Louis Meintjes, the world champion silver medallist, was the king of the 154.4 kilometre queen stage of the 2014 Mzansi Tour, powered by Cathsseta, on Thursday when he won the second stage in the Golden Gate National Park. Meintjes made it a clean sweep for Team MTN Qhubeka on the third day of the five-day tour, as the black and gold train took first, second and third places on the stage. They also dominate the general classification board, with four of their riders in the top four, and lead all five of the categories in the race.
Jacques Janse Van Rensburg, who took fifth on the stage, still holds the overall lead, which he took control of when he won Tuesday’s stage into Clarens. He also holds the Echelon Events Points and Cathsseta African Rider jerseys, and will wear the yellow Cathsseta General Classification jersey for the second day. Meintjes leads the Compendium King of the Mountains and Europcar Young Rider categories.
“We decided not to control it right from the start,” said Meintjes, who won the silver medal in the world championships in Florence, Italy, last September, “The plan was to go to the bottom of the climb with everyone together and then try to get me or Merhawi (Kudus) away to make sure that we got the stage victory. It went according to plan. I got away with 10 kilometres to go and Jacques stayed with all the dangerous guys. I got a pretty decent gap and stayed away.”
The stage was regarded as the queen stage of the 2014 Mzansi Tour because of the mountaintop finish in the picturesque Golden Gate park, the last three kilometres of took the riders up the brutal Blesbok Loop climb. Eritreans Kudus and Daniel Teklehaimanot, were second and third respectively, 45 and 50 seconds behind Meintjes, with Rapha Condor JLT’s Hugh Carthy of Britain in fourth, 52 seconds shy. Janse Van Rensburg was just 59 seconds off the pace.
The second stage was punctuated by attacks straight after the start in Clarens on Thursday morning. Bonitas, Europcar, Westvaal BMC and Abantu worked hard to force an early break, but MTN Qhubeka kept a careful eye on proceedings. After 70 kilometres, Chris Jennings and HB Kruger of Bonitas, and Nolan Hoffman of Abantu, managed to break clear and built up a gap of over two minutes on the peloton. “Chris and HB rode beautifully,” said Bonitas team manager Barry Austin, “We wanted to go for the stage win, and the guys weren’t holding back. They stayed away in the break for almost 80 kilometres, which on a tough course was a great ride. Dylan Girdlestone got a top 10 for us today, so we’re happy with that.”
Janse Van Rensburg leads Meintjes by 43 seconds overall, with Kudus 1’23” behind and Teklehaimanot at 1’37”. “It went perfectly. We knew Nolan and Abantu wanted to keep it together for the first hotspot. After that first hot spot there were groups going away all the time. We always had riders marking them, which was good, but after 70 kilometres we decided to let three guys go clear. At the end, we did a super-hard tempo on the climb with 12 kilometres to go. The group just split to pieces and we had four guys in the front so it worked out perfectly for us.” said Janse Van Rensburg.
Stage three on Friday sees the Mzansi Tour move from Golden Gate to stage start in Bethlehem, and then finish 201 kilometres later in Vanderbijlpark, South of Johannesburg. The route is predominately flat and fast, with the wind expected to play a major role.