The Stellenbosch University student, who finished 32nd in the 126km event that featured an elevation of 2 876m, said despite having a better result two years ago he was still thrilled with the outcome.
“I was fairly disappointed when I finished 27th then as I was so far off the level, but this year it was incredibly high. We were racing against guys from continental teams.
“There was real stiff competition, with nearly 70 riders. They’re very experienced European racers so I was happy just to make it to the finish with that type of route profile.”
He added that his strategy for the race, where he competed alongside compatriots Jacques Lloyd and Jacques Horn, was merely to survive as the temperatures skyrocketed above 40°C.
“With the heat it was difficult to have a good race and it was almost just damage control. The other guys were not as disappointed as you normally would be for not finishing or not performing to your best because of those conditions.”
He added that just crossing the line in one piece and surviving was crucial. He blew up in the heat, but still made it to the finish with a respectable position.
“We also needed to make sure we stayed up front and didn’t miss any splits. Tactically, we couldn’t really deploy anything with only three riders.
“The crucial points were the climbs that came early on and I was happy enough to be able to stay with the group. I went with the first attack of the day to try and get up the road for a steadier race.”
He added that he pushed on the downhills and felt he had superior descending skills, so he managed to create a gap and have time on the group as they reached the next climbs.
“I wasn’t too concerned with my result, but in the last 15km I started smiling knowing that I was going to make it to the finish, drenched in water and ice.”
Sullivan said due to him being sick two weeks prior to the event he did not have high expectations, but still felt he rode well.
“If I wasn’t sick I think I could’ve gone for a top 15, but I still rolled the dice a couple of times, descended like a madman and rubbed shoulders with some big names while making plenty of new friends. It was the toughest race of my life.
“Thank you to everyone (friends, family and partners) for the ongoing support. Our team had a really good time, made a lasting impact on everyone and flew the SA flag high.”