Former South African and African Elite road cycling champion, Lynette Burger (Toyota CSA), bookended her racing career with two world championship titles at the 2012 UCI World Cycling Tour Final in Pietermaritzburg at the weekend.
Burger, who retired from professional racing at the end of 2011, continued to compete in domestic racing as an amateur this year, but primarily as a mentor to the Toyota CSA team, an Under-23 squad of promising female riders. With the 2012 World Masters Championships taking place in South Africa, she decided to focus on achieving success in the 30-34 year-old age category. And success she found.
The 31-year-old Boksburg resident secured gold medals in both the individual time trial and the road race in what she describes as the highlight of her racing career.
“I wore the stripes of national champion and African champion as a professional racer, but to wear the rainbow stripes of world champion is simply the best accomplishment for me,” beamed Burger.
“The pressure seemed to be higher here than at any other professional race I ever did. Maybe because I knew I had a chance of winning a world title and had made that intention public; maybe because I’m in the best form of my life; but certainly because I didn’t have a clue about the ability of my rivals.
“In professional racing, you know who is strong or not so strong by their reputation and because you compete against them regularly; but here, you’ve never seen any of these other women before and haven’t a clue what their strengths are.”
In the individual time trial, Burger secured the victory with a calculated effort on a course that had a strong headwind for the first half and an equally significant tailwind for the second half.
“You have to make sure you put in enough effort on the way out but still make sure you have something for second half. I was fortunately able to get some time splits on other riders in my age group and found myself in control on the return leg, so I tapped off a little. The road race two days later was my priority and I wanted to make sure I had something in store for that. Winning the time trial was a real bonus.”
In the road race, a 96km loop in the hilly Wartburg region east of Pietermaritzburg, Burger became the protagonist in a field that included women in the 30-34, 35-39, and 40-44 year categories.
Her attack half way up the 5km climb into the farming town of Wartburg after just 20km saw the field splinter, with only four riders able to join her – South Africans Cashandra Slingerland (35-39) and Annette Loubser (40-44) and Americans Molly van Houweling (35-39) and Katheryn Mattis (35-39).
“We worked well together to build a lead over the rest, but the conditions made the going a bit tougher for everyone and that no doubt had an effect on the results on the day,” remarked Burger.
The temperature soared to over 40 degrees Celsius and the strong Berg winds added to the challenge for the Saturday race competitors.
“I won my SA title in conditions similar to this and knew I had to stay well hydrated and take in plenty of electrolytes as well as keep my core temperature under control by regularly pouring water over my head,” said Burger, whose attack on a sharp corner after 60km, created a small gap in the lead group.
Only Van Houweling, winner of the 35-39 time-trial gold medal, was able to cross over to her and immediately took on the pace making.
“I actually didn’t want to help set the pace because I knew that Cashandra and she were in the same age group. But my patriotism eventually became irrelevant because Molly’s effort alone grew the gap significantly and I eventually helped pace to the finish.”
Van Houweling began to cramp in the final kilometres, leaving Burger no opposition in the sprint for the line. Both captured world titles in their respective age categories.
“I dedicated my wins to my grandfather who passed away last year. He ignited and fueled my love for riding bicycles as a little girl and was always my biggest supporter and fan when I became a professional racer,” said Burger, who will now focus on her wedding in September and continue to work as a mentor and coach for talented young riders on the Toyota CSA team.