Former African and South African road champion, Lynette Burger, turned back the clock and turned on the pace to win the Pick n Pay Weekend Argus Knysna road cycling race at the weekend, confirming she’s on track for medal contention at next months’ master’s road world champs in Pietermaritzburg.
No longer a full-time professional racer, Burger’s role as mentor and manager of the Toyota Cycling South Africa Academy team has given her a different focus and minimised the pressure to produce race wins.
Riding the new route, an out-and-back race to the south of Knysna, the women’s peloton began to splinter on the first major climb and 10km into the 100km race, there were four left at the front – Burger, Anriëtte Schoeman (Mecer), Candice Neethling (BMC) and one of Burger’s protégés, Ashleigh Blackwell (Toyota CSA).
But a strong headwind blew away any commitment within the leading quartet at such an early point in the race and they were caught by some of the stronger riders who’d escaped from the main pack.
The climb up Hoekwil was always going to have an effect on the race. Schoeman claimed the Queen of the Mountain’s title at the summit and in the process split the race up again. Only Burger and Neethling were able to join Schoeman after the summit of the Hoekwil ascent, with Blackwell delivering a daring descent to rejoin them at the base of the downhill.
The quartet shared the workload to maintain their lead over the rest of the field, but on the final climb, Blackwell lost contact again.
“A major part of my role as Toyota CSA mentor is to offer on-the-bike, in-the-bunch guidance to the young riders. I really wanted to see Ashleigh in the mix for the end of the race after she’d worked so hard throughout, so I sat on the back and told the others I won’t be contributing to the pace-making,” explained Burger.
“Some were not happy with my decision, but my priority was to support Ashleigh, my teammate. With about two kilometres to go, Ashleigh managed to reach us, but was unlucky to get stuck on the other side of the road and a string of traffic made it impossible for her to rejoin us,” added Burger.
Schoeman began the three-up sprint, but was unable to match the pace of Burger, who dashed past her just before the finish line to claim the win in a time of 03 hours 04 minutes 42 seconds. Schoeman secured second, Neethling third and Blackwell fourth.
“It’s a pity Ashleigh wasn’t able to rejoin us properly for the sprint, but her commitment in catching us twice is to be commended. Under-23 riders need to learn that a race isn’t over just because you get dropped from the front group. Road racing is tactical and perseverance definitely pays off. Ashleigh learned that today,” smiled Burger.
Burger’s personal focus now is on winning a medal in the 30-34 year age group at the 2012 Masters Road World Championships, which take place in KwaZulu-Natal next month.
“I am very happy with my current form, there’s still loads of work to be done in the next five weeks but I’m happy to say that I am on track and training hard. It will mean the world to me to get those rainbow stripes and I know with lots of hard work, determination and support from my family and friends it is all possible,” said Burger.