Morne van Niekerk finished 3rd overall at the PPC Kremetart Classic on the weekend in the town of Louis Trichard. An unfamiliar 175km race split into 4-stages in 1-day saw a battle between three of South Africa’s professional teams Abantu, Europecar & Bonitas battle it out for victory as the race looped its way around the Soutpansberg Mountains.
Stage 1 (53km) saw a break going clear inside the first 5km which would in the end be the decisive break for the entire “tour”. Team Abantu’s David Mare and Morne van Niekerk went clear with JC Nel (Bonitas) and Willie Smit (EuropecarSA). Team Abantu attempted to split the break up further going on the attack but the plan backfired and a counter attack by Nel saw Maree and van Niekerk being distanced. The stage was won by Smit 2 seconds ahead of Nel with van Niekerk coming in a further 45 seconds back.
Having effectively lost GC hopes of the tour the strategy was shifted to stage wins and keeping van Niekerks 3rd place on GC secure. Stage 2 (46km) was another aggressive start and after 15km of racing another 4-man break went clear this time consisting all of the races top sprinters. Team Abantu had the representation of Nolan Hoffman in break along with Herman Fouche (Bonitas), Brad Potgieter & Ryan Gibbons (both EuropecarSA). Fouche dropped with 15km left to go leaving Hoffman to battle it out with two Europecar riders. In the end Gibbons got the better of Hoffman with Potgieter in 3rd.
Stage 3 (56km) again saw a break of 3 riders going clear early on. Myles van Musschenbroek (Team Abantu), James Fourie (EuropecarSA) & Luthando Kaka (Bonitas) built up a lead of just over 3min early into the stage. With 2nd and 3rd on GC now being threatened Abantu and Bontias began to attack the peloton and the gap was rapidly reduced with the trio being caught with 5km to go on the stage. In the final Willie Smit kept Europecars winning streak alive and claimed the teams 3rd successive victory and his 2nd on the day cementing his place in the yellow jersey. Team Abantus HB Kruger finished 2nd.
The 4th and final stage (22km) ended with a select group of 7 riders racing to the line in the main road of Louis Trichard. Team Abantu was well represented with Kruger, van Niekerk and Hoffman in the front. Coming into the finish Kruger led out Hoffman who surged to the line crossing a timing mat and throwing up his arms in celebration. However, the actual line was some 5m after the mat allowing Shaun Nick Bester to pass Hoffman and be awarded the stage win.
The final GC was won by Willie Smit (EuropecarSA) with JC Nel 2nd and van Neikerk 3rd. Team Abantu finished 2nd on three of the four stages. Following a 2-week break it was a respectable result for the Durban based team who will now be back into full training mode ahead of their next winter classic the Knysna Oyster Festival on the 4th July. From there they will have a weeks training camp in Durban in preparation for the 3-day Jock Cycle Tour in the middle of July.