Stander gets back-to-back wins in preparation for World Champs

    From left: Nicci Grobler (third), Cherise Stander (first) and Theresa Ralph (second) were the first three women at the Nissan Trailseeker Down and Dirty 70km Marathon on Saturday.

    Professional cyclist, Cherise Stander, continued her run of good form when she won two races back to back at the weekend, one on a mountain bike race and the other on a road bike.

    The newly crowned South African mountain bike marathon champion had to fight hard from start to finish for her victory at the Nissan Trailseeker Down and Dirty 70km mountain bike marathon in Centurion, Gauteng on Saturday. But on Sunday at the 93km Dome2Dome road race, she raced tactically and managed to claim the title in a sprint.

    “Saturday’s race was very hard. I really had to fight for that win right from the start. I crashed early on due to the bottlenecking on the route and then just rode as hard as I could to catch Theresa Ralph, who I considered my main opposition. There was so much dust so it was hard to see who was ahead, but I eventually caught her and then stayed with her,” explained Stander.

    Ralph moved ahead of Stander at the penultimate water point when Stander stopped to fill her bottle. Stander then chased and caught Ralph, who then was unable to match Stander’s surge after the final water point with six kilometres remaining, giving Stander the victory in a time of 02 hours 38 minutes 50 seconds, good enough for 29th place overall. Ralph finished second in 2:39:28 and Nicci Grobler (bizhub FCF) was third in 2:43:52.

    From left: Anriette Schoeman (third), Cherise Stander (first) and An-Li Pretorius (second) were the first three women at the Dome2Dome on Sunday.

    “I did struggle a bit with the altitude as I’ve been at sea level for ages, but wearing the national champion’s jersey I was determined to do it justice,” said Stander. “It makes you dig a little deeper. I dug deep,” she smiled.

    Sunday’s road race was Stander’s first domestic road racing appearance in months, having raced abroad with partner team, Lotto Belisol since April.

    “It was good to see the young riders like Heidi Dalton (Toyota CSA Academy), who is a junior, racing so well. And even without the presence of some of the riders from other teams, there was still positive racing,” remarked Stander afterwards.

     “I wasn’t feeling super strong after my mountain bike race on Saturday, so decided to stay with the lead group as long as possible. I did try one attack but it really wasn’t impressive, so I sat in.

    “The Mecer Black Spade team dictated the race mostly. I really just conserved as much energy as possible for the finish and had enough left to be able to win the sprint,” said Stander.

    Stander crossed the finish in a time of 02 hours 42 minutes 36 seconds, just edging out An-Li Pretorius (MTN Qhubeka) and Anriette Schoeman (Mecer Black Spade) who were second and third respectively.

    Stander used the weekend’s racing to prepare for the 2012 Road World Championships, which take place in Valkenburg, Holland from 15-23 September.