Teenager Jason Oosthuizen comfortably won the U23 main race and placed third overall at the SA National Road Championships in Oudtshoorn at the weekend.
The 18-year-old Barzani Pro Cycling rider, who raced for the first time in his new team colours, won the 155km event in 3:42:38, beating Ryan Harris and Gustav Basson into second and third place respectively.
“My focus was more on the time trial, considering that it was a pan-flat route and perfect for a bigger rider such as myself. I was happy with my fifth place, especially being there for the first time as an U23 rider,” said Oosthuizen, who won the junior men’s points race at the SA National Track Championships in April.
He added that after the result he knew what his guidelines were going into the road race.
“I just wanted to fight for another top-10 overall position, considering that I achieved that in the time trial. That was the goal going into the road race. Also, another top-five place as an U23 would be a consistent result and consistency is what they look for,” said Oosthuizen.
He said the first 10km was fairly flat, which meant that it was too fast for the breakaway to get fully away. On the first climb, however, the main breakaway was formed and a few riders escaped off the front.
“At the top of the climb, Daryl [Impey] made a huge effort and we were about 15 riders, including most of the Dimension Data team, trying to get over to the main breakaway. We then split the bunch and rode fairly hard.
“After all that climbing there was a fast descent with a flat piece at the bottom. I’m not sure what happened but one of the Dimension Data riders went off the road and the whole team was wiped out. We were left with about seven or 10 guys that later bridged to the breakaway. That was the main break for the day.”
He said after another lap the Dimension Data team were back in reach of them again and they became nervous. Impey made another big effort which narrowed the group down to six riders including himself, Tyler Day, Nolan Hoffman, Reynard Butler and Jacques Janse van Rensburg.
“There weren’t enough riders for anyone to sit wheel, so we all did our little share. Being an U23 I was quite scared to fully commit because I didn’t know how to compare myself to the other big riders. Having respect for that class of rider almost makes them intimidating,” said Oosthuizen.
At the third and final hill Janse van Rensburg put in an attack which resulted in Day, Butler and Hoffman dropping off. This left a smaller breakaway of Oosthuizen, Impey and Van Rensburg.
“We all just committed and rolled through to the finish line. We reached the time-trial loop with 8km remaining and had a three-minute gap to Nolan and Reynard, which was comforting but it also didn’t mean the race was over. There was still a gold medal on the line.
“The last 3km I was in front and I knew my race was won as I had a big gap to the other two elites and I was far ahead of the U23s. I was in quite a comfortable position. I then flicked my arm for Jacques to come through, but he didn’t,” said Oosthuizen.
It was then that he decided not to race for overall victory as he felt it was the elite riders’ fight.
“I wanted to give the proper riders respect and allow them to have their fair fight and chance. I paced to the line and when I came around the last corner I let them do their own thing. Coming into the finish I felt quite emotional being the first U23 over the line,” he said.
Oosthuizen, who impressed internationally when he won the third stage of the Junior Tour of Ireland in July, said his result was overwhelming.
“I honestly didn’t expect to even podium as an U23, let alone overall, which I think is a bigger result than winning the U23 race. I would’ve been happy with just a top-10 finish.
“I feel proud to wear my nation’s colours and grateful that it will open a few different doors for international opportunities,” concluded Oosthuizen.