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Rapport Tour de Eden - NE
South Africa, September 30 - October 4, 2003
Images by Tony Harding and Leon Botha/SupaCycling
Barlow's world at Eden
Reigning South African champion, David George, served notice this morning in the first 18,5km Time Trial stage of the Rapport Tour de Eden that he and his Barloworld team will have to be first caught and then well beaten before they will surrender the lead in this grueling six stage race.
Despite George's ultimate victory it was his teammate, Jaco Odendaal, who first caught the attention of the fans with a stylish and powerful ride to stop the clocks in 25:25. The only segment of the course where he showed any possible weakness was the final descent just three kilometres from the finish.
Odendaal and his pursuers reached speeds approaching 75km/h on the descent from the highest point of the course some 300 metres above the finish.
"That climb really suited me," said a satisfied Odendaal, dripping sweat in buckets at the finish.
Compared to the rhythmic power and metronome-like efficiency of Odendaal's awesome cadence, David George looked surprisingly amateurish and lacking the necessary rhythm as he set off to chase a fast time.
It just goes to show that appearances in cycling can be totally deceptive; David was pulling a bigger gearing than Jaco and he, too, had no fears for the climb.
A measure of his quality was the way in which he quickly closed down the gap to James Perry, a former world championship time trial bronze medallist, and the two were locked in battle for much of the rest of the course.
But it was enough, and David George had set the standard at 24:47, averaging almost 47km/h in a virtuoso display of worldclass power time trialling.
His team echoed his brilliant display, with Aussie Sean Sullivan filling third in 25:24, Jaco finally fourth and picking up top U23 rider with that 25:25 and SA world championship teamster, Ryan Cox sixth with 25:28,57.
The only riders to intrude on Barloworld's top six space were from HSBC, Nic White with an unexpected and brilliant ride to second in 25:04 and Jeremy Maartens in fifth spot, just shading Ryan Cox by 0,19 seconds.
With David George in yellow and surrounded by his team, HSBC are in the unusual position of having to chase the lead in the Rapport Tour de Eden, unlike like last year when they were forced to defend the lead.
In the women's race, SA's undisputed top lady, Anriette Schoeman (Proline SuperCD), clocked a sizzling 31,15 to win by 0,87 seconds from Cassandra Slingerland (Switch).
Proline SuperCD's Adele Janse van Vuuren took third from team mate, Hanlie Booyens, but, however brave the opposition, it is already clear that there is no one to match the Anriette and company show.
De Witt lightning strikes in Eden!
Barloworld's gritty Jaco de Witt (20) scored the greatest win of his young career with a fabulous victory in a dramatic second stage of the Rapport Tour de Eden in the Western Cape on Tuesday.
The 73,6km stage which started and finished on the waterfront in Knysna produced some of the bravest and most determined riding seen in a South African stage race for many years.
At the end of the time trial first stage of the Rapport Tour de Eden, which started the day's proceeding, Barloworld's SA champion, David George, wore the yellow jersey; 73,6km later, and, after a bewildering series of changes of fortune, he took it home for the night.
However, he and his Barloworld cohort, were stretched to the limit at times to provide their team leader with the support to keep that yellow jersey.
The start of the stage was delayed to allow the Outeniqua Express to pass over the road at the start of the course, but after that, there was no waiting for anyone during the first half of the course.
Despite that, there were no real focused efforts at a break-away until around 20km into the race when the leading group, containing all the main riders from Barloworld, Minolta, Microsoft, and the Cycling news.co.za/CWC team were on the front and the pace began to increase rapidly.
Five kilometers later the boys in blue and white had begun to assert their dominance and, spearheaded by a hard-charging Ryan Cox, started to break slowly away from the field.
Several other riders tried to stay with the Barloworld boys for as long as they could but, in a final downhill thrust, best described as "an exploding hand grenade", they effectively dropped most of their opposition.
However, Microsoft's Daryl Impey showed his emerging class to perfection and stayed with the high-speed Barloworld train, as did the prodigious young Chris "Killer" Willemse (Cycling news.co.za/CWC).
The first dramatic point of the race occurred at the 40km point when David George punctured but was promptly given another rear wheel by fellow teamster, Jaco de Witt.
Minutes earlier, young Chris Willemse had done the same, but his support vehicle was trapped in the massive convoy and couldn't get to him fast enough.
The slow wheel change dropped him out of the leading bunch, but his incredible fight back to rejoin them took him the next 12 km and earned him admiration from all quarters.
There can be no doubt that a great future awaits the Cape youngster.
In a complete change of fortune the next drama came from a two man break-away made by former student champion, Alexander Lamberts (Tukkies), in the company of Barloworld's Jaco de Witt.
They stayed together until around 13km to go and, as they approached the final major climb of the stage, De Witt made his move and simply rode away from the Tukkies star on the ascent.
After that, it was a desperate case of playing "catch up" as the peloton gradually wound up the pace and the finish line at Knysna beckoned strongly.
De Witt refused to panic and went for the victory he has deserved for so long. He made it! By just eight seconds, and promptly gave the victory "to my Saviour".
Germany's Thomas Ziegler (Cyclingnews.co.za/CWC) won the bunch sprint to take second from Barloworld's Sean Sullivan, with Simon Kessler (Microsoft) fourth, Ian McLeod (HSBC) fifth, and the yellow jersey, David George, in a consistent sixth .
The women's race was won comfortably by Anriette Schoeman (Proline Super CD) from the vastly experienced Hanlie Booysens, demonstrating once again that the petite P.E. rider is the top female in the country.
In the men's race Barloworld hold three of the jerseys: David George (yellow), points: the stage winner, Jaco de Witt; U23, Jaco Odendaal; and only HSBC's Darren Lill spoiled Barloworld's party with the king of the mountains.
Lange lights up Eden
SA's biggest one day race winner, Malcolm Lange (Microsoft), showed that he can still win the bunch sprints, whether they're uphill or downhill.
Lange's final charge at the end of the 118,8km third stage of the Rapport Tour de Eden from the Protea Hotel in the Wilderness to the uphill finish in the town centre at Mossel Bay showcased not only his speed but also his remarkable strength.
However, he was as quick to express his appreciation of the team work which helped him to victory, pointing out "a win is a win, and it was about time for one, so I am really grateful to the guys for working so well to help me."
Super-vet Martin Sanders, the former HSBC team manager, was the first to make a break soon after the start, and was able to hold off the massive peloton to claim the first hot-spot of the day at the 24km mark.
German star, Eric Baumann (Cycling news.co.za/CWC) then worked hard to lead a four rider group up the first of the day's daunting Cat 4 climbs..
Over the mid-part of the race, there was much jockeying for position among the top teams in the peloton, and at 70km there was a decisive individual move from the vastly experienced mountain-biker, Geddan Ruddock (Vineyard/Breitling) and he held a 20 second advantage over the challengers as they began the ascent of the second of the stage's two Cat 4 climbs.
With many urging him on very volubly, he looked likely to pip the peloton to the top when he punctured, but he had served due notice that his road aspirations are well founded.
Reinhardt du Plessis (Minolta) inherited the second King of the Mountains spot of the day but the peloton was well and truly with him, and that's how they stayed right through to the finish.
Some parts of the rest of the route became a little "hairy" as they rocketed through traffic lights and dodged cars with minimal protection by the traffic authorities.
This was later the catalyst for a possible problem for the tour organizers but that was far from Malcolm Lange's mind as his team took him into contention for the stage and they swung around the final corner and saw the finish 200metres above them.
His power was matchless, and the fabulous drive from the corner caught all the rest with nothing left to fend off Malcolm the maestro.
Five seconds adrift of Lange Barloworld's resident Aussie, Sean Sullivan just got the verdict for second place while Ian McLeod (HSBC) claimed third.
The main contenders for the various jerseys all finished in the bunch, and David George (Barloworld) stays in yellow, Darren Lill (HSBC) is the King of the Mountains, Eric Baumann (Cycling News.co.za/CWC) is in the points jersey, the blue development jersey is on the shoulders of young Chris Frankiskos (U23 development), and Barloworld's Jaco Odendaal still holds the white U23 jersey.
Anriette Schoeman (Proline Super CD) was again the top lady completing a hat-trick of the top places for her team. The experienced Hanlie Booysen was the runner-up while Adele Janse van Vuuren finished third.
Malcolm makes merry in Eden
Microsoft star, Malcolm Lange, took his second consecutive sprint finish victory to win the fourth stage of the Rapport Tour de Eden in Riversdale on Thursday.
The 121km long stage from the Garden Route Casino in Mossel Bay was a far less dramatic race than the close shaves with cars, trucks and taxis which were an unfortunate feature of the previous day's stage.
Lange, who was prominent in a threatened riders boycott regarding the dangerous race traffic a day earlier, paid tribute to the organisers for making renewed efforts to ensure the riders' safety, commenting, 'they got it just right with the riders, the crowds, and the traffic control today; we have no complaints.'
There was a crash during the first few kilometres of the race, but this involved mainly the riders at the tail end of the men's field and, very unfortunately, SA's top lady, Anriette Schoeman (Proline Super CD).
Despite the unscheduled interruption, she was back on the bike within seconds and rapidly rejoined the race.
Incredibly, Anriette went on to win her fourth consecutive stage and further extend her overall tour lead.
She went to the local hospital immediately after the stage to have an x-ray, just to check that her previously broken collar-bone and cracked sternum had not suffered any further damage.
All Anriette's supporters and those of SA women's cycling will be holding thumbs that all is OK with P.E.'s 'Pocket Rocket'.
The first of the day's Category 4 climbs loomed up just a few kilometres later at the 17,2km mark and this was when the strong men of the tour again showed their hands.
Belgian based Rudolph Wentzel (Cycling news.co.za/CWC) showed his power to take the first King of the Mountains prize from HSBC's Darren Lill, doing all he could to retain his polka dot jersey as the overall tour King of the Mountains so far.
Over the following 40km Minolta's Adriaan Maaske took the bit between his teeth and made a fabulous solo break only to be caught by the bunch just as they began to close on the next 'King' spot at the 73km mark.
Against all the odds, Maaske held on to take it from the ubiquitous Wentzel, with Lill fighting hard to retain that coveted polka-dot jersey.
Less than 10km later the sprinters had their only chance on the stage with a hot spot on the N2 at Albertinia.
The fast men in the bunch readied themselves for their effort and the stage winner showed that he is, indeed 'King' Malcolm, with a finely judged ride to win that from Germany's Eric Bauman (Cycling news.co.za/CWC), and Lange's team mate Simon Kessler in third.
The prime prizes came thick and fast and the third 'king' was another category 4 climb at the 117km mark, this time won by Waylon Woolcock (Minolta).
He was part of a seven rider group which still included a game Malcolm Lange, who now realised that another stage victory was within his grasp. 'If I could stay with them over the climbs, I knew I could do it in the bunch finish,' he said later.
And that's exactly how it panned out as the seven man group became very strung out as they entered Riversdale.
The mighty Malcolm turned up the wick all the way, and even Germany's Lars Wackernagel (Cycling news.co.za/CWC) couldn't hold him, settling for second at the finish from the determined Henry Uys (Panda), having one of the best rides of his career.
David George (Barloworld) finished seventh, good enough to keep him in yellow, while Malcolm's superb wining ride gave him the green points jersey.
'That's what I want,' he said. 'A couple of stage wins and the points jersey.'
We'll see what he says after Friday's decisive and tortuous 180km stage!
Even the great Malcolm Lange (Microsoft) would admit that his major rivals and their teams helped to give him yet another victory (his third in succession ) at Oudtshoorn on Friday when he won the 180km fifth stage of the Rapport Tour de Eden.
From the start in Riversdale, the awesome Barloworld team controlled the race at the front protecting their team leader, David George, in the yellow jersey at all times.
Two riders broke clear as the peloton faced the first Cat 1 climb of the stage up the Garcia pass. And the leader Wynand Oosthuizen ( CVT/CSC) was rewarded with victory in the first of the stage's "kings".
Interestingly, he was being tailed by a determined Dan Craven (Anatomic/Italian Connection), the grand-son of the famous rugby "Doc", Danie Craven, while the bunch were some two minutes adrift of the pair.
Inevitably, they were caught, but it still took a further 15km before they were swallowed up. Then it was the turn of a mixed group to try a break and a quintet led by Panda's ubiquitous Martin Sanders (having his third "go" in as many days! and also comprising Marco van Biljoen (SG Wheelers), Dennis van Niekerk(Cyclone), Robbie Rodrigues(Cyclelab C.T.), and an incredibly hard-working Wynand Oosthuizen, went away after 50km of the race.
But, every time any one of them looked round all they could see was a monster "train" led by the blue and white clad spear-head of Team Barloworld, chased closely by the mixed international Cycling News.co.za/CWC team.
As they entered Ladismith, former SA champion, Martin Sanders, showed he still has the class, winning the first "hotspot" of the stage.
This super-quintet stayed away for the next 50 kilometres opening up a gap of up to five minutes at times, while the peloton argued among themselves and Barloworld policed the entire situation.
While the Barloworld teamsters still worked hard for their captain, David George, none more so than their tough as teak development rider, Thaabit "Five Cents" Price, they would have noted that they were still accompanied by Microsoft and Malcolm Lange, as well as by the HSBC and Minolta teams. Other than the leading quintet no one was allowed to get away from the peloton as Oudtshoorn became more and more prominent on the horizon.
However, they had also brought their biggest danger-man, Malcolm, safely over the climbs and he could now ready himself for what looked certain to be his speciality, a bunch sprint finish.
Having trumped the Germans in the Cycling news.co.za/CWC team for the two previous days, Lange was clearly looking for the appropriate lunch pad as the bunch rocketed into Oudtshoorn.
"This time I decided to go from quite far out and it felt really good," said the winner, as he relaxed happily after the finish had gone to plan, leaving Germany's Eric Baumann (Cycling news.co.za) in second, and Microsoft's Darryl Impey in a great third.
"I would have been happy with one stage win, but three is fantastic," Malcolm enthused. And it might not stop there. Although it looks unlikely for Barloworld's David George to be overtaken on the GC, as to the possibility of another Lange stage victory, "well, you just take them when you can, don't you?" said the up-beat Malcolm.
He already has the points jersey, but on this form few would bet against another Rapport Tour de Eden stage victory for Malcolm the maestro.
And Anriette Schoeman (Proline SuperCD) showed she has guts in equal supply to her unquestioned talents, riding on to finish second in the stage behind her team-mate, Hanlie Booyens in first, and ahead of another, Adele Janse van Vuuren in third.
This, despite that heavy crash in the early stages of the fourth stage which aggravated the collar bone and sternum injuries she received in France recently, but, sadly, she will not be going to the world championships in Canada next week, opting, instead, to stay at home and fully recover before beginning her bid for an Olympic team place next year.
The final 130km sixth stage of the Rapport Tour de Eden starts at 7am on Saturday in Oudtshoorn and finishes around 10am in George.
Paradise found at Eden
South African champion, David George(Barloworld), confirmed his world championship team credentials with a clear overall win in the Rapport Tour de Eden at George on Saturday.
While German strongman, Thomas Ziegler(Cycling news.co.za/CWC), dazzled the crowds at the finish with a stunning display of raw sprinting power to win the 129,5km sixth stage from Oudtshoorn, George, too, turned on some very impressive speed to finish second for the day, with former double SA champion, Simon Kessler (Microsoft)only milli-metres behind in third place.
"Obviously I'm delighted to have won, but let's be very clear about this: it was the result of some great team co-operation," commented the tour victor, who definitely didn't want to bask in the glory alone.
However, perhaps the story of the day came from the petite, blonde SA women's champion, Anriette Schoeman (Proline Super CD), who fought back the pain to finish a very brave second in the women's race behind her team mate, Hanlie Booyens.
Anriette was all set to leave immediately after the race with the SA team for the world championships in Canada . Now she plans to do a little convalescing to get over the severe collar-bone and chest injuries she sustained in France two months ago, and again during the Rapport Tour de Eden in a big group crash near Mossel Bay earlier in the week.
"I'm determined to get over this and recover as fast as I can, but I must do it properly!" said Anriette just before she went on to the podium to receive the award for her individual women's win in the Rapport Tour de Eden.
From the start in Oudtshoorn, the peloton was again controlled majestically by the blue and white clad riders of Team Barloworld, just as they have done so throughout the tour.
"The team has matured magnificently during the year, and this simply demonstrates the effect of that maturity," added David George, their team captain.
Whatever anyone calls it, maturity or domination, it's clear that Barloworld have now lifted the level of SA men's pro cycling by at least another rung or two.
With just 23km of the stage gone, the experienced Rudolph Wentzel(Cycling news.co.za/CWC) led his team-mates, Thomas Ziegler, and Chris "Killer" Willemse over the opening Cat 4 climb to claim a hat-trick of places in the first "king" of the final day.
Ten kilometres later, and after a series of attacks and counter-attacks, HSBC's Jock Green, Minolta's Adriaan Maaske, and Microsoft's Simon Kessler, were away on their own, and their margin over the bunch had grown to over one and a half minutes.
The strain even took its toll on one of the iron men of the sport, Jock Green, and he went off the back of the two leaders as they toiled up towards the summit of the second Cat 4 climb of the day.
Kessler and Maaske were the first past the "king" at 89,1km and they had opened a gap of 60 seconds over the peloton as they all faced the last climb of the day, a Cat 3, at the infamous Outeniqua Pass.
But the peloton closed that rapidly, and it was the man in the polka-dot jersey, HSBC's Darren Lill, who was the first to the top of the pass, enough to take the "King" jersey outright for the tour.
From the dizzying descent after Outeniqua Pass it was mostly flat to the finish and the front group began to ready themselves for a little grandstanding in the streets of Oudtshoorn.
The acknowledged champion sprinter at the tour, Microsoft's Malcolm Lange, had given up the chase for a fourth stage victory after going over the pass in the second bunch, and this left the door open for the Germans in the Cycling news.co.za/CWC team to lay on a display of their sprinting ability.
Thomas Ziegler obliged brilliantly, leaving the Yellow Jersey to take second from Microsoft's consistent Simon Kessler. It had been a brilliant tour in all respects with David George in the Rapport Yellow Jersey, Malcolm Lange taking a deserved Wilde Green points jersey, Jaco Odendaal the Garden Route Casino White U23 jersey, Darren Lill the polka-dot Nashua King of the Mountain jersey, and Barloworld's mini-muscleman, Thaabit Price, really earning the nation's inaugural blue Exel development jersey.
Let's not forget that brave girl in the Virgin Active pink jersey, Anriette Schoeman, who surely became an inspiration to men and women across the nation as she simply refused to give up.
But isn't that what life's all about?