The freedom to cycle was celebrated during the inaugural UCI 1.2 Freedom Day Classic, which is part of the KZN Autumn Series. Team Abantu’s Reynard Butler claimed the men’s victory in a time of 4:02:56.381. 13seconds ahead of teammate HB Kruger and Nicolas Dlamini (MTN Qhubeka Feeder) in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal, yesterday.
The recently launched KZN Autumn Series provided top cyclists the chance to battle it out for UCI points in three road race events, the first being the Freedom Day Classic. This will be followed by the 185km Mayday Classic (1 May) and the 150km Hibiscus Coast Challenge (3 May).
Butler bounced back from a disappointing result 24hrs before at the aQuelle Tour Durban where he was the designated team sprinter for Team Abantu and failed to deliver on his role finishing 4th behind team captain Nolan Hoffman who finished in 3rd. This brought a 5 year reign of the Durban based team to an end which provided the fuel for a courageous ride from the 26yr old Butler.
The 157km men’s race covered 7 laps of a 22.2km circuit through the streets in the city and along the outskirts of Pietermaritzburg. Only 8.6km in, Team EuropcarSA’s Kent Main made a break and leapt 10-seconds ahead of the peloton. Main was soon joined by teammate James Fourie, JC Nel (Bonitas Pro Cycling), Tesfom Okubamariam and Metkel Teweldeberhan (both MTN-Qhubeka Feeder team), creating a 45-second time gap at the end of the first lap. Butler crashed hard on a wet slippery corner when he attempted to join the days early break.The time gap to the chasing peloton increased to just over a minute as Team Abantu regrouped and took control of the peloton by putting all 6 riders on the front to contain the gap around the one minute mark.
At the 80km mark the break was caught and the attacks started again in earnest. Butler saw a moment and put in a massive attack which no one could follow 95km into the race. He extended his lead to 55-seconds ahead of the peloton 115km into the race and at the 141km mark, Butler had a 2:11 lead on his chasers as he entered the final lap. Behind MTN-Qhubeka feeder were seen as the aggressors attacking and chasing hard in pursuit of the lone Abantu sprinter. The gap came tumbling down and with 5km remaining he had just a mere 15sec advantage on Dlamini who was shadowed by Kruger. Butler rode aggressively to hold the lead until the end winning by 13 seconds ahead of teammate Kruger with Dlamini (MTN-Qhubeka Feeder team) finishing third.
Reynard Butler - Rider
I was struggling to get into a rhythm early on, I tried to go in the break but then I crashed heavily on a wet slippery corner. I went back to the bunch, and told Nolan I wasn’t feeling so good. He said that I should just look after myself and try recover as the team took control of the bunch. The plan today was actually to ride for HB. After we caught the break through the incredible work of Nolan, Morne (van Niekerk) & Myles (Van Musschenbroek) I decided to go solo, and by God’s grace I managed to take the victory. The emotions are high and I don’t know what to think, to win a race of this stature is incredible. Yesterday we raced Tour Durban. The plan was to race for me in the sprint and I didn’t deliver so, this was more of a hunger for me today to prove to the guys that, you know, they didn’t make a mistake.”
HB Kruger - Rider
It was quite a wet start to the day, and with racing Tour Durban yesterday it was a bit of a struggle to get the legs going. But we took control of the race. We had a plan and it worked out perfectly for us, getting first and second place. We couldn’t have asked for a better result. Reynard just rode amazingly today. He crashed and he punctured, it was just amazing. We knew we had our men for the race and I got goose bumps going over the finish today. It was quite an emotional result not just for myself but for the team as well, especially after yesterday’s disappointment. We are very happy.
Top 10 Pro-Elite Men
1.Reynard Butler (Team Abantu) 4:02:56.381
2.HB Kruger (Team Abantu) 4:03:09.939
3.Nicholas Dlamini (MTN-Qhubeka Feeder team) 4:03:13.767
4.Stefan de Bod (MTN-Qhubeka Feeder team) 4:03:18.495
5.David Maree (Team Abantu) 4:03:18.627
6.Gustav Basson (MTN-Qhubeka Feeder team) 4:03:32.202
7.Ryan Gibbons (Team EuropcarSA) 4:03:33.196
8.Shaun-Nick Bester (Bonitas Pro Cycling) 4:03:33.635
9.Myles van Musschenbroek (Team Abantu) 4:03:33.725
10.Nolan Hoffman (Team Abantu) 4:03:34.263