Team Enza’s Hoffman was part of the day’s decisive 10-man break for a large portion of the race and he looked for a while to again be the firm favourite, especially in the event of a sprint finish.
Gaze said he threw in several testers on Suikerbossie and Chapman’s Peak in an attempt to keep Hoffman at bay, as the breakaway also tried to rid themselves of the three-time champ.
“Going over Chapman’s and Suikerbossie was reasonably calm. I tried to test a little but I had no luck,” Gaze told In the Bunch today.
Hoffman lost touch with the breakaway group through the Misty Cliffs area, before an inspired chase by him, Dan Craven, Byron Munton and Orion Craigue brought him back into contention.
The 33-year-old then got dispatched for good before Chapman’s and Gaze took it upon himself to assess proceedings from within the break to make sure Hoffman had not returned to the front.
“Heading into the final few kilometres I was having a look at the wind and many other things, while making sure Nolan didn’t come back.
“He was such a massive threat and a direct threat for a sprint. Eventually I made my mind up that we were up against a headwind, so I decided to leave my run-in to the line quite late.
“That worked out very well,” he said, adding that this year’s sprint had posed a “completely different challenge” to last year.
“It will always be very different when you compare a group of 10 to a group of 40 coming in for the sprint,” Gaze said.
“Nolan won last year and I don’t think I would’ve beaten him this time, regardless of how I sprinted.
“The way the racing unfolded was a big change, so it was cool to have a different style of racing in different conditions.
“It was very different, but I’m still super stoked to have won this race, especially as a mountain-biker,” added a delighted Gaze, who won back-to-back U23 cross-country mountain bike world titles in 2016 and 2017.
“The SA guys are going so well and there’s a lot of talent coming through,” the 23-year-old said.
“It’s really nice to be able to compete with these guys. They have so many top riders now, such as Daryl Impey winning WorldTour races and Louis Meintjes, one of the top GC riders.
“There are so many young and up-coming guys and to be a part of it and race against them is really cool.”
Gaze will now turn his focus back to the dirt where he will be pairing up with the defending champion, Czech Jaroslav Kulhavy, at the Cape Epic.
Kulhavy won the Epic last year alongside Howard Grotts.
“It will be a big task for me, but I’m looking forward it. Of course it was nice to have a good race [at the Cycle Tour] and feel good on the bike.
“It brought a lot of confidence, which is sort of what I need before those eight days of suffering begin.”