Richeze wins stage but Hunter in the pound seat | SASCOC - SASCOC

Richeze wins stage but Hunter in the pound seat

Judging by the performances of Argentine’s Mauro Richeze (Nippo-De Rosa) it would seem that winning stages in international tours is addictive. For the second consecutive day Richeze won the sprint to the line in the UCI 2.2 Mzansi Tour cycle race powered by Cathsseta on Saturday.

The Argentine rider could be forgiven if he rates his second stage victory as one the best ever of his career. It is not every day a rider from one of the smaller professional teams gets to out sprint a former Tour de France stage-winner like Robert Hunter of the SA National Team.

With 50 metres to go it looked like a foregone conclusion that Hunter was going to win the fourth stage, but it was not to be, Richeze pipped the South African on the line to take his second stage victory in the tour.

His winning time was 4hr 02min 43sec. Hunter was second while Nolan Hoffman (Tasol-GT) finished second for a third time. Calvin Beneke (MTN-Qhubeka) and David Maree (Tasol-GT) were fourth and fifth respectively.

Barring disaster the fifth stage of Mzansi Tour should see Robert Hunter emerge victorious. He has a near unassailable lead of 5min 50sec on Julien Antomarchi (La Pomme Marseille).

There was a bit of drama before the start of stage four which forced the organisers to make a last minute change to the route due to finish at the Union Buildings in Pretoria.

According to Tanya Harford, director of Echelon Events, the main consideration would always be the riders’ safety. “We were very disappointed this morning when Tshwane Metro arrived half an hour before the start with 14 officers in stead of the contracted 30, especially after all the time spent planning and hours on the dry run” Harford added.

“Without the support required from Metro we could not risk the effective road closures and guarantee the safe passage of the event through Pretoria central and the decision was made to adopt plan B and to cut out the entire Pretoria section rather than risking it with understaffed Metro support.” Harford commented.

Harford made it clear that it had nothing to do with the icy cold and wet conditions but rather that Tshwane Metro simply did not honour the contract. Superintendent Smith from Tshwane Metro commented that they simply could not deliver the officials required on the day.

David Maree (Tasol-GT) and Christopher Jennings (La Pomme Marseille) were the two unsung heroes during stage four. Maree rode aggressively right from the start. The duo made it into an early break with nine other riders. Maree was a rider on a mission making sure that he took maximum points in each of the Hollard King of the Mountains primes and in doing he ensured that he won the competition.

At one stage the breakaway riders had a near five minute lead but the peloton had no intention of allowing the escapees get away and the serious chase was orchestrated with the main protagonists team Nippo-De Rosa.

Jennings rode a clever tactical race not contributing to the first breakaway under team orders. The moment he realized that they were going to get caught and still relatively fresh he launched a counter attack. Only Maree and a rider from the Sovac Team could keep up with him. But with 35km Jennings remaining he was alone out in front of the chasing pack.

The chasers only managed to catch Jennings in the last 8km at the summit of Saartjiesnek.

Hunter was very active in the chasing pack leaving nothing to chance in the final kilometers. Over every climb he was one of the riders setting the tempo putting pressure on his rivals.

Following the stage Hunter said that he was never under real pressure during the stage. ÔÇ£The climbs on the stage can’t really be compared to those of the Tour de France.

“The Mzansi Tour has already put South Africa on the international radar, many of the European teams have been asking about the event and love coming out here. Following the success of this year’s event should see many international teams take part in this wonderful event next year.ÔÇØ

The final stage of the Mzansi Tour takes place on Sunday from Montecasino in Johannesburg.