South Africa’s premier road tour, presented by the City of Drakenstein, saw riders tackle the queen stage of 145km with climbs over Bainskloof Pass in both directions.
After some hard work by his OfficeGuru Racing team, Girdlestone was finally able to surge ahead of Kent Main (TEG Procycling) with less than two kilometres to go to solo to the finish.
His stage time of 3:41:42 gives him the advantage over Main, with the final stage over 66.7km finishing at the Taal Monument just outside Paarl tomorrow.
In second place today was Main, with team-mate Jason Oosthuizen completing the podium. They also occupy second and third positions respectively on the overall standings.
Describing the stage as the toughest challenge of the five-stage tour, Girdlestone said his team were able to control the race throughout as they withstood a number of attacks from the TEG riders.
“Our guys really controlled the race from the beginning, despite the early breakaway [at the 30km mark] by HB Kruger and Steven van Heerden,” he said.
After his teammates Andrew Edwards and Josh van Wyk paced the stage for the first 100km, Girdlestone said he, Travis Barrett, Alex Worsdale and Marc Pritzen worked to close the gap on the return climb up Bainskloof.
“The breakaway had a three-minute gap at the bottom of Bainskloof and we had to increase the pace,” he added.
“Following the descent, TEG continued to attack after Alex had closed down the breakaway for good, which put us on the back foot for a bit because Travis, Marc and I had to follow these attacks.”
When Main broke away from the group, Girdlestone stayed on his wheel before making his move with 1.5km to go.
Having done the race in 2015, Girdlestone said he knew all about the final stage and the last climb to the Taal Monument.
“I actually finished second on the final stage then so I am not too stressed about that,” he added.
“We’ve got a strong team to cover all the moves up to the climb and then it will be up to the other GC contenders to try to make a move.”
Polish rider Maja Wloszczowska continued to build on her lead in the women’s race, winning her third stage in a row and setting herself up for the top overall spot in her debut Tour of Good Hope appearance.
She came home in 4:30:55, followed by Kross Fit Racing teammate Ariane Luthi and Catherine Colyn.
Wloszczowska leads the general classification in 10:21:52, with Luthi (10:26:02) second and Colyn (10:31:34) third.
With climbing her strength, Wloszczowska said she had enjoyed the rides over Bainskloof Pass, even though it was hard work in the end.
“When it came to the final descent, Catherine [Colyn] and Ariane [Luthi] went so fast that we dropped Lucy and I just managed to hang on.
“With about 15km to go I attacked and managed to get away, but it was tough because it was further than I expected to the finish.”