Ace sprinter Nolan Hoffman secured a second major win in successive weekends for Team Neotel when he won The Herald VW Cycle Tour in Port Elizabeth on Sunday.
Hoffman, the 2006 winner, outpaced the strongest field ever assembled at the popular 105km race, which is the first of 13 events in the prestigious new Alpha Pharm Seeding Series. The 23-year-old clocked a winning time of 2 hours, 24 minutes and 21 seconds, edging out MTN Energade’s Christoff van Heerden with Neotel teammate Herman Fouche in third.
In the women’s race, hometown favourite, Anriette Schoeman lost the race for the first time in 13 years. Surprisingly though, she wasn’t beaten by any of her archrivals, but by Jenny Stenerhag, a former professional racer from Sweden, now based in Cape Town and riding as individual in the colours of MTN Club 100.
“My team was superb today,” beamed Hoffman afterwards. “They kept me sheltered and then gave me the perfect leadout. Johann Rabie took us to 500m out then Herman (Fouche) took me to 300 metres where I started my sprint. It was textbook finish for us and great to get a big win so early in the year.”
Neotel’s new signing, Fouche, won last weekend’s Pick n Pay The Star Fast One in Johannesburg, proving that Neotel will be difficult to beat this year with two quick finishers.
“It’s good to get the Alpha Pharm Seeding Series leader’s jersey so early on and it’s one of our objectives to try and win the overall series,” explained Hoffman. “With myself and Herman finishing first and third today, we’re in a strong position from the start.”
In the women’s event, it was the biggest South African race win for the 33-year-old Stenerhag, who went one better than last year when she was pipped by Schoeman for the title.
“I didn’t think I had much of a chance today as the three big teams, MTN, Nasuha Telecoms and Cycle Lab Toyota controlled most of the race. But with about 10km left we caught three riders in a breakaway and that pretty much set up the race for a sprint,” said Stenerhag.
In the fast dash to the line, MTN’s Chrissie Viljoen took on Schoeman in what appeared to be a two-rider duel to the line. But Stenerhag suddenly appeared on the right and grabbed the win by less than a wheel length.
“As we hit the final kilometre I was boxed in and thought that my chances of a podium place were gone. But then a small gap opened up on the right. I took it and it paid off. I have won other races in South Africa, but of course it feels great to win such a big race against such strong competition.”
More than 2000 participants started the event, which also offered a shorter 75km race. With clear skies and a light southeasterly wind, conditions were near perfect.
“It’s been a fantastic start for the Alpha Pharm Seeding Series. We are so happy with the positive response to the Series both from the professional teams and from the cycling community in general,” said Susan Franken, Alpha Pharm Loyalty Manager.
“The professional teams have all indicated that the addition of the Alpha Pharm Seeding Series adds new motivation and a new goal. It’s fitting that Neotel won today because on Saturday the whole team came to the kiddies race showing their support for the youngsters who will be the future champions,” added Franken.
The next two events in the 2009 Alpha Pharm Seeding Series are:
14 February: Construction du Cap 99er, Durbanville
22 February: Daily Dispatch / Felt Cycle Tour, East London
The Herald VW Cycle Tour – 105km
1 Nolan Hoffman – Neotel 2hr24min21sec
2 Christoff van Heerden – MTN Energade
3 Herman Fouche – Neotel
4 Arran Brown – Medscheme
5 Jamie Ball – House of Paint
6 Dennis van Niekerk – Konica Minolta
7 Michael Robinson – House of Paint
8 Jang Chanjae – Neotel Asia
9 Henry Whitehead – Neotel
10 Malcolm Lange – Medscheme all same time
1 Jennie Stenerhag – MTN Club 100 2hr58min20sec
2 Chrissie Viljoen – MTN
3 Anriette Schoeman – Nashua Telecoms
4 Ashleigh Moolman – Cycle Lab Supercycling Toyota
5 Jade Roberts – Nashua Telecoms
6 Cherise Taylor – MTN
7 Marissa van der Merwe – MTN
8 Heletjie van Staden – Maties
9 Samri Woithe
10 Gail Willemott all same time