Yolandi du Toit spoke to gsport following her amazing win of Sunday’s Pick ‘n Pay 94.7 Cycle Challenge, her win having made it two in a day for sponsor Konica Minolta, after her team-mate and boyfriend Martin Velits sprinted away from the pack to take the earlier men’s race.
“I’m really happy, I’m actually walking in the mall,” laughs Du Toit, “Because I’m off now, I don’t have to train for three weeks. I can do whatever I want to!”
On her form leading up to the Cycle Challenge, Du Toit alluded to a tough six months training regime in Europe: “Riding in Europe is really hard. You just push your body beyond its limits all the time.
“When I got back to South Africa,” said Du Toit, “I trained with the Konica Minolta guys, and I just maintained my form. A week before the 94.7 I just took it easy, and I hoped for the best!”
But it transpires that Du Toit’s romantic interest, the men’s Cycle Challenge champion Martin Velits, has been more than a training partner, taking an active interest in her training and race performance.
“Martin always goes into a race giving it everything, he always says we must ride aggressive, push yourself until the end, (even) when you know you can’t go anymore.”
Asked for advice on race strategy, Velits and Du Toit concocted a great scheme for her race: “He was the one who said to me, ‘Just before you get to the Dome, nobody would expect anything to happen there, they’ll all be sitting and waiting for the highway, you must go there! Nobody will expect it.’ So I decided to give it a try, and it worked!” Du Toit laughs.
Du Toit has been training in Belgium for the past six months, and a coincidental placing in the same team with Velits 14 months ago sparked an interest between the two. But it’s the intensive training which made the win possible.
“When you’re in Europe, you go flat-out for 120 kilometres, ” explained Du Toit. “I knew on Sunday that, if I break away early, I would maintain it, I must just concentrate, keeping focus, and not pushing myself over the limit.
“So, when I got away, I was just pushing my body on just to keep the speed high. When the gap reached two minutes 50 seconds, that was the first time I realised how big the gap was.”
Du Toit admits surprise at the extent of her winning margin. “I’ll be honest, I didn’t think I’d win by over five minutes. I thought that if I get a chance to break away, it would be two or so minutes, not five minutes. I was really pleased that I got the gap so big.”
Once her break is over, Du Toit is keen to get back to racing in Europe: “When I go back to Belgium, I’m going to stay with Martin and his brother Peter, I’ll be able to train with them, and I’ll be racing with (British team) FCUK.
“To be honest, I want to race in Europe,” said Du Toit. “I love riding my bike, and I love finishing a race like I did on Sunday, not being able to walk anymore (laughs). I love that feeling, and I want to continue with that. That’s why I want to go back to Europe, it’s really hard, and it makes you stronger.
A short seven days before the Cycle Challenge, Du Toit had won the main race of the African Continental Cycling Championships in Mauritius to ensure the gold medal for team South Africa, where she beat strong competition from Zimbabwe and Namibia, including her team mates Ronel van Wyk and Marissa van der Merwe.
This latest victory will leave a testament to Du Toit’s grit and determination in a winning strategy, but also to the value in a true friend and companion. “He’s an excellent guy,” says Du Toit of Martin Velits. “He’s helping me so much with my cycling, helping me believe in myself, and he teaches me about racing.