As if on cue, light rain began to fall as former South African champion, Lynette Burger (Nashua Toyota) crossed the finish line first to break her 14-month victory drought at the Wilro 100 Lions Cycle Challenge at Tarlton northwest of Johannesburg on Sunday.
It was Burger’s first major win since early 2010 and it confirmed her good form ahead of the South African Track Cycling Championships, which take place next week. The 30-year-old Nashua Toyota team captain clocked a winning time of 2hr 50min 25sec. Charlotte van der Merwe (MTN Qhubeka) and Isabel Moolman (FJR) were second and third respectively.
The popular 114km autumn race over undulating terrain attracted most of the country’s top women’s racers, who were grouped with the Veteran men 40-49-year category as per Cycling South Africa’s new seeding system.
“The racing was quite aggressive with early attacks shaking off some weaker riders early on. The 40-plus Vets are always a tough group to race with, but it’s definitely good for the improvement of the standard of women’s racing,” explained Burger.
A five-man break moved clear early in race, comprising only Veteran men. That meant that the women were in the chase group, which was being driven by teams that missed the break, keeping the race pace high throughout.
“My team did some of the pacing in the chase group and some of the MTN team women put in some attacks in the last 10km. But riding into a headwind with a Veteran men’s chase group, no women’s attacks would have succeeded, so I decided to wait for the sprint,” said Burger.
Burger’s teammate, Robyn de Groot started the final dash for the finish with 1km remaining, which, with the twisty finale, was a good tactic as it stretched the field out through the s-bends leading to the finish venue on Tarlton’s famous drag racing strip.
“Robyn was spent with 500m to go and I thought we might have gone too soon. But a couple of veteran men were in the mix too and I just kept pacing behind them and was at the front with 300m left with a big enough lead to take the win,” smiled Burger.
“It’s such a relief to win again,” said the 2009 African road race champion. “You begin to doubt your abilities. I took some time to get my confidence and form back after the bad crash and subsequent surgery I had at the 2010 SA Champs. This win really came at a good time.
“I have been focussing on my speed work lately the for SA Track Champs and knew I had good speed and strength going into this race. I didn’t expect such a strong field of women though so it makes the win even more rewarding.”
Burger, a former multiple South African track champion, will contest five events at the national track championships, which take place in Bellville from 27 April.
Wilro 100 Lions Cycle Challenge 2011
Sunday 17 April, Tarlton: 114km
1 Lynette Burger (Nashua Toyota) 2hr 50min 25sec
2 Charlotte van der Merwe (MTN Qhubeka) @ 1sec
3 Isabel Moolman (FJR) @ 2sec
4 Anriette Schoeman (Nashua Toyota) @ 3sec
5 Robyn de Groot (Nashua Toyota) @ 4sec
6 Jeaun-Mari Breytenbach (MTN Qhubeka) @ 5sec
7 Marissa van der Merwe (Team USN) @6 sec
8 An-Li Pretorius (MTN Qhubeka) @ 14sec
9 Lilandi Swanepoel same time
10 Leandri du Toit (Nashua Toyota Academy) @ 15sec