It was surely a day of wicked games as the weather Gods chose to bless this year’s Amashova Durban Cycle Classic 2013 Cycle with grey skies and rowdy winds . . . and despite the 3am wake-up call that started my brisk Sunday, the thrill of being in the TEAM ABANTU camp was enough to jolt me into the drive to the midlands 6.30am start.
With all hopes resting on favourite and lead rider Nolan Hoffman, the six man cycling team looked buzzed with tension. But even with the immense pressure on, they were bright eyed and determined, donning their new clean cut cycling gear proudly emblazoned with Three Cities Group, the official accommodation partner of choice for South Africa’s leading professional development cycling group team and for this year’s Amashova.
With almost 12 000 cyclists taking to Durban’s largest challenging street circuit, starting within Pietermaritzburg and the midlands and finishing off at Durban’s Moses Mabhida Stadium, the energy was mounting and eagerness to get to the finish line first was all the motivation the team needed to fire off the start.
Riding in the safety car with the team’s manager and co-owner Dean Edwards (who himself is a recognised pro-racer), was anything but dull throughout the 106km roller-coaster battle!
Feeling almost like an uphill course rather than the expected ‘downhill, fervent cyclists faced the challenge head-one, with one unlucky hopeful crashing badly just past the first 20km. Tension continued to mount in the team car as we monitored competing team Bonitas take to the attack with a strong 11 member squad against our six man team.
With cyclists reaching curving speeds of up to 80km an hour, Dean had me literally swaying on the edge of my seat as we chased behind TEAM ABANTU and kept on their heels. With two punctures experienced within our pack and not much radio contact with the front of the race, our money was still on the 27-year old ‘Hoff’ who by now had already clinched the two Hot Spots at 30km and 80km.
And boy did the ‘king of the cycling road’ not disappoint! Hurtling down the final stretch, Hoffman nosed dived in with a full-out 500m sprint, raising his hands to much deserved glory, crossing the finish line inches in front of his closest rival in a breaking new course record of two hours and 18 minutes!
Waves of elation and punching air fists of pride filtered back to the Three Cities official Chill Zone in People’s Park as the chuffed Hoffman and the rest of the exceptional TEAM ABANTU team rode into a very well deserved round of applause.
An incredible win by TEAM ABANTU, the Three Cities Chill Zone was definitely the hottest spot to be in as public well-wishers, fellow race competitors and media made their way to the winning camp site to meet the Hoff and also enjoy the free massages courtesy of the lovely therapists from the Three Cities Urban Park Hotel and Three Cities Square Boutique Hotel.
Finally at ease and much calmer than a couple of hours before, I was still in awe at the tenacity of the team who not only raised the bar but once again proved why they are #1 and continue to take podium position.
*Nolan Hoffman leaves for Europe this week for a six-day endurance event in Amsterdam.
He then moves on to Manchester for the first leg of the World Cup series racing in the scratch race, points race and team pursuit, before returning for the third and last leg of the Engen Cycle Series in Cape Town and the end-of-season 94.7 Classic in Johannesburg mid-November.