Competing in 7-laps of the 18km undulating route throughout the leafy suburb of Westville, the 35-strong bunch of Elite Women remained tight with no-one revealing their race form early on. From the second lap a number of small attacks were launched, which were all countered and the whole group of 35 women remained together.
At around the 90km mark, Elmari de Wet (Team Clover Prestigio) made a break on the fifth lap and gave herself a 30-second lead before the chase pack of 17 riders including Kachelhoffer, Lise Olivier (Time Freight eTeam), Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (Cervelo-Bigla Pro Cycling Team), Anriette Schoeman (Africa Silks), Time Trial National Champion Juanita Venter (Team Bianchi), Frankie du Toit and Hayley Smith (Kargo Pro MTB Team), the power duo of Lynette Burger and Heidi Dalton (Team Activate/DEMACON) and Samantha Sanders (Valencia) waited a lap-and-a-half to close the gap and regroup.
Moolman-Pasio tested her legs with an attack into lap six but was quickly closed down by Kachelhoffer and the Clover Prestigio team. Midway through the sixth lap, Charlene Roux (Clover Prestigio) made a break and young mountain biker Frankie du Toit (19) pulled the peloton with Moolman-Pasio on her wheel to bridge the gap.
Kachelhoffer then launched another attack, chasing hard up the hill towards the end of lap six with Carla Oberholzer (Clover Prestigio), De Wet and Moolman-Pasio in tow. With countless attacks within the group, the gap to Roux was closed and the five leaders embarked on the final seventh lap.
But it was on the last climb before the sweeping downhill finish of the 119km race that Kachelhoffer broke free with a massive attack that saw Olivier follow with Schoeman, who ultimately finished in second and third positions respectively.
“The race was hard and the Clover team really put the pressure on today,” said Kachelhoffer. “I had a set race plan and I know the form that they had from our earlier races this season, and it really was a race of attrition. On my final attack I looked back and no one followed and hoped I could carry it through to the end. I feel so blessed that I could take the title.”
Cycling South Africa’s Women’s Commission Director, Lise Olivier (33), said: “I’m really happy and didn’t quite expect to be on the podium. I’ve been trying to play catch with my training and it looks like it’s paying off. A National is always a tactical race but don't let it fool you, the level of women’s cycling has increased dramatically. We’re getting over 50 women racing in the regional events in Gauteng. It’s an encouraging sign and good to see some new faces and some new teams – that’s always special.”
Eight-time Elite SA National Champion, Anriette Schoeman, is a stalwart in South African women’s cycling and at 39-years-old shows no signs of stopping anytime soon. “It doesn’t get any easier the older I get. I must say that this is the hardest bronze medal that I have ever earned. Third place at a National Champs is amazing – I’ve had a bad start to the year and I had to really dig deep today and everything worked out. I didn’t think I would be ready for National Champs because I caught a virus and also had two really silly training crashes, which caused me to miss a whole training block. So this is extra special.”
Schoeman said that the route was not technical at all and made for some really good racing. “The route is balanced in the sense that the newcomers to Elite racing had a chance to stick with the Elites for a while and see what it is all about. Once the big attacks started happening, then it was a different ball game. Everything came down to the last climb and it was really hard.”
Cycling South Africa Road Commission Director, Bosseau Boshoff, said: “It’s refreshing that at this time of the year there’s not just three or for women dominating the event. The final group still contained about 12 women so that shows that there’s a little more depth in women’s cycling, which is needed.”
On Kachelhoffer’s victory, Boshoff said: “You can see it is something that An-Li’s been working on for some time. I think it’s a good thing for her to take this into Europe and it's a great start for her in the Olympic year. It was unfortunate that Ashleigh was still feeling the effects of her illness.”
Moolman-Pasio looked comfortable during the race but the controllable power output was what kept her in the game until the very end. She missed the Time Trial in Wartburg on Wednesday after falling ill and was not quite feeling 100% today. When the final attacks were launched, she had no power to respond. Get better soon, Ashleigh!
Racing continues tomorrow in Westville with the Elite, U23 and Junior Men, Junior Women and the Masters’ Men 30-34 and 35-39, which begins at 07:00. Come and support South Africa’s greatest road cyclists in their quest to be crowned the SA National Road Champion. There is no entry fee to watch this fantastic display of road cycling, but please take note of the road closures and alternative routes in order to get to the race venue timeously.
You can watch the Elite Men’s racing action unfold live on your computer or mobile device via live streaming, www.streamit360.tv. Live timing can also be found at http://www.mobii.com/csa/sarc/.
For further event information, please visit http://www.cyclingsa.com/2016-sa-road-champs/
Summary of Results – 2016 SA National Road, Time Trial and Para-cycling Championships – Saturday 13 February 2016
ROAD RACE – ELITE WOMEN
1.An-Li Kachelhoffer (Lotto-Soudol Ladies) 03:26:50
2.Lise Olivier (Time Freight eTeam) 03:26:57
3.Anriette Schoeman (Africa Silks) 03:27:02
4.Carla Oberholzer (Clover Prestigio) 03:27:04
5.Heidi Dalton (Team Activate/DEMACON) 03:27:11
6.Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (Cervelo-Bigla Pro Cycling Team) 03:27:13
7.Samantha Sanders (Valencia) 03:27:16
8.Juanita Venter (Team Bianchi) 03:27:23
9.Lynette Burger (Team Activate/DEMACON) 03:27:31
10.Catherine Colyn 03:27:33