“The race was okay,” Bell told In the Bunch today. “I was slightly off on the Long Tom Pass and the pace was high.”
Fortunately for him, though, he had his teammates Matt Beers and Botha representing the squad at the head of affairs.
“I could then just sit back and let the other teams pace it back. The last kick up to the stadium was hard. I was once again slightly off.
“But then on the last corner I went full speed and caught up to them [the breakaway].
“With 500m to go I went straight past them to take the win,” he said, adding that his ability to conserve energy was key to him winning.
“It’s in my nature to look for the win so when I saw the front guys hesitating I knew I could catch them with a flyer.”
The 148km route, which started at Blyde Canyon, was shortened by some 13km due to heavy mist, which meant the “God’s Window” section of the Graskop loop was omitted.
Bell said the Long Tom Pass posed the biggest challenge on the day, but added that his team was fully represented on the climb.
“The race was under control most of the time,” he said. “There was a small break on Long Tom before they got caught outside Sabie.”
He said from there the general classification contenders began racing one another as they headed into Mbombela.
OfficeGuru’s Marc Pritzen and Katusha-Alpecin’s Willie Smit were the other main contenders, he said.
The 35-year-old said his team controlled the race well after the breakaway regrouped, with Gawie Combrink setting the pace at the front.
His other teammate, Matt Beers, took hold of the leader’s jersey after finishing among the frontrunners today.
“It was awesome winning today on home soil,” Bell said.
“Tomorrow will be another hard stage with climbing and we will be looking after Matt with the yellow jersey.”