Lynette Burger secured a hard-fought overall victory and two stage wins at the PPC Kremetart stage race at the weekend. Photo credit:

Burger Pieterse (32), who won both the 30-34 age category road and time trial titles at the 2012 Master’s World Championships, was one of two Momentum Toyota professional women’s racing team riders at the Kremetart. She had the support of rising star, Leandri du Toit.

At 175km in distance, the Kremetart is one of the toughest road races on the South African calendar. The popular one-day event attracted a large field, pitching participants against the challenging gradients of the Soutpansberg mountain range in a series of four short stages and offering equal prizemoney to men and women.

The pressure was on from the start as riders attempted to gain an early upperhand in a race that requires an extended combination of strength, stamina and vigilance.

Linda van den Biggelaar of the Best Med ASG team won the opening 53km stage, outsprinting Burger Pieterse to the finish line. Burger Pieterse was fortunate to be in the mix for the podium sprint after having punctured with 10km to go. A quick bike change though saw her rejoin the leading pack in time to contest the finishing sprint.

With Van den Biggelaar in the leader’s jersey on Stage 2, a 48km haul from Waterpoort to Vivo, it was up to the Best Med ASG team to defend their overall lead. But a strong headwind ensured a tougher stage than expected with just five riders – An-Li Kachelhoffer, Van de Biggelaar (both Best Med ASG), Burger Pieterse, Du Toit (both Momentum Toyota) and Lee-Zaan Hinrichsen left in the lead group as it approached the finish.

Burger Pieterse managed to claim the stage win, gaining enough time over Van den Biggelaar and defending overall champion Kachelhoffer, who was second on the stage, to put the Momentum Toyota rider into the overall lead. Burger Pieterse then retained her overall lead with another victory on Stage 3, using the tough 1.5km climb to the finish to drive home her advantage.

Kachelhoffer won the final leg, a short, but intense 22km pull to the finish in Louis Trichardt. Burger Pieterse lost one second to Kachelhoffer in the final finishing dash but still had another two seconds in hand to ensure she secured the overall victory.

“The Kremetart is a tough race to win. Because it’s split into four stages, you’re essentially racing flat out for 175km,” said a weary Burger Pieterse. “I was outnumbered, but relied on my experience and the support of my team manager and husband David, to secure the win.

“David decided to bring a whole spare bike because he knows that a bike change is quicker than a wheel change and in this race, where seconds are crucial, that would be of more benefit. When I punctured on Stage 1 with 10 kays to go, the bike change certainly saved me time and kept me in the title hunt.

“After Stage 1 I was pretty broken and told David I didn’t think I could even finish. But he reminded me that our team has never won the first stage here but has usually gone on to win overall and that motivated me for the rest of the race,” smiled Burger Pieterse, who also won the 2010 edition of the Kremetart.

For Burger, the finishing climb on Stage 3 was the turning point.

“At that point you’ve been racing hard for 150km. Then you have a tough 1.5km climb to the finish. It’s at that point where you see which riders have the endurance. That is usually where this race is won and lost and it was no different this time. I’ve got good form and, being in the race leader’s jersey, I was super motivated.

“I knew that if I could finish strongly on Stage 3 I’d have a good chance of winning overall. But even then, the Best Med ASG team made me fight every metre of the last short stage!”

Kachelhoffer and Van den Biggelaar finished second and third respectively, with Kachelhoffer also claiming the Queen of the Mountain title.

The victory was Burger Pieterse’s third major road race win of 2013, following her successes at the Dischem Ride for Sight in February and the aQuelle Tour Durban in April. Along with her Momentum Toyota team, she will attempt to defend her title at the Pick n Pay Weekend Argus Rotary Knynsa Cycle Tour on 30 June.

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