Preen and Pritzen Crowned South African Champions in Swellendam
Hayley Preen and Qhubeka Assos Continental rider Marc Pritzen were crowned the 2021 South African National Road Race Champions in Swellendam on 21 March. Pritzen also claimed the under-23 title in the same race.
Preen won the women’s elite road race (133km) in a time of 4:18:06 while Pritzen pipped BH-Burgos’ Willie Smit to the line in a time of 4:51:42 in the men’s elite race (178km). Pritzen is Namibian-born but is a South African registered rider, allowing him to participate in the South African National Championships and indeed claim the title.
Carla Oberholzer, the 2018 National Champion, finished second in the elite women’s race, with Frances Janse van Rensburg rounding out the podium. By finishing third in the elite women’s race, Janse van Rensburg claimed the under-23 women’s title.
In the men’s race, all eyes were on defending National Champion and Friday’s Time Trial winner Ryan Gibbons. But coming over the final climb of the day, it was Marc Pritzen closely followed by Willie Smit and fellow World Tour pro, Qhubeka Assos’ Nicholas Dlamini.
Pritzen accelerated towards the line, with Smit chasing hard. In the end, Pritzen had the legs for the win. Smit claimed second place (4:51:46), with Dlamini (4:51:50) finishing in third spot. A disappointed Gibbons rolled over the line in eighth place.
With cool morning conditions and little wind to speak of, both the men’s and women’s elite races (raced in tandem with the respective under-23 races) started in pleasant riding conditions.
The women’s elite race was 133km long, with riders heading out of Swellendam along the R60 before doing two loops around Bonnievale and then heading home. The men’s route was 178km long, with the extra distance coming from a third loop around Bonnievale.
During the course of the morning, a stiff wind picked up, creating challenges for the riders on the Bonnievale loops and then the race towards the finish, which by mid afternoon was into a strong headwind. The wind did nothing to slow down Preen and Pritzen, though.
“I felt good from start to finish today,” said a delighted Preen. “I was feeling good all day and managed to close off some attacks and managed to put in a few attacks too. Eventually a few of us went off from the bunch, but we were caught again. Then there were eight of us rolling on the last section back towards Swellendam. On the last climb Carla (Oberholzer) and I went together and somehow I managed to hold her off.”
Preen, speaking seconds after crossing the line, was thrilled by her victory over a competitive elite women’s field. “I was feeling strong but I never thought I would be able to pull it off. I actually can’t believe it. I really can’t believe it. I’m surprised that I won but also not surprised. I knew I could maybe get a podium here today but I didn’t think that I could get the top step. I can’t believe it.”
In the men’s elite and under-23 race, which started 15 minutes after the women’s race, a number of contenders made nervy attacks throughout the day. With strong winds and the hilly loops around Bonnievale taking the steam out of riders, the race became a war of attrition.
Towards the end of the race, Matt Beers, Gibbons, HB Kruger, Smit, Dlamini, Jaco Venter and Jacques Janse van Rensburg were all in contention, each making efforts to pull away. On the last climb towards the finish, Willie Smit made a move, but Pritzen was on him in a flash.
“I saw Willie go, so I went with him up the hill,” said Pritzen. “At that stage I was feeling amazing. Earlier in the race I had tried a few things with Ryan (Gibbons) to make the race hard, but the wind really had a major effect. So at the end, Willie went up the hill, and then he slowed down. It was a surreal moment; I saw there was a gap and I just took my chance. I gave it everything I had and thought to myself ‘this is mine to lose now’.”
Smit counter-attacked on the final short descent, but it was too late to catch a flying Pritzen. “It was an awesome ride,” said Pritzen. “I still can’t really believe it, it feels like an absolute dream. I’m in shock.”
Women’s elite overall
1 Hayley Preen 4:18:06
2 Carla Oberholzer 4:18:07
3 Frances Janse van Rensburg 4:18:30
1 Frances Janse van Rensburg 4:18:30
2 Azulde Britz 4:25:41
3 Tiffany Keep 4:25:46
Junior women (80km)
1 Chloe Bateson 2:51:28
2 Caitlin Thompson 2:51:33
3 Chante Oosthuizen 2:51:39
Men’s elite overall
1 Marc Pritzen 4:51:42
2 Willie Smit 4:51:46
3 Nicholas Dlamini 4:51:50
1 Marc Pritzen 4:51:42
2 Travis Barrett 4:51:52
3 Travis Stedman 4:52:00
Junior men (133km)
1 Jason Eggett 4:15:48
2 Warren Moolman 4:15:58
3 Chanton Perrins 4:16:01