Nico Bell won his first title in the Takealot Jock Classic road cycle race by taking two of the three stages in Nelspruit, Mpumalanga, today.
Riding for NAD Pro, the 35-year-old from Nelspruit shaded Reynard Butler, defending champion David Maree and Travis Barrett in the final sprint for the line in the three-stage, one-day classic.
After winning the first stage, he also took the final 62.3km stage in 1:33:25 for an overall time of 3:53:58.
Maree, of Team Enza, was second in 3:53:58, followed by Travis Barrett (OfficeGuru Racing) in the same time.
The three stages took cyclists on a 150km route from Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit through White River and Sabie before ending back at the stadium.
Bell said the victory was especially sweet as he had health issues at the beginning of the year. His triumph suggested he was returning to his best form.
After taking the first stage of 40.9km over Maree in a sprint finish, Bell said they conceded the second stage of 45.4km to Alex Worsdale.
“Alex had lost some time on the first stage and he rode away from the beginning, so we just let him go.”
He added that he felt Maree was the one to beat and although there was a breakaway near the end it was brought back and the stage developed into a sprint finish.
“David, Travis and I were all on the same time and coming up to the stadium Travis attacked up the left.
“Luckily I saw him coming and went straight onto his wheel and then I managed to come around him to the line.
“There was quite a bit of rough paving towards the end and I felt, being a mountain-biker, I gained better traction because I could distribute my weight better and I was able to get a gap on him.”
Bell paid tribute to his young teammate, Wessel Botha, who did a lot of work during the race to help him take the win.
“It was just the two of us in our team so we were up against it,” he said, “but Wessel did a great job of working to cover attacks and to pace me into the final stretch.
Carla Oberholzer of Demacon Ladies Cycling Team retained the women’s title by winning all three stages for an overall time of 4:30:51.
She was followed home by Parys Edwards (4:32:18) and Samantha Sanders (4:35:26).
Having worked hard to build up a 45-second lead going into the final stage she said she was able to extend her lead all the way to the finish.
“Up the climb to the stadium I managed to put in a final attack to ensure I stayed in front for a good day on the bike,” she said.
“We are working towards some big goals and it is good to know the training is on par and the fitness is coming on nicely.”
For the results, click here.