Hunter sprints to victory on Stage 2
South African rider Robert Hunter claimed victory in spectacular fashion on the second stage of the Mzansi Tour after a 189km ride from Lydenburg to Middelburg on Thursday.
Hunter prevailed in a sprint finish in five hours, five minutes, 25 seconds (5:05:25) in what was the longest stage of the International Cycling Union (UCI) graded tour.
"It was a long, hard day," Hunter said.
"This win was a big surprise for me. I didn't expect what happened.
"In the end I just gave it everything and I'm really tired now and have a lot of recovering to do for tomorrow, but I'm really happy."
David Maree of team Tasol GT, who was close behind Hunter, finished second, while Christian House of Ralpha Condor JLT was third.
An early six-man breakaway saw Maree, House, Willem Smit (Team Bonitas), Shaun Ward (Team Nuwater), Dan Craven (WCCA Mixed Team) and Neil McDonald (Fedgroup ITEC) open a wide gap just 10 kilometres into the stage, leaving the peloton two minutes behind.
The gap increased to five minutes as the leaders headed towards the first King of the Mountain (KOM) point of the stage, after 33km, where Maree was the first to surge across and bag vital points.
Later in the stage, the leading pack rode up a nasty climb in Stofberg, after 133km, and headed towards the second KOM point, where Maree was again the first rider across. He was awarded the purple jersey for his efforts.
"I saw myself as the favourite for the KOM jersey. I have good acceleration for the hills," Maree said.
"The only other rider from the group who had points was Smit and I managed to get past him on the second climb.
"I was lucky enough to get maximum points on the day."
A late attack by Hunter, riding for the SA National Team, saw him close the gap on the leaders, and with only 10km to go he surged ahead to take the lead and win the stage.
"The No 1 thing was to win the stage and I'm happy with that," said Hunter.
"The next thing is to worry about and protect the yellow jersey tomorrow. We haven't got the strongest team in the race but we are going to try and do whatever we can do.
"There is a lot of pressure now, but obviously I'll fight till the end, but it's not going to be easy."
Hunter held the yellow (general classification), green (points) and white (African leader) jerseys, while Maree took the purple (KOM) jersey and MTN Qhubeka feeder rider JC Nel retained his white-and-green (best young rider) jersey.
Friday's third stage is the flattest of the tour, a 149km leg from Witbank to Mamelodi.
**The race organisers have covered the costs for Sapa's reporter to attend the Mzansi Tour.
STAGE 2 RESULTS
1 Robert Hunter (SA National Team) 5:05:25
2 David Maree (Tasol GT) +2 seconds
3 Kristian House (Rapha Condor JLT) +51 sec
4 Dan Craven (WCCA Mixed Team) +59 sec
5 Neil MacDonald (FedGroup Itec) +58 sec
6 Shaun Ward (NuWater CTM) +1:10
7 Julien Antomarchi (La Pomme Marseille) +5:44
8 Fortunato Baliani (Nippo De Rosa) same time
9 Mario Vogt (Rad-Net Rose) st
10 Ian McLeod (FedGroup Itec) st
1 Robert Hunter (SA National Team) 9:26:05
2 Julien Antomarchi (La Pomme Marseille) +5:50
3 Fortunato Baliani (Nippo De Rosa) +5:56
4 Ian McLeod (FedGroup Itec) +6:01
5 Paul Van Zweel (EuropcarSA) +6:05
6 David Maree (Tasol GT) +7:54
7 Neil MacDonald (FedGroup Itec) +8:43
8 Dylan Girdlestone (Westvaal BMC) +13:33
9 Antoine Lavieu (La Pomme Marseille) +13:49
10 Dan Craven (WCCA Mixed Team) +14:40