Team MTN, Nashua Telecoms and Cycle Lab Toyota immediately went to the front to set a very high pace against the Knysna five-kilometer climb on the N2 towards Plettenbergbaai.
Two-thirds of the ladies were left behind midway through the climb, as Marissa van der Merwe (MTN), Anriëtte Schoeman (Nashua Telecoms) and Toyota Cycle Lab’s Ashley Moolman kept a very high pace.
Only the cream of SA Ladies Cycling including Swedish champion Jenny Stenerhag (Alpha Pharm) survived this furious pace. The second big attack was launched 36km into the race as the teams launched their top climbers for the Queen of the Mountains prime.
Top guns like SA champion Lynette Burger, Anli Pretorius and Sanet Smal were left behind 39km into the race, on the steep 4km climb out of Plettenberg Bay towards PE. With 500m to go Moolman proved very strong as she launched the sprint for the Queen.
She was followed by Stenerhag, Schoeman, Van der Merwe and De Groot while Cherise Taylor and Slingerland lost contact with the attacking group. With 150m to go De Groot lead the charge with Stenerhag on her wheel but was passed by a very strong Marissa van der Merwe who took the QOM.
Slingerland managed to rejoin the break away group immediately after the sprint while Anli Pretorius and Chrissie Viljoen managed to work their way back to the leading group with 54 to go. Lynette Burger managed to get back to the bunch with 44km to go.
The Sprint Prime was at 71km into the race on the flats above Plettenberg Bay to Knysna. Schoeman outwitted the group when she sprinted off Ashley Moolman’s wheel to take first place in the Sprint Prime.
Numerous attacks were launched by the teams to try and get their riders away. Robyn de Groot got away from the bunch 72km into the race. She was however chased down by MTN and Cycle Lab/Toyota and was caught 74km into the race. Nashua Telecoms and MTN attacked again 83km into the race with Anli Pretorius and Cherise Taylor getting away. They were however chased down 86km into the race.
With 10km to go it was clear that the race win would be determined by a sprint finish. Slingerland made the first move with 400m to go, but was followed by Stenerhag, Schoeman and Van der Merwe.
Schoeman jumped unto Van der Merwe’s wheel but was passed by Stenerhag within the last meters of the sprint with Van der Merwe taking first place, Stenerhag second and Schoeman finishing in third, all three in the same time of 2.54.59.
“I actually came out of the final corner at the back of the bunch, not the best place to be I suppose. But I think some people misjudged the distance to the finish line from there whereas I timed it just right,” smiled Van der Merwe, whose winning time was a rapid 2 hours and 55 minutes.
“I’ve also been involved in a lot more bunch sprints during our recent trip to North America, so I’m getting better at them and my form is good, so I’m not too surprised that I won today. It feels good to win this race for the first time and give our team another big home race win.”
Stenerhag’s second place helped her extend her Series lead by another five points to 20 in total over Schoeman, while Van der Merwe shot up to fourth, just five points adrift of Ashleigh Moolman (Toyota Supercycling) in third.
The Pick n Pay Weekend Argus Knysna Rotary Cycle Tour forms part of the Alpha Pharm Pro Series. Stenerhag still leads the series with Schoeman in the second place and Moolman in the third place. Round 5 of the 2009 Alpha Pharm Seeding Series will be the Medihelp Jock Cycle Classique in Barberton, Mpumalanga on Sunday 18 July.