Nearly 30 000 cyclists of all abilities took to the streets of Joburg for the 20th edition of the Telkom 947 Cycle Challenge. Among the many who were riding for a purpose, and just to have fun, there were also elite riders, racing to win.
Davids, who has experienced much success as a mountain biker and is making the transition to road racing, said that he was still coming to terms with his first big win on tarmac. He beat second-placed Eddie van Heerden (Team Hollard) and Morne van Niekerk (Team Telkom), who was third, in an all-South African podium.
“I don’t think it has quite sunk in yet,” said Davids, who rode in the colours of Swiss Cycles. “It’s a little bit unexpected, to be quite honest. I came up to Joburg yesterday, and I didn’t really have great expectations. I’ve been concentrating on the mountain bike mainly, but I felt this race kind of suits me with the power climbs.”
Davids got into the significant break of the day, riding away with four others up Jan Smuts Avenue. He and the young Van Heerden and Van Niekerk managed to avoid a crash in the dip on Jan Smuts near Zoo Lake that took down six riders, including Brad Potgieter of Team Roadcover.
“We came across Nelson Mandela Bridge and there was a small break over there,” said Davids. “I saw Eddie van Heerden just up the road. I just took a dig, there was a bit of a crosswind and I managed to get a gutter going that made the others suffer. I managed to get across to them going past Rosebank. The bunch sat at 50 seconds for a while, then before we knew it we had a gap of two minutes.”
Davids, being a staunch KwaZulu-Natal man, admitted he knew little about the route and relied on advice from a close friend. With just 15km left to go, he put pressure on the others and made the break smaller.
“I have always seen myself moving to the road in the future. It’s happening a lot quicker now than I thought it would. I expected to get to certain goals on the mountain bike and then move across to the road. The time is right now. I’m getting on now, the window of opportunity is closing, so I think it is time to bite the bullet and go for it now. Next year I will mainly be riding locally, with some international stints in Europe. Then I hope to be moving across to the world tour in a couple of years’ time.”
The men didn’t take all the thunder on the day as Germany’s Charlotte Becker celebrated with a whoop and a holler as she won the UCI 1.1 women’s race.
Becker, riding for the Norwegian-based Hitec Products team, outsprinted Spanish national champion Mavvi Garcia (Bizkaia-Durango) and South Africa’s Lise Olivier (Time Freight), who were second and third respectively. Officials had to consult the finish-line camera to decide which of Garcia and Olivier had taken the first runners-up spot. For Becker, though, it was a great end to a successful week for her and her team in South Africa.
“It was a good end to a really good week in this country,” said Becker, who had competed in the KZN Summer Series that preceded the Cycle Challenge. “We took three wins from three starts. Winning the Cycle Challenge was the perfect end to our stay here. It’s my first time in South Africa. I cannot wait to come back.”
Cashandra Slingerland (Cycle Nation) had been the first to get into a proper break in the race, time trialling away on the M1 South to go one-and-a-half minutes clear. The M1 South also saw the sad withdrawal of South African champion AnLi Kachelhoffer (Pretoria Box), who abandoned after coming into the race with an illness. She had been the South African favourite to take on Finland’s Lotta Lepisto (Cervelo-Bigla), who had taken bronze in the world championships. Cervelo-Bigla had been hoping to defend the title won by their South African star, Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio, in the inaugural women’s UCI race last year. Moolman-Pasio did not take part this year as she had crashed heavily before the event.
“To have a race of this stature in South Africa is really something special, so we just went out there and did our best,” said Olivier. “At this point the future of our team is a bit uncertain, so it was quite emotional and everyone did an incredible job to get me into the break.