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Erhard, Lauren take titles

By Mark Etheridge

South Africa’s Erhard Wolfaardt and Lauren Dance waltzed off with the titles at the ITU African Cup elite and Gauteng North triathlon championships in Pretoria on Sunday.

Wolfaardt, who also won the Africa Cup event in Zimbabwe recently, clocked 1hr 53min 47sec for the 1.5 kilometre swim, 40km bike ride and 10km run.

That was good enough for a one second win over Namibia’s Abrahm Louw while fellow South African Rudolf Naude took third in 1:58:02.

Dance was timed at 2:11:40, 1:04 ahead of visiting Finnish athlete Kaisa Lehtonen with Anel Stewart third in 2:13:18.

It was Wolfaardt’s second ITU African Cup in two weeks, after having won in Zimbabwe the previous week. “The race route in Pretoria is really tough with a challenging two-lap bike course, to get the legs ready for the run.,” Wolfaardt told Road to London 2012 on Tuesday.

“I knew my bike is relatively strong at the moment, so the game plan was to form a small group willing to work well on the bike, and fight it out on the run.

“After leading the first lap of the swim I moved onto Abrahm Louw’s hip for the second lap, and comfortably exited the water in the front group of athletes including Abrahm, Rudolf Naude, Chris Felgate and Valery de Falbaire. Once on the bike things started to heat up a bit and we managed to form that small group early on. Eventually it was only Abrahm and I, and we managed to open up a substantial lead going into the run.”

When the two athletes hit the run Wolfaardt was confident of the outcome. “Comfortably running side by side for the entire 10km, there was no need to set any records. I knew I had some good speed in my legs from recent training sessions, so a sprint finish was on the cards and it was very exciting stuff for the crowds. I managed to move ahead of Abraham with about 100m to go and take the win.

“It was another good race for me, and another win. Things are starting to come together nicely for me now and I am excited to race the final of the BSG series next weekend.”

The BSG-Energade Series comes to a climax at the Emerald Casino in Vanderbijlpark on Sunday and while the mens’ race looks to be fought out between Wolfaardt and Murray, the spotlight will also fall on Andrea Steyn to see if she can make it seven out of seven wins in the series.

In the women’s race in Pretoria it was a chance for Dance to get her confidence back in the racing set-up. Like Wolfaardt she was part of Team SA at the All Africa Games in Maputo in September but was not in peak shape. “I had been out for a while and just got back from a dismal last place at World Champs in Beijing. This was my second race since Beijing. I was in a pretty nervous though relaxed state, until standing at the swim start behind the other competitors”

“The age-groupers stared off first ÔÇô┬á I love watching them race as I train with a lot of the age-groupers and believe it is where the spirit of triathlon lies. They bring back the reasons why we all start triathlon, the love of racing… And that is how I wanted to race this particular race.

“The swim got underway, and of course the two Koreans in the field lived up to their reputation of being lethal in the water, with me seeing myself second last out, over a full minute behind. My thoughts were ‘just get on that bike and ride!’. I managed to catch the two leading ladies within the first 5km climb. Feeling strong I then set the pace with the help of Anel Stewart. We were able to drop Jang from Korea on the second lap of the bike.”

Into the run after a solid bike Dance’s thoughts were just to hang in and see how it went. “but I saw myself setting the pace and slowly building a gap between myself and Anel. I ran a pretty constant run, which was good enough to hold off the fast approaching Lehtonen and win the race. It was only on the last lap of the run where I thought if I kept running I could actually win.”

In terms of a confidence booster the value of Sunday’s win was immense. “It was a very unexpected result. My coach (Mike Moriarty) and myself have been working well together but just building slowly after the disappointment of World Champs and this race was merely just to see where we are and where we need to go. I still have a lot of work I need to do but it is comforting to know and believe we are on the right track. The rest of the year is just taking a step back and going back into base training and proper conditioning for the upcoming season. Maybe a few running races, 10k or 15k road races, just for a change in environment and also for faster pace. My coach and I are looking at SA Champs as the next focus race and we are still busy discussing further World Cup and European Cup races for the 2012 season.

“I have had 18months of on-off training, being injured, so the main focus at the moment is to make sure I am injuryfree, where I am well enough to train and race properly. My coach is very supportive and I believe is guiding in the right direction with 2016 being the major goal in mind and heart.”

One big name not in action at the weekend was Carlyn Fischer, All Africa Games champion and top 10 finisher at the recent ITU World Cup event in Colombia. Results gave her a DNF (Did Not Finish) but the Pretoria based triathlete was never going to run. “I’ve been sick since last Thursday so I decided to listen to my body,” Fischer told Road to London 2012.

“The last time I felt ill and raced despite the illness was at African Champs this year and that race I had to take five weeks off and go through three courses of antibiotics to recover so I didn’t want to repeat my mistake.

“Africa Champs was a lesson well learnt, I’ve had five days off so far and hope to be recovered before the weekend’s BSG-Energade final.”


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