A new format for the Tour de Free State saw a dominant performance by top South African men’s professional road cycling outfit, Team Bonitas, who won all four stages and successfully defended Johann Rabie’s overall title at the weekend.

Instead of elapsed time, the standard format for stage races, the 2012 Tour de Free State followed a points system, rewarding the most consistent top daily finishers. Team Bonitas was quick to capitalise on this format with sprinter Herman Fouche claiming the honours on the first stage, a 20-lap, 100km circuit race around the town of Clarens.

Stage 2, a 120km race that started and finished in Clarens and passed through the towns of Bethlehem and Fouriesburg, saw another controlled display by Team Bonitas, with Rabie winning the stage ahead of teammates Fouche and Hanco Kachelhoffer. This gave Fouche the overall points lead going into the final day.

On Sunday’s Stage 3, a 94km haul from Kestel to Clarens, the route took in some tough climbs through the Golden Gate National Park. Team Bonitas climber, Darren Lill, was in his element and broke clear from a five-rider lead group to win the stage and move into fourth place on the General Classification, giving Team Bonitas five riders in the top 10.

The final stage saw the top 10 riders on General Classification contest a unique pursuit-style race around the Clarens town square. Riders were positioned 45 metres apart with the 10th placed rider at the front and the top-placed rider at the rear. Once a rider was passed, he was eliminated. Rabie won this pursuit stage and earned the 50 points on offer, giving him the highest points total and the overall win.

“When I saw this format for the tour I decided to ensure I was in the top 10 after Stage 3 and that I was fresh for the pursuit stage. I simply raced to the format and it worked out well for me,” said Rabie.

Fouche finished the tour in second place with Kachelhoffer third, giving Team Bonitas a podium clean sweep.

“We raced the tour with plan to get as many of our team into the top 10 for that final pursuit stage. We got five riders in so our chances of an overall win with that many points on offer were high. The other stages each offered 20 points for a win,” explained Rabie. “The other teams raced a bit negatively. They never really attacked us and that allowed us to control the tour.”

“I’m obviously delighted with the team’s success. Our guys were proactive from the start and all through the tour and were rewarded with the stage wins and the overall title,” said Malcolm Lange of Lange Sports, the company that owns Team Bonitas. “They weren’t only strong – those stages weren’t easy – they were also smart and raced according to the points format.”

2012 Tour de Free State

Leading final overall points

1 Johann Rabie (Team Bonitas) 70pts

2 Herman Fouche (Team Bonitas) 43

3 Hanco Kachelhoffer (Team Bonitas) 29

4 Meron Russom (MTN Qhubeka) 29

5 Darren Lill (Team Bonitas) 22

6 Pieter Seyffert (Westvaal BMC) 20

7 Richard Baxter (Tasol GT) 16

8 Nicholas White (Toyota CSA) 16

9 Jason Bakke (Team Bonitas) 14

10 Willie Smit (Toyota CSA) 13

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Team Bonitas riders dominated the final poidum (from left): Hanco Kachelhoffer (third), Johann Rabie (first) and Herman Fouche (second).