Cycling

Munton, Willeit stars of 'Stellies' Tour

2019-01-21 11:18
Stellenbosch Cycle Tour
Stellenbosch Cycle Tour (Supplied)

Cape Town - Byron Munton and Cherise Willeit raced to victory in the 2019 Medihelp Stellenbosch Cycle Tour at Val de Vie Estate, in the Cape Winelands, on Sunday.

The elite men's and women's races unfolded in dramatically different fashions - Munton going on an 80-kilometre break to earn a hard-fought win while Willeit showed all her experience, sprinting from a fiercely competitive group.

Held in near perfect conditions, the Tour started and finished at Val de Vie for the first time this year.

Following the same route, which looped through Paarl, Stellenbosch and the villages of Kylemore and Pniel, the change of start/finish location meant that Helshoogte Pass came 65km into the race.

In the elite men’s race the pace was set in the opening kilometres by the Specialized team working for Craig Boyes.

Simon Andreassen, the two-time Junior Cross-Country World Champion, was the foremost of Boyes' super-domestiques as he switched his mountain bike for a road bike. Their bid to aid Boyes' attempt to go one better than his second place in 2018 was derailed by a breakaway led by Munton.

On one of the many rolling hills of Sonstraal Road, 20km into the race, Munton upped the pace with his Giant Alfa Bodyworks team-mate, Chris Cronje.

Bronwin Adams and Charl van Wyk joined the move, as did Specialized's Jacques Lloyd. The quintet worked together well, gradually extending their lead over the next 40km.

By the time the five leaders reached the base of Helshoogte Pass their advantage over the chasing peloton was 2 minutes and 52 seconds.

On the pass, Munton and Cronje kept increasing the tempo until Adams, Van Wyk and eventually Lloyd could not hold their wheels. By the top of the climb their lead had been reduced by 30 seconds, but the race was theirs to lose.

Andreassen led the chase group over the summit of the climb, but Boyes was flagging slightly off the back of the pack which had been reduced to just seven riders. With Boyes looking in trouble the impetus to chase down Munton and Cronje would need to be taken up by Gregory de Vink and his Mad Macs team.

Despite the efforts behind them, Munton and Cronje's lead remained unchallenged. Over the next 30 kilometres they held their pursuers at 2 minutes and 20 seconds.

In the final 10 km, Cronje was beginning to fatigue but Munton remained strong, taking increasingly long turns on the front. Coming into the finish Cronje acknowledged his team-mate's support of not forging on alone when he began to slow by sitting up and cheering Munton over the line - the worthy champion of the 2019 event.

Munton's winning time was 2 hours, 21 minutes and 45 seconds.

Speaking afterwards, he said: "It was a really nice race today. I preferred the route this year."

Explaining how the race was won, he added: "About 20 km in, we decided to commit to the break. Chris (Cronje) and I started driving the pace. On Helshoogte we split the break and after the pass when we heard we had a 2 minute 40 second advantage we knew we had a good chance."

In the elite women's race, the favourites shadowed each other throughout.

Showing no ring-rust, returning to racing for the first time since 2017 and just six months after the birth of her second child, Willeit remained composed. Starting with the racing veterans the elite women’s group caught the racing tandems - which had started 2 minutes before them - to form a massive group on the road.

With so many riders to do turns on the front the group rounded the course in good time, coming up to the finish in a time of 2 hours, 35 minutes and 55 seconds.

Sprinting from within the group, where their male compatriots were contesting age group category places, Willeit reigned supreme.

She was followed across the line by Linda Hitchings, junior Kelsey van Schoor, Lucy James and Maroesjka Matthee.

Stellenbosch Cycle Tour

Stellenbosch Cycle Tour

Images: Supplied

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