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Rabie nails down win

After two runner-up places and a third, Johann Rabie of Team Bonitas finally secured the stage race victory that’s eluded him in 2011 when he won the inaugural Tour de Free State, which finished in Bloemfontein on Sunday.

MTN Qhubeka’s Arran Brown won the final stage in the city of Bloemfontein, but it was Rabie, who finished safely in the main pack, that clinched the overall title in the prestigious five-day event. Second place overall went to Rabie’s teammate, Darren Lill, with Dennis van Niekerk (MTN Qhubeka) rounding out the podium places. Team Bonitas also won the team competition.

ÔÇ£It’s a relief to finally win a tour this year!ÔÇØ said Rabie, who was second at both the Cell C Tour of South Africa and the Le Coq Sportif Tour de Boland. He was also third at the Tour of Morocco. ÔÇ£I was ill about six weeks ago and so used recdnt the Lowveld Tour to help build condition for the Tour de Free State. I’m not at my best form yet, but I’m happy with the result.ÔÇØ

Rabie took the overall lead after finishing third on Stage Three, where a mountaintop finish in the Golden Gate National Park favoured the strong climbers, following two flat opening stages. Lill won Stage Three and moved up to second place, giving Bonitas two strong tour riders at the head of affairs.

ÔÇ£It’s always good to have a second rider option in a tour, especially a rider of Darren’s quality. But today’s stage was still stressful because of all the time bonuses on offer,ÔÇØ explained Rabie. ÔÇ£I lost the Boland Tour lead on the final day and I really wanted to make sure there was no repeat of that today!ÔÇØ

The 88km final stage offered eight hot spot sprint primes, each offering a 10-second time deduction bonus to the first rider over the line each time and 20 seconds to the stage winner. With 100 seconds available, Team Bonitas had to be vigilant from the start to ensure that any riders within striking distance of the lead were contained. They succeeded, but were stretched to their limits at times as the other teams raced aggressively in search of even the smallest advantage.

ÔÇ£The time bonuses in this tour definitely made the racing more exciting and less predictable,ÔÇØ said Team Bonitas boss, Malcolm Lange. ÔÇ£It was like a five-day game of chess. Quite a lot of pressure when you’ve got the leader on your team and have to watch and then analyze every single attack. But it is great to get finally get a tour win!ÔÇØ

For Team Bonitas, the Tour de Free State ended on a much higher note than what it started. The team’s star sprinter, Tyler Day, crashed out on Stage 1 and broke his collarbone, eliminating him from racing for the next few weeks.

ÔÇ£It’s very good that an effort is being made to create more stage races in this country. Thanks to Cycling South Africa and the Free State government for this tour. It was certainly interesting racing each day,ÔÇØ said Rabie, who will now focus on helping Team Bonitas achieve success in the popular domestic one-day races.

ÔÇ£I was hoping to go and race at the All African Games in Mozambique for the South African team, but wasn’t selected. I’m disappointed, but will now focus on fine-tuning my form for the local races instead.ÔÇØ


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