Calvin Beneke harnessed enough composure to win the final sprint and clinch the 97km fifth stage of the Mpumalanga Tour in Badplaas today.
The Luso AC/DC Dynamics rider said after the battle for general classification: “It was a hard day with a lot of fierce riding; right from the get-go.
“The top six guys were all within one minute [at some stage]. This led to many attacks; everyone wanted to be in the break.”
The bunch slimmed down to ten riders before the harsh 28km climb up Helshoogte Pass.
“I had three teammates in there, which helped a lot,” Beneke said. “Together we managed to keep the break open and it enabled us to stay in front.
“After we hit Helshoogte, the breakaway bunch was down to five and we managed to stay away.”
“That’s when Gawie and I broke away,” Beneke said. “It was a long one-on-one battle that came down to a sprint finish in which I managed to beat him on the line.
“It took a lot of resilience,” he added.
The Helshoogte climb, which held two King of the Mountain challenges, provided the biggest ascent so far on the Mpumalanga Tour route.
“There was about 2 000 metres of climbing today. The breakaway on Helshoogte was challenging, because the bunch had been thinned out and the guys were all pushing hard,” Beneke said.
His team had gone into the tour aiming to win at least one stage, he added. “Unfortunately my general classification ambitions ended when I missed one of the big splits on stage three,” he said.
“I then had to change my plans and go for stage wins. I came second in stage two and managed a win today.”
Tomorrow’s final stage would be a tough one, Beneke predicted. “It is the longest stage and the GC is still up for grabs. There will also be some tough terrain.
“We (AC/DC Dynamics) are willing to suffer. We’ll take our opportunities where we can and hope to win another stage.”
The final stage will take riders on a 197km journey from Badplaas to Loskopdam.