Nolan Hoffman celebrated his birthday in the best possible way by winning the Emperors Palace Classic road cycle title for the first time in Kempton Park, Johannesburg, today.
The BCX sprinter, who turned 32 today, said he had received the perfect present after several years of trying to nail down the title in the 98km feature race.
He came home in a time of 2:09:02 to see off Genasys Technologies’ Ryan Harris (2:09:02) and Cycling Box’s Tyler Day (2:09:03) in the gallop to the line.
Hoffman, who won the elimination and madison titles at the SA National Track Championships earlier this month, said the special occasion had give him extra motivation and he praised his team for their support in the fast-paced race.
“It was definitely one of my goals for the year because I have often raced here but the win has always eluded me,” said the BCX star, who grew up in Franschhoek but now lives in Ruimsig in Johannesburg.
“I think I have ended in almost every position except first, so this was the best birthday present for me.”
As he had expected, Hoffman said the race was really fast from the start and he knew it was unlikely that there would be any significant breaks out on the course.
"There was never a gap of more than 10 seconds – that's how aggressive and fast it was," he said.
“As a team we had no real interest in trying to get up the road and our plan was to keep the group together and ride for the sprint finish.
“It was well executed by the boys. I’m proud of what they achieved and it was great to pay them back with the win.”
Even though the race went according to plan, Hoffman said one could never be sure of how it would unfold in the closing stages in a big bunch finish.
“There was a late scare when Rohan du Plooy got about seven or eight seconds up the road, but we caught him with about a kilometre to do.
“Reynard Butler then led the sprint out for me and I opened up with about 200m to go. From there it was just a case of head down and I think Ryan Harris was the only guy who really came close.
“The drag up to the finish was quite hard and the riders were strung out a bit, but it’s not every day you can get a clear run to the line. With a big group, though, you can never be quite sure how it will turn out.”
Hoffman said the Emperors victory made up for the disappointment of the Cape Town Cycle Tour which was called off last month soon after the start because of high winds.
“I was really gutted after that because you sacrifice so much to prepare for it.
“My form was good at that stage, but this win definitely makes up for missing out on that.”
The women’s race also produced a first-time winner when Kim le Court (Demacon) outsprinted Samantha Sanders (Cycle Nation) for the top spot on the podium.
Both were credited with a time of 2:33:36, while Sanders’ teammate Joanna van de Winkel took third in 2:35:35.
Le Court went into the race without expectations after feeling off-colour recently, but managed to hang on to the wheel of Sanders when she went on the attack early on.
“Samantha went pretty hard at about the 30km mark and I was the only one who could get on her wheel,” she said.
As they closed in on the finish, Le Court, who was pushed to the front, said she felt nervous as Sanders looked stronger.
“I was not feeling too confident but with about 400m to go I managed to get a gap on her and was able to hang on to that lead.
“After missing out on the Cape Town Cycle Tour, I was very happy to be able to lift my arms for the team.”
Andreas Trafoyer won the men’s section in the 48km support race in 1:17:01. Shibhana Sibanyoni (1:17:04) and Herman Meyer (1:17:10) were close behind in second and third respectively.
The women’s event went to Elizabeth Burger, who crossed the line in 1:18:14, with Carin Janssen (1:19:23) and Lisa Venter (1:23:34) completing the podium.
On Saturday, Wessel Botha took a fine solo victory in the 50km mountain bike race. He clocked a time of 1:32:28 and was followed home by Mthetheli Boya (1:34:20) and Luthanda Kaka (1:34:21).
Chloe Gardner won the women’s race in 1:50:54, followed by Jana Jonker (1:52:58) and Sarah Hall (1:54:32).
The 25km men’s race went to Aaron Heyneke in 55:13, with John Lang (55:15) second and Muhammed Theba (57:54) third.
Women’s honours went to Hanje Nel in 1:04:44, followed by Nadine Stoltz (1:05:07) and Bianca Keyser (1:07:35).