Having targeted a strong start in the stage one individual time-trial of the Bestmed Jock Tour on Friday, ProTouch rider JC Nel delivered the goods when he took the top place on the podium.
In the time-trial, presented by Rudy Project, the 24-year-old from Honeydew in Johannesburg said he had felt the pressure but was “really happy” with the outcome.
The 27km stage, which started just outside Nelspruit, Mpumalanga, and ended at Kaapsehoop, saw Nel take first place ahead of top title contenders Nico Bell and Willie Smit.
“We had the yellow jersey in the time-trial as our target, but having the idea and actually doing it are sometimes two different things,” said Nel.
“There was some pressure, but the conditions were perfect and it was a really fast time-trial. I think we were about three-and-a-half minutes quicker than last year.”
Nel said that recent training camps in Nelspruit when they had tested the route, which is mostly uphill, had helped him.
“After about 20 to 25 minutes I wondered if I had not gone out too hard, but then I was nervous to slow down too much so I just kept going.
“I knew there was a hard climb with about seven to eight kilometres to go so I controlled the pace and that allowed me to pick it up on the last stretch.”
Despite Friday’s success, Nel is not getting carried away yet and knows there is much work to be done.
“I have a strong team, although the guys are young and do not have much experience. But what they do have is big hearts and real fighting spirit.”
Saturday’s second stage, which starts and finishes in Nelspruit, is over 140km and the route, via White River and Sabie, includes climbs such as Spitskop and Long Tom Pass.
The traditional one-day Bestmed Jock Classique, which consists of three stages totalling 154km with 2 900m of climbing, takes place tomorrow alongside the feature event.