eighth place.
Boshoff extended his gratitude to the team, as well as Gill Bezuidenhout (Women’s Manager), Evan Thys (Mechanic) and Ryan White (Soigneur). “This is definitely one of the best team’s I have had the pleasure of managing,” he concluded.
Summary of Results – African Continental Road Championship – Road Races
Elite Men (169km) – Sunday 19 February 2017
1.Willem SMIT (RSA) 03:45:54
2.Arham BRHANE MERON* (ERI) 03:45:54
3.Ahmed Amine GALDOUNE* (MAR) 03:45:54
4.Temesgen BURU (ETH) 03:45:54
5.Yonatan HAILE (ERI) 03:45:54
6.Joseph ARERUYA* (RWA) 03:45:54
7.Islam MANSOURI* (ALG) 03:45:54
8.Awet HABTOM* (ERI) 03:45:54
9.Mohsin ANNACHNACH* (MAR) 03:45:54
10.Abdelkader BELMOUKHTAR (ALG) 3:46:08
(* denotes U23)
Elite Women (99km) – Saturday 18 February 2017
1.Aurelie HALBWACHS (MRI) 02:47:53
2.Kimberley LE COURT DE BILLOT* (MRI) 02:47:53
3.Charlene ROUX (RSA) 02:47:53
4.Ebtissam ZAYED AHMED* (EGY) 02:47:53
5.Tsega BEYENE (ETH) 02:47:53
6.Wehazit KIDANE (ERI) 02:47:53
7.Mossana DEBESAI (ERI) 02:47:53
8.An-Li KACHELHOFFER (RSA) 02:47:53
9.Wogahta GEBREHIWET* (ERI) 02:47:53
10.Selam AMHA* (ETH) 02:47:53
(* denotes U23)