Jacques Janse Van Rensburg of Team MTN-Qhubeka showed no surrender on Surrender Hill on the first stage of the Mzansi Tour, powered by Cathsseta, on Wednesday as he stormed across the finish line in Clarens for his first victory in a long time. It was just about a hometown win for Janse van Rensburg, who was raised in the Free State town Virginia. By beating Britain’s Jonathan Handley (Rapha-Condor-JLT) and Carl Pasio, the captain of the South African team, by 13 seconds on the tough 140 kilometre stage, Janse van Rensburg now leads four of the five categories at the Mzansi Tour. It was a dominant day for MTN-Qhubeka with their Eritrean rider, Merhawi Kudus, also leading the Europcar Young Rider classification.
Janse Van Rensburg leads the Cathsseta African Rider, Compendium King of the Mountains, Echelon Events Points and the Cathsseta General Classification categories. His team will be looking to defend their dominance on the second stage of the Mzansi Tour on Thursday, the queen stage of the race. Janse van Rensburg is 11 seconds ahead of Handley, the highly-rated British climber, and one minute and three seconds up on Pasio. “The plan for (Thursday) will be to conserve ourselves. The last 12 kilometres of the stage, which is a mountain-top finish in the Golden Gate National Park, will be hard, and if there is no wind like today a select group will go to the last 12 kilometres. The job is to control the race,” said Janse Van Rensburg.
The first stage of the Mzansi Tour was a test of nerves for the 15 teams, with several attacks within the first 60 kilometres. There were crashes, one of which involved the yellow jersey holder, Kristian House (Rapha-Condor-JLT), but he recovered to end with the bunch in Clarens. His teammate, Michael Cuming, was not so lucky, however, and a crash ended his race as he fractured his collar bone and dislocated his shoulder. He was taken to Bethlehem for surgery on Wednesday afternoon and was recovering well. The decisive break of the day came in Bethlehem as the bunch flew through the little town.
MTN-Qhubeka attacked and a group of 18 broke away. Most of the major teams were represented, but after a series of attacks and counter attacks, a select group of six formed with 70 kilometres to go. Janse Van Rensburg, Handley, Pasio, Abantu’s Nolan Hoffman, Matthew Brammier (Synergy Baku) and Cissa (Africa Mixed Team). They built up a gap of four minutes before Bonitas and the German Rad-Net Rose team tried to pull them back.
At Surrender Hill, a National Monument where 3 000 Boers surrendered in 1900 during the Anglo-Boer Away, Janse Van Rensburg broke up the group. “On Surrender Hill I decided to do an attack to see who was going to go with me on the climb and it ended up with the two guys. Last week we did a recon of the finish, and I knew the stiff little kicker of a climb at the end and it would be the deciding factor of the stage. I knew it flattened out in the middle. Just before the middle I pulled off and got behind the other two, and then came with a slingshot from behind. My legs just felt the best of the three guys in the group and I won. It’s my first victory in quite a long time, and after my surgery in October last year I’m quite happy to be on my best form again. The surgery was for a hiatus hernia and I was struggling. I lost a lot of weight after the surgery as well. My system was quite messed up, but it’s good to be healthy again,” said Janse Van Rensburg.