Darren Lill, the 2011 South Africa road cycling champion, got Team Bonitas’ 2012 European campaign off to a promising start on Thursday when he collected two Sprint primes and a King of the Mountains prime while in a six rider break during Stage 1 of the Volta a Alentejo in Portugal.
The break was the dominant feature of the 165.8km opening Stage from Castelo de Vide to Redondo and reached a maximum advantage of two minutes and 25 seconds. But with no Portuguese teams represented, it was never likely to stick and was reeled in with 23km remaining.
Unfortunately for Team Bonitas, a crash just before the final Category 3 climb put a damper on the end of the stage as HB Kruger and Herman Fouche went down and others, including Lill, were caught behind the crash, losing time on the leaders over the final climb and the last stretch to the finish.
Darren Lill shares the lead in the King of the Mountains competition at the Volta a Alentejo in Portugal.
Photo credit: CYCLE NATION
Kruger was sent straight to hospital to have a broken, lacerated finger repaired, while Fouche was unharmed, but well off the back by the time he rejoined the race.
Argentinian sprinter, Jorge Montenegro, claimed the stage win in a bunch dash. He also secured the overall leader’s jersey by virtue of the 10-second winner’s time bonus. Hanco Kachelhoffer was Team Bonitas’ top placed finisher in 14th in the same group as the winner, putting him in a strong position (tie fourth) and the team’s top man going into Stage 2, 10 seconds behind the leader.
Lill actually has the same number of points as the King of the Mountain’s competition leader, Jose Mendes, but by virtue of a lower finishing position on the stage is currently placed second.
Johann Rabie, clearly one of the team’s most in-form riders following his two individual bronze medals and a team time trail gold medal at the recent national road champs, was unable to start. All the riders developed minor colds during the trip to Europe, but Rabie’s turned nasty and he’s on antibiotics and resting.
Friday’s Stage 2 over 191.3km from Portel to Santiago do Cacém is relatively flat with three Sprint primes and a Category 4 King of the Mountain prime at 153km.
“Despite the crash, the team’s morale is good. The negative of the crash seems more like fuel to a fire and the riders are really looking forward to the next few stages,” said team manager Barry Austin.
“We still have Hanco close on General Classification and have Darren sitting at the top in the King of the Mountains competition. The next few stages are quite flat, so anything can happen. We'll either try steal some seconds with Hanco and/or get Darren into a move for the KOM.
“Apart from that our sprinters, Tyler Day and Herman Fouche, are fine and up for the challenge. Should it come down to a bunch kick, they will be there for sure!”
"It's a very good, solid start. I'm proud of what the guys achieved today," said Malcolm Lange, of Lange Sports, the company that owns and manages Team Bonitas. "I've got a lot of confidence in the riders and in Barry's management ability. With HB and Johann out we're obviously a bit short on numbers, but in a good position with a lot of hunger for success."
Follow the team’s news and race updates live on twitter: @Team_Bonitas.