Marais beat Brad Gouveris, who had enjoyed a winning start in the festival’s criterium races, into second place.
“The road race was quite hard,” Marais said today. “My legs were sore after the criteriums and it was difficult to take the lead in the first half of the race.
“To cause that chase during the second half was a little surprising,” he admitted.
Marais, who finished 11th overall in the criterium standings, said the nature of the road race suited him better.
“I prefer the climbs and longer stretches,” he explained, adding that the hills suited him better than the accelerating required in criteriums.
“I tried to force a few breakaways in the first 25 kilometres, but the others stayed with me.”
He then set his sights on the tough Maitland climb. “I wanted to go over there as fast as possible to ensure the bunch would have to chase me while my teammates could relax a little.
“With about 21 kilometres left, I was fortunate to open a 20-second gap.
“But maintaining that gap was hard. I had gone over the climb quite fast and I also had chain problems with about 10 kilometres to go.
“I stayed as calm as possible and managed to put the chain back on. It paid off and I was able to finish ahead of my teammate, Brad [Gouveris].”
The 19-year-old Team Alfa Bodyworks-Giant rider was elated after sealing the victory.
“It’s an exciting way to start the season. It’s my first elite title and the race gave me a good idea of where I stand ahead of the SA [U23] road champs,” he said.