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Rabie celebrates with win

Johann Rabie, runner-up at the inaugural Cell C Tour of South Africa two weeks ago, celebrated his birthday week in style when he won a drama-filled Stage Three of the Le Coq Sportif Tour de Boland on Thursday to take over the race leader’s Yellow Jersey and extend his lead in the points competition.

The Team Bonitas stage-race specialist, who turned 24 on Tuesday, dashed clear of four other riders that had formed a small breakaway group with him in the final kilometres of the stage, which had to be detoured when a fire on the slopes of DuToitskloof, the second significant climb of the day, made racing on the planned route unsafe.

But despite the route being shortened to 120 kilometres from the original 167km, the racing action was fierce. Rabie clocked a winning time of 3hr 19min 42sec, with South African champion, Darren Lill (DCM) second and last year’s South African Junior champion, Louis Meintjes (Toyota Supercycling Academy), filling the final podium place. Overnight leader, Christoff van Heerden (MTN Qhubeka) was sixth, five seconds down.

Rabie’s win gave him a 10-second time bonus, which puts him into a nine-second lead over Van Heerden and 10 seconds over Lill with just Friday’s final stage remaining.

News of the fire forced the race commissaire to stop the stage early on while the organisers and authorities discussed an alternative. It was decided to follow an out-and-back route between Paarl and Villiersdorp, sending the riders over Franschhoek Pass twice.

Shortly after the halfway turn at Villiersdorp, Clinton Barrow (DCM) set off on a solo break that lasted almost 20km before he was reeled in by the pack as it enthusiastically tackled the return ascent of Franschhoek Pass. After the climb, a group of 16 riders formed at the front.

In the group were four riders from Team Bonitas; three each from MTN Qhubeka and DCM with the rest being sole representatives of other teams. The group represented most of the teams in the race, so wasn’t in danger of being caught.

As the group approached the finish in cloud-shrouded Paarl, the strong crosswinds began to take their toll, splintering the pack and leaving just six riders in the front with five kilometres remaining: Rabie, Van Heerden, Lill, Meintjes, Stefan Ihlenfeldt (CTM) and Switzerland’s former double mountain bike world champion, Christoph Sauser (Songo.info).

With 1.5km to go, Rabie put in a big attack and he was able to work up enough of a gap on his rivals to maintain that lead to the finish line. After finishing second on Stages 1 and 2, Rabie said he was taking no chances with a classic sprint finish.

ÔÇ£I attacked then because I was more interested in gaining time for the General Classification rather than the stage win,ÔÇØ he explained afterwards. ÔÇ£This race is very close with just a few seconds between the top guys. I knew that if I could get a small gap, I could take the Yellow Jersey. The stage win was obviously a goal too and the 10-second time bonus is certainly a big help.ÔÇØ

Friday’s final stage is a short, but menacing 63.7km circuit race through Paarl. Menacing in that a 2.8km section of the route takes the riders on a rough gravel road, virtually guaranteed to result in mechanical problems or crashes. ÔÇ£There has been some talk of maybe changing it. I hope they do,ÔÇØ said Rabie. ÔÇ£It would be such a pity to lose the tour because of a mechanical problem on that road. It’s very rough and even rocky in places, not something anyone is actually looking forward to.ÔÇØ

Meanwhile in the women’s category, Ashleigh Moolman Pasio (Nashua Toyota) became the surprise leader without even turning a pedal, following the withdrawal of overnight leader Cherise Taylor before the start of Stage Three. But she put in a superb ride on the demanding stage, winning in dominant fashion to prove that she deserves the Clover Women’s category race leader’s jersey. Taylor no doubt had Sunday’s Pick n Pay Cape Argus on her mind when she made her decision.

As a climbing specialist, Moolman Pasio was always expected to shine on the third stage of the race, which included two ascents of the Franschhoek Pass between Paarl and Villiersdorp. And she did just that. The two long climbs combined with the strong winds made for tough conditions.

On the first ascent of Franschhoek Pass early on in the 120km stage, Moolman Pasio climbed at the front of the Category 2 pack (which sees women grouped with Juniors and Veteran men). Then, shortly after claiming the Queen of the Mountains prime, she got into a move off the front with two Juniors and two Veterans.

The five-rider group worked well together to establish a healthy lead over the chasing peloton. They stayed away until the finish where Moolman Pasio clocked a winning time of 2:34:58.

The next woman home was Moolman Pasio’s Nashua Toyota teammate, Joanna van de Winkel, who crashed when a veteran male rider crashed into her on the second descent of Franschhoek Pass. She finished 4min 29sec behind and moved up from third to second in the General Classification. Third place on the stage went to MTN Qhubeka’s Lylani Lauwrens, who also moved up to third overall.

ÔÇ£It was a good day for me. I felt strong and getting into that move early on turned out to be the best thing I could have done,ÔÇØ smiled Moolman Pasio, who said she was disappointed not to have been able to challenge Taylor for the race lead.

ÔÇ£It’s unfortunate that Cherise pulled out. It’s never nice taking the lead by default. I think today would have been a great opportunity for a good duel between us,ÔÇØ she added. ÔÇ£I rode really hard today. I took all my turns in the break and never once sat on the back. The guys I was with appreciated that and in the long run, it will benefit us women to race that hard.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£I don’t need to be aggressive tomorrow, but I will stay near the front and out of trouble. My lead is quite healthy but you can never assume anything so we’ll be racing with a combination of confidence and caution,ÔÇØ said Moolman Pasio, who also leads the Queen of the Mountains and Point Competitions.

Le Coq Sportif Tour de Boland
Stage Three (120km Paarl-VilliersdorpÔÇôPaarl)
Leading results
Men:

1 Johann Rabie (Bonitas) 3hr 19min 42sec
2 Darren Lill (DCM)
3 Louis Meintjes (Toyota Supercycling Academy)
4 Stefan Ihlenfeldt (CTM)
5 Christoph Sauser (Songo.info) all same time

General classification after Stage Three
1 Johann Rabie (Bonitas) 10hr 21min 57sec
2 Christoff van Heerden (MTN Qhubeka) @ 9sec
3 Darren Lill (DCM) @ 10sec
4 Christoph Sauser (Songo.info) @ 20sec
5 Jan Oelerich (TTR) @ 28sec

Women
1 Ashleigh Moolman Pasio (Nashua Toyota) 2hr 34min 58sec
2 Joanna van de Winkel (Nashua Toyota)
3 Lylani Lauwrens (MTN Qhubeka) both @ 4min 29sec

General Classification after Stage Three:
1 Ashleigh Moolman Pasio (Nashua Toyota) 10hr 45min 54sec
2 Joanna van de Winkel (Nashua Toyota) @ 4min 37sec
3 Lylani Lauwrens (MTN Qhubeka) @ 5min 10sec
4 An-Li Pretorius (MTN Qhubeka) @ 5min 19sec
5 Lise Olivier (MTN Qhubeka) @ 19min 29sec


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