On a balmy but windy morning, Chris Jooste and Yzette Oelofse racked up their biggest career victories at the 98km inaugural Tshwane Classic road cycling race in Pretoria today.
The main feature event, which saw about 4 000 participants ride past all of the city’s major attractions, started and finished at the Voortrekker Monument.
Jooste, who lined up alongside pro teams such as BCX and RoadCover, said he took advantage of being a “no-name” brand.
“I didn’t really know what to expect but I knew my legs were good so I just went to try my luck today,” said the 22-year-old, who grew up in the small Western Cape town of Prince Albert.
“As it was the first event, nobody really knew what to expect,” said the Gauteng U23 road and time-trial champion.
“We definitely didn’t expect it to be such a windy day out on the highway. That made a big difference.”
Roughly 40km into the race, Jooste said he took his time to settle and sat comfortably in the bunch until he and RoadCover’s Bradley Potgieter, ProTouch’s Pieter Seyffert and four others set off in pursuit of two riders who had broken away.
Their efforts were rewarded and together the growing group started climbing to the finish.
“Coming into the last 30km it gets tougher and tougher,” explained Jooste. “When we started the first climb, going over the ridge, I put in some effort and split up the group.”
Then, on the Tom Jenkins climb, roughly 87km into the race, he decided it was now or never and put in a final effort to try and distance himself from his fellow escapees.
“At the top I had about 100m on them and I just had to keep pushing until the end,” said Jooste, who collected the white jersey for best young rider after placing fourth overall at the Mpumalanga Tour in January.
He crossed the line in 2:12:57, a minute ahead of ProTouch’s Jaydé Julius and Dimension Data’s Kent Main, who won the Tour of Good Hope earlier this year.
“I always go to a race to do my best so it’s wonderful to get this result,” said Jooste. “I never expected coming here to win so it’s definitely a great feeling.”
The Luso Africa Cycling Club rider said the course presented opportunities for all types.
“It wasn’t just for the climbers. There were a lot of downhills and many places where sprinters and bigger riders could get away, so it was a combination of being strong and taking chances where you could.”
Oelofse knew she had her work cut out for her with just one teammate for assistance, but victory in her home town, she said was one of her goals from the get-go.
The Clover rider said shortly after the 40km mark, she and Demacon’s Carla Oberholzer were able to slip away when the gradient started increasing, at which stage the race really started becoming a cat and mouse game.
The Satellite Championship winner dropped Oelofse twice, only to see the 32-year-old fight back on both occasions.
The latter finally counter-attacked less than a kilometre from the finish and just managed to outlast Oberholzer by milliseconds in 2:41:09.
“There’s just unbelief and shock because I’ve been on the podium so many times this year, but I’ve never managed to get the win. I’m over the moon.”
Cashandra Slingerland crossed the finish at third by just under 30 seconds to round out the podium.