I'm going to sketch the view of the tour - briefly - from the media van in the convoy. I think coverage on TV, twitter and to some extent the general photography and news today was focused on what was happening at the front of the Tour. The rear is interesting because you see the sometimes bitterly hard other side of bicycle riding - the crashes, those fighting to get back into the bunch, the punctures, the toilet breaks, the commisar kaking a team vehicle out.
Today there were dozens upon dozens of punctures, perhaps as a result of the heavy rain the night before 'lifting' thorns and small stones onto the metre of tar closest to the roadside.
Being in the convoy is exciting because the vibe from the front flows through...the spectators wave at us, and we get to see the often very strained expressions of riders at close range. The rules for media stipulate that we may not take any photographs from the media van hence I have not been providing much live coverage.
Some highlights today included racing on a road with a sweeping view of Pretoria on our left, and the Union Building on our right. No one saw the speed bump so we did a little low flying right in front of these magnificent buildings. The pace in the beginning was hectic. One rider that caught our fancy was UCI African...Number 53...Solomon Shiferaw...who lost touch very early on and had to battle against a headwind to get back in contention, this with just 20km gone. Perhaps 20km later the orange figure finally powered his way through. Had he failed to close the gap he would probably have been disqualified for finishing too far outside the finishing time.
We also had a team of farm horses running along the fence, Tour de France-style, pacing with the convoy for perhaps 2-3 clicks. Lovely sight.
We also saw some cheating...well I suppose the politically correct term is 'professional foul'. While it is fine if a mechanical difficulty prompts an exit from the bunch, like a puncture, we definitely saw a few riders falling off in the final 30-40km. Basically the team cars spend an awful long time pretending to fix brakes or handing over a bottle. Riders who fall out on climbs should be left alone in terms of the natural 'damage' of the route.
I was surprised to see 30-40 riders falling off in especially the last 20km.
When I spoke to House he told me the move was not premeditated, he simply pursued the Czech through the tunnels at Harties, and then found he [the Czech] was falling away, on the climbs. He decided not to wait for him and went on his own. House took yellow with a very credible 2min22sec lead over Herman Fouche and the rest of the field. Although Rapha's coach and House himself dismiss talk of staying in the overall classification, their current gap is perhaps a gift worth holding on to. You never know, House was the Champion of Britain in 2009.
Sadly the race favorite crashed out, Europcar's Anthony Charteau. We saw him standing in his green jersey, hunched over, hands on knees, in too much pain to be in a hurry, and soon after the race doctor confirmed a broken clavicle. Also somewhat surprising was MTN's Christoff van Heerden falling off the pace with about 15km to go.
In terms of organisation, CSA did a credible job. Tight organisation and no slip ups. Daryl Impey said as much on Twitter: Tour of SA off to a great start and must agree with guys on the road closure. Give credit when its due, that was awesome!
Can House be caught? Impey says: Ran top 10 but its a pity the finish didn't match the book. Gonna be hard to get some time on house but can be done.
Impey also remarked that it was disappointing that the teams would no chase, but when they did it was DCM and MTN, both from SA, controlling things. Great to see.
I'm sure we have lots to look forward to over the next few days. The six-man team structure have struggled to control the race, a recipe for more exciting racing. After all, what';s better than rooting for a brave breakaway rider as we saw today. Tomorrow though, is likely to be even tougher than today.
Here's the official release.
19th February 2011 – Stage 1: Menlyn Park Shopping Centre to Montecasino: 154km
- Kristian House – Rapha Condor Sharp – 03h42’03”
- Herman Fouche – DCM @44’25”
- Milan Kadlec – Team Czech Republic@44’25”
The inaugural Cell C Tour of South Africa kicked off at the Menlyn Shopping Centre this morning just after 10am with a host of support from the public at the start and along the route.
The start of the race was extremely fast paced and according to Race Director Barry Austin, it took approximately 15 minutes to cross from one side of Tshwane to the other. A couple of riders broke away about 10kms into the race, the most aggressive team of the day was definitely Team Rapha Condor Sharp. Once Rapha launched the first attack they were chased down by Team DCM. However, former British National Road Champion, House and Martin Blaha managed to open up a sizeable lead of 5.49minutes after 2hrs 25 of racing. A Team Europcar rider together with 360Life and Toyota Academy tried to get across but the move was neutralized by the peloton.
Blaha stayed with House for 90 minutes until the pace proved too much for him allowing the Rapha Condor Sharp rider to ride solo to the finish.
During an aggressive chase by MTN Qhubeka, the bunch split in two and an unfortunate crash happened where Europcar rider, 2010 KOM winner in the Tour de France Anthony Charteau and approximately 20 other rides went down, including Chris Jennings, and Rapha Condor Sharp rider Graham Briggs who got injured, but managed to finish the race.
Best African Rider – DCM – Herman Fouche
Samsung Best Young Rider – Team Bonitas- Tyler Day
King of the Mountain – Rapha Condor Sharp – Dan Craven
Points Classification Jersey – Rapha Condor Sharp – Kristian House
General Classification Jersey – Rapha Condor Sharp – Kristian House
For high resolution images of the day please log on to www.craigdutton.com