The My Velo rider’s teammate, Gustav Basson, finished 10th and placed fourth in the U23 category.
“Going into the race I was aiming for a decent result, so I’m quite happy with the top five which I think is good for an African champs race,” said Van Heerden, who had not held any high expectations before the race.
He added that the competition was quite stiff due to a lot of countries having top riders representing them.
“That made it quite difficult for us as a team with only three riders. It was tricky to decide who to follow. We spent a few more pennies than the others,” said Van Heerden, who won the King of the Mountains title and placed in the overall top 10 at the Sharjah Tour three weeks ago.
The 168km road race started quietly, but thereafter attacks continued regularly.
“We followed when some of the stronger teams went and about seven laps in Gustav was placed in the final break which was good for the team. Jan [Montshioa] and I missed out, which meant that we were in the second group where the guys also kept attacking,” said Van Heerden.
“I then took my chances and went solo with four laps to go. That was when I realised the riders in my group were starting to suffer. To ensure I didn’t take any dangerous riders with me, I bridged over to the front group which I caught with 5km to go.
Van Heerden said at that point Eritrea’s Amanuel Gebreigzabhier (who was ultimately crowned the African champion) was already up ahead.
“Gustav and I followed with some late attacks and went for it on the last kicker before the finish.
“Personally, I went through a few difficult patches where I really didn’t feel well, but luckily I recovered and got myself back into the race.