When Chané Jonker won the Lost City Cycle Classic by a country mile last month, she made it clear that she had earned her place among the elite ranks of South African cycling.
As an accomplished all-rounder, neither hills nor flats nor strong gutter winds could sidetrack the 21-year-old’s single-minded focus on the prize.
“I just told myself I had 115km of opportunities.”
Jonker, who signed on with Team Bestmed-ASG in February, rode away from the field within the first 20km alongside Activate Drinks rider Mandy Human.
“I tried one or two soft moves but then I managed to get a gap and Mandy crossed over to me.”
Working together, the two kept extending their lead over the next 90km.
“I believed I could do it and wasn’t going to give up,” says Jonker.
“Once the gap was seven minutes I knew no one would cross over and I felt like I could take the win. I was hungry for it . . .”
The Krugersdorp resident kicked with 10km to go, leaving Human to chase for a distant second place.
Her scintillating form was a far cry from the ill health that had forced her to withdraw from the Lowveld Tour a fortnight before.
“Going into the Lost City race, I focused on the positives. I’d been training hard before I got sick so I knew that I was fit.”
Taking an enforced rest and looking after her health paid dividends when race day finally came.
“I felt good during this race, so I was so relieved because you never know how your body is going to respond when put under pressure after being ill.”
Interestingly, it was listening to her body that got Jonker into cycling in the first place.
“I used to be an athlete and had very bad luck with injuries, ending up with a stress fracture on my shin that kept resurfacing.
“The biokineticist suggested that I do some non-impact sport until my bones healed properly, so I started riding a bit with my dad.”
And thus began the sport science student’s love affair with cycling and all that it entails.
“From then on, I never looked back.”
Last year, Jonker spent five months racing for Team Kenda in the United States.
“I was mainly based in Texas and Pennsylvania and took part in races such as Speed Week, Nature Valley Grand Prix and the Tour of America’s Dairyland.”
She says American-style racing provided the steep learning curve she needed to springboard her cycling career back home.
“There’s a lot of criterium racing and it improved my bunch riding skills and technical abilities. The racing is fast-paced and the tours offer time-trials, road stages and criteriums – something for every type of rider.”
Fuelled by her experiences, she obtained good results in her first outing back on South African soil at this year’s Action Ford Krugersdorp Classic.
“I had quite a good race and got picked up by the team.”
Jonker went on to prove her worth for the pro outfit, finishing in the top 10 at the national road championships, winning the Serengeti Cycle Challenge and powering her way to second at the Bestmed Jock Cycle Classique.
But she is far from done for the season and lists the Dome2Dome, Momentum 94.7 Cycle Challenge and Amashova among her remaining goals for the year.