Cian learns his Drak Extravaganza lessons

Cian Leveridge learned from a tactical error a year ago and so spoiled a perfect holiday for Andrew Hill when the youngster sprinted to victory in the cycling road race at the Drakensberg Extravaganza on Sunday.

Leveridge got the better of Hill in the final sprint for the finish arch in Bergville after 84km of tough racing in intense heat. In the women’s race defending champion Frances Janse van Resnburg submitted a late entry and gave Team Absolute Motion a win in both gender classes.

In 2018 Leveridge finished third at the same race when he tried to set up teammate Bevan Reddy for the victory, but the plan backfired when Travis Stedman slipped through on the final turn and claimed the win.

This year there was no repeat and the U23 rider had far too much of a finish kick for his sub-veteran rival and Hill (TIB Insurance) said after the finish that he knew once Leveridge had come out the final turn in front he was never going to be able to blast past his young opponent.

Frances Janse van Rensberg celebrates her victory. Photo: Tim Whitfield

Second place meant Hill was not quite able to celebrate a perfect weekend in the Berg after he claimed an easy victory in the Drakensberg Extravaganza mountain bike race at Champagne Sports Resort on Saturday.

In Sunday’s road race Hill and Leveridge were all that was left of a lead group that established itself on the first decent climb of the race about 22km after the start.

Leveridge must have felt outnumbered as he was the only “roadie” in the group which was made up of three riders better known for their mountain biking skills — Hill, Tyronne White, and Willie van Eck — and wily veteran triathlete Donovan van Gelder.

White was the first to fall away from contention when he punctured just after halfway, and the other four stuck together until the final climb 15km from the finish. Van Gelder and Van Eck could not hold the pace on the three-kilometre ascent and left Hill and Leveridge to fight for the win with the finish sprint.

Van Gelder dropped Van Eck over the final kilometres to grab third.

Cian Leveridge secured the victory over Andrew Hill. Photo: Tim Whitfield

“Last year we got it a bit wrong with Travis and messed up the finish so this year I had to get some redemption,” said a happy Leveridge after claiming the win. “Andrew made it a really tough fight on the climb with about ten kilometres to go.

“I knew I had to stick with Andrew on that last climb and then after that, on the run in to the finish, it became a bit of a game of cat and mouse. From last year I knew that if I got to the last 90-degree corner first then I should have it and so I made sure I went into there ahead of Andrew.”

“It is really cool to mix it up with the roadies for a change,” said Hill. “Obviously not a lot of the really top guys riding this weekend but good to see the youngsters out here so we can see the depth of KZN cycling.

“I think there needs to be a lot more events like this. It was well organised, the course was great, the local community was out and it was a pleasure to ride.”

Juniors Unathi Nxumalo (left) and Warren Moolman ride through the scenic foothills of the Drakensberg. Photo: Tim Whitfield

Janse van Rensburg was never seriously challenged for the women’s title after she held the leading bunch of men’s riders for longer than any of the other woman. The under 19 South African Youth Champion was then able to join up with the second group on the road and ended up in an impressive seventh overall.

Although Warren Moolman, the top U17 rider, was fifth, Janse van Rensburg was the top U19 rider overall. She ended up just beating the first U19 male rider, the extremely talented up-and-coming U19 development star Unathi Nxumalo, by a few seconds.

“I just tried to stick with the front guys for as long as possible,” said Janse van rensburg after her win. “I got dropped from the front group just before 30 kays and then Warren Moolman and I worked together with a couple of other riders.

“Elmari de Wet was pretty strong today I think, but once I was in the second group and she was in the third group I was confident I could win it.”

De Wet ended up second, 15 minutes behind Janse van Rensburg with young Chloe Bateson claiming third.

He ain’t heavy! Two unidentified entrants in the 15km fun ride at the Drakensberg Extravaganza found a way for both to finish after a broken derailleur looked to have ended one race. Photo: Tim Whitfield

Road Race Results

84km Men
1 Cian Leveridge 2.16.11
2 Andrew Hill 2.16.11
3 Donovan van Gelder 2.17.29
4 Willie van Eck 2.19.05
5 Warren Moolman 2.24.51

1 Frances Janse van Rensburg 2.24.58
2 Elmari de Wet 2.39.51
3 Chloe Bateson 2.48.53
4 Ainsli de Beer 2.51.36
5 Isabel Moolman 3.04.33

40km Men
1 Evan Moolman 1.24.38
2 Mbhekisini Kunene 1.24.41
3 Keith Kuhn 1.24.42
4 Gabriel Xaba 1.24.43
5 Musawenkosi Khumalo 1.25.00

1 Amanda Blignaut 1.34.15
2 Bianca Millar 1.34.17
3 Louisa Bezuidenhout 1.37.45
4 Micaela Sclanders Sclanders 1.46.44
5 Malwande Ngidi 1.48.15

15km Men
1 Connor Hawkins 49.10
2 Tainelo Radebe 54.04
3 Cebo Xaba 57.36

1 Tamsin Gane 51.22

The lead bunch jostles for position early in the race, Photo: Tim Whitfield