Conserving her energy for the final chase, rising star Heidi Dalton rode away from the bunch to take both the Elite as well as U23 Women’s Road Races titles for the 2017 South African National Road Championships, in Wellington on Saturday 11 February.
Team Demacon’s Dalton had claimed the U23 Time Trial win on Thursday, and added the road titles on Saturday riding the 127,8km course consisting of ten laps around the Lady Loch circuit through farmlands and vineyards in cooler, but still very warm Western Cape temperatures.
The first break of the day came from Sanet Coetsee, 19km into the race, but was quickly swallowed by the bunch. Michelle Benson then made an attack at 28km, in but was soon also caught.
The real fighting began 49km into the race, where Demacon’s Elmarie de Wet kept her breakaway (often over two minutes ahead) for close to 40km.
The next 15km displayed aggressive riding and attacks from Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio and An-Li Kachelhoffer, and soon, there was a lead bunch of eight riders, which included Dalton, Yzette Oelofse, Juanita Venter, Chane Jonker and Samantha Sanders.
More attacks by Moolman-Pasio and Kachelhoffer were seen, but soon both riders were back in the bunch.
At the start of the last lap, Dalton broke off the leading group to ride solo and open up a gap. Her time gaps began to grow from 37 seconds, to 47 seconds, and before long, close to two minutes ahead, and rode to victory over the line in a time of three hours, 43 minutes and 37.572 seconds.
On her victory, Dalton said: “Today was absolutely awesome, I mean, I’m still under 23 so the main goal was to get the under 23 jersey, but to get both of them is just absolutely incredible. I’m really, really over the moon. I gave it everything I had and I’m really enjoying this moment.”
Dalton spoke of teammate Elmarie de Wet who worked hard for the team as well. “She went up the road for a couple of laps and we sat on and relaxed little bit while she gave it her all” said Dalton.
“My other teammate Carla (Oberholzer) covered a lot of moves out there as well. My team manager, Dave, has been absolutely incredible and been with me forever, so it was really just a team effort today and I’m super chuffed to be the SA Champ,” she added.
Second position in the Elite Women’s race went to An-Li Kachelhoffer (Bestmed ASG), with Time Trial Champion Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (Cervelo Bigla) crossing the line in third.
Michelle Benson won the silver medal in the U23 Women’s Road Race. “Today was hot, and very hard,” she said. Benson added that after she had seen Dalton had a chance of the win, she tried her best to stick as hard as could in order to get the second spot on the podium.
In the U19 Women’s race, Ashley Parsons, who had arrived from Egypt just one day prior to her race, claimed the gold medal, with Tiffany Keep coming in behind in second place, and Elne Owen in third.
When asked about how she pulled it all off, Parsons said: “I had yesterday afternoon to gather my things. I think for me it was important to keep myself together mentally – especially knowing that I had to fly for 12 hours and then race the next day.”
Parsons spoke about her recent participation in the World Cycling Centre training camp in Egypt, and said: “Personally I think it was one of the best decisions that I’ve ever made. It was a big jump for me to miss school, but I gained a lot of experience and the training was very hard. It obviously helped a lot because, here we are today.”
Second-placed Tiffany Keep, who grabbed the Time Trial gold, said she was very nervous coming into the race.
“Some of the girls in the race today didn’t race in the Time Trial, so I didn’t know where they were in terms of form. It started off at a great pace and there were a few attempts at breakaways and attacks. Nobody managed to get away because of the headwind.
“I tried so hard to pull away when it came to two kilometres to go, but we all were in sprint mode by then. I ended up coming next to Ashley Parsons, and ended up finishing about a wheel length behind her. I’m happy for her, though – she raced so well in the end. All the other girls did really out there today.”
Summary of Results from the Cycling SA National Championships Road Race, on Saturday, 11 February 2017:
1. Heidi Dalton 3:43:37.572
2. An-Li Kachelhoffer 3:57:15.726
3. Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio 3:57:16.419
4. Juanita Venter 3:57:22.826 5
5. Charlene du Preez 3:57:23.222
1. Heidi Dalton 3:43:37.572
2. Michelle Benson 3:48:03.119
3. Bianca Haw 3:50:00.607
4. Chante van der Merwe 3:52:36.493
5. Hazel Magill 3:58:16.622
1. Ashley Parsons 2:34:17.985
2. Tiffany Keep 2:34:18.018
3. Elne Owen 2:34:18.150
4. Carla Steyn 2:34:18.249
5. Thana Groenewald 2:34:19.338
Photo 1 caption: “I’m really, really over the moon,” says 2017 SA U23 and National Road Race champ Heidi Dalton. Dalton rode away from the group on the last of 10 laps to add the U23 and Elite Women’s Road Race titles to her bag of three wins at the South African National Road Championships in Wellington. Photo: Stuart Pickering/Cycling Direct
Photo 2 caption: Having exerted themselves in repeated aggressive riding and attacks to gain an advantage, An-Li Kachelhoffer just managed to edge Time Trial champ Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio for silver. Photo: Stuart Pickering/Cycling Direct
Photo 3 caption: “Today was absolutely awesome,” said the new champ shortly after her remarkable win. “I mean, I’m still under 23 so the main goal was to get the under 23 jersey, but to get both of them is just absolutely incredible.” On the winners podium pictured from left: Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio, Dalton and An-Li Kachelhoffer Photo: Stuart Pickering/Cycling Direct
Photo 4 caption: Pictured here on the U23 Road Race podium with Bianca Haw (left) and Michelle Benson (right), Dalton also featured top of the U23 Time Trial top three, when she captured the title on Thursday. Photo: Stuart Pickering/Cycling Direct
Photo 5 caption: In a tight finish for the U19 women’s title, Ashley Parsons managed to pip Tiffany Keep for gold, with Elne taking the final podium place just ahead of Carla Steyn and Thana Groenewald. Photo: Stuart Pickering/Cycling Direct
With editing by gsport