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Lill leads them home

South African road cycling champion, Darren Lill, started the year off on a perfect note when he led his Bonitas professional team to a podium clean sweep at the 85-kilometre Cycle Lab Cape Cobra Challenge in Cape Town on Sunday.

The 29-year-old specialist climber, a member of Team South Africa at last year’s All Africa Games in Mozambique, was in peak form and in his element on the hilly course, which started in Constantia and finished at the top of Ou Kaapseweg. Lill clocked a winning time of two hours and six minutes. Second place, more than two minutes later, went to Johann Rabie with Ian McLeod rounding out the podium for Team Bonitas.

ÔÇ£It’s such a short race, so we had to race positively from the start. My teammates did a great job of making the pace hard from early on, forcing the other riders to react and giving us a chance to counter and always maintain control,ÔÇØ explained a satisfied Lill afterwards.

After a number of early attacks, a 14-man lead group formed just before halfway, on the Slangkop climb. The group included seven from Team Bonitas (Lill, McLeod, Rabie, Herman Fouche, Luthando Kaka, Jason Bakke and Hanco Kachelhoffer), as well as Oliver Munnik, Jaco Venter, James Tennant, Lance Muller, Christoph Sauser, Stephan Ihlenfeldt and Charles Keey.

This powerful pack soon built up a substantial lead over the rest of the field and it quickly became apparent that the winner would emerge from this group. With 8km to go to the steep, concrete Maritime Climb above Simons Town, Fouche attacked and Lill followed him. It seemed too far out from the finish for a move like that to make sense, but Lill, coming off a hard training camp and feeling good, backed himself.

ÔÇ£I said to Herman that if he could just take me to the bottom of the Maritime climb, that would help me gain an advantage and set me up for a possible win,ÔÇØ recalled Lill. ÔÇ£Herman is actually a sprinter, but he’s powerful and he got me to the climb with a decent lead. We’ve just completed our pre-season 10-day training camp, which was quite tough in terms of volume and intensity, but I seemed to be getting stronger towards the end felt really good so knew my form would be good today.ÔÇØ

Once he’d dispatched Fouche, Lill tackled the final 25km with the confidence of a man in form, claiming the King of the Mountain prime in the process. With his Bonitas teammates sitting up and forcing rival teams to take up the chase, Lill simply had to focus on maintaining a steady pace all the way to the finish. Besides being a strong climber, he’s also an accomplished individual time triallist and it wasn’t a surprise to see him powering up the final climb to claim the victory.
Rabie and McLeod, also accomplished climbers, waited for the final few hundred metres to claim their podium positions.

ÔÇ£It’s not the biggest race in the country, but it certainly wasn’t easy,ÔÇØ said Team Bonitas owner, Malcolm Lange. ÔÇ£What is important is that Team Bonitas took the first three places and showed a dominant team performance throughout. What that does is boost confidence and morale, both very important for professional athletes.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£It was great to have my whole team here for a change. Most of the riders on Team Bonitas live in Joburg and I live in Cape Town and often race on my own in local events, which I mostly use for training,ÔÇØ remarked Lill. ÔÇ£Today was great in that I had the best support I could have asked for. I must also mention how good our new team bike, the Pinarello Dogma 2, is. It’s lighter and more responsive than last year’s model and I really felt the difference on the climbs today.ÔÇØ


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