Dylan Girdlestone set himself up for a real shot at the title when he took the yellow jersey in a solo finish on the fourth stage of the Takealot Tour of Good Hope road cycling race in the Cape Winelands today.
The penultimate day of South Africa’s premier road tour, presented by the City of Drakenstein, saw riders tackle the queen stage of 145km with climbs over Bainskloof Pass in both directions.
With his OfficeGuru Racing team providing outstanding support, Girdlestone was finally able to attack Kent Main (TEG Procycling) with less than two kilometres to go to build a lead of seven seconds by the time he crossed the line.
His stage time of 3:41:42 gives him a lead of 39 seconds over Main on the general classification, with the final stage over 66.7km finishing at the Taal Monument just outside Paarl tomorrow.
In second place today was Main, with team-mate Jason Oosthuizen completing the podium. They also occupy second and third positions respectively on the overall standings.
Describing the stage as the toughest challenge of the five-stage tour, Girdlestone said his team were able to control the race throughout as they withstood a number of attacks from the TEG riders.
“We basically had a game plan to try to cover the first, second and third places on the GC which maybe was a bit ambitious because the stage was tough and a bit longer than originally planned,” he said.
“But our guys really controlled the race from the beginning, despite the early breakaway [at the 30km mark] by HB Kruger and Steven van Heerden.
“We let them go up the road and although they were GC threats we thought that might eliminate them because it was a long hard day.”
After his teammates Andrew Edwards and Josh van Wyk paced the stage for the first 100km, Girdlestone said he, Travis Barrett, Alex Worsdale and Marc Pritzen worked to close the gap as they tackled Bainskloof for a second time.
“The breakaway had a three-minute gap at the bottom of Bainskloof and we had to increase the pace,” he added.
“Near the top of the climb TEG started to attack and we had to close a couple of moves, which brought the time down [on the breakaway] quite a lot.
“Following the descent, TEG continued to attack after Alex had closed down the breakaway for good, which put us on the back foot for a bit because Travis, Marc and I had to follow these attacks.”
When Main broke away from the group, Girdlestone stayed on his wheel before making his move with 1.5km to go.
“I was able to put in an attack and managed to get away, soloing to the finish,” he said.
Having done the race in 2015, Girdlestone said he knew all about the final stage and the last climb to the Taal Monument.
“I actually finished second on the final stage then so I am not too stressed about that,” he added.
“We’ve got a strong team to cover all the moves up to the climb and then it will be up to the other GC contenders to try to make a move.”
In the sprints classification, Nolan Hoffman (Team Enza) leads with the way from Gustav Basson (TEG Procycling) and Girdlestone, while HB Kruger (Alfa Bodyworks/Giant) tops the King of the Mountains category.
Polish rider Maja Wloszczowska continued to build on her lead in the women’s race, winning her third stage in a row and setting herself up for the top overall spot in her debut Tour of Good Hope appearance.
She came home in 4:30:55, followed by Kross Fit Racing teammate Ariane Luthi and Catherine Colyn.
Wloszczowska leads the general classification in 10:21:52, with Luthi (10:26:02) second and Colyn (10:31:34) third.
With climbing her strength, Wloszczowska said she had enjoyed the rides over Bainskloof Pass, even though it was hard work in the end.
“From the beginning Catherine [Colyn] set the pace and I, Lucy [James] and Ariane [Luthi] went with her,” she said.
“We all worked together and set a good pace on the flat parts.
“When it came to the final descent, Catherine and Ariane went so fast that we dropped Lucy and I just managed to hang on.
“With about 15km to go I attacked and managed to get away, but it was tough because it was further than I expected to the finish.
“It started to rain and there was a headwind, but happily I was able to hold onto my lead.”
Caption: Yellow jersey holder Dylan Girdlestone celebrates his win on the 145km fourth stage of the Takealot Tour of Good Hope road cycle race in the Cape Winelands today. The five-stage tour finishes at the Taal Monument near Paarl tomorrow. Photo: Henk Neuhoff Photography