Junior Pienaar impresses, du Plessis wins fourth title, Steyn bounces back in final of Duathlon Series
The sixth and final event in the Momentum Health i-Flex National Duathlon Series on Sunday 14 August 2011 was Venus versus Mars all over again. The men decided that their race would be fought on the final 2.5km run, while the women made their move on the 40km road bike leg.
The star of the day was 16-year-old Michael Pienaar, who played his cards well on the windy bike leg, then unleashed a phenomenal second run.
The ladies race also produced a happy surprise when Andrea Steyn (Team BSG Elite, powered by PeptoPro) proved to herself that several months of injury which prevented her from running were possibly behind her with an emphatic win. Faced with the prospect of no running, she has focused solely on cycling and it showed in her impressive bike form.
It was around 5 degrees at registration time. The wind was blowing and it was drizzling just before the start but fortunately the rain held out until the day was over. “Our toes and feet defrosted on the second lap of the first run over 5km but then everyone froze up again on the bike. There was a headwind whichever way we cycled but it wasn’t too bad,” said Series co-sponsor, i-Flex / PeptoPro’s Tennille Robertson. Participants were treated to good views of Potch dam on the run and rolling hills on the cycle.
Against this chilly winter’s day backdrop, the men’s race started at a blisteringly hot pace, instituted by both Potch local Erhard Wolfaardt and Junior Michael Pienaar, with Series leader Brand du Plessis (PeptoSport) in the mix. The junior’s future potential was evident by his 30-second gap coming into T1 but once onto the bike, the team firepower of Wolfaardt and du Plessis proved too much and he was dropped. Theo Blignaut managed to re-join the two leaders on the bike but suffered a puncture just before the turnaround. He accepted a spare wheel from a seconding vehicle (which led to his ultimate disqualification) and re-joined the chasing bunch.
The cycling prowess of team cyclist Shaun Leach was a catalyst that formed a large chase group that included Pienaar, David Labuschagne and Wilhelm Steyn. By the time du Plessis and Wolfaardt reached transition, their lead had eroded to just 10 seconds. “I had just racked my bike and they were coming into transition,” said du Plessis. He voiced the opinion that teams should start 5 minutes or more behind individuals or ahead to prevent collaborations that influence the outcome of the Elite race.
Erhard Wolfaardt told us that he did not perform as he had planned at the 5150 triathlon at Bela Bela the day before, finishing third behind Wayne Johnston and a fast-finishing Michael Davidson, and he had a score to settle.
“I came to the Momentum Duathlon to win. I started the first 5km run at a good pace, just scoping out to see what I would be up against in the final run. I had no legs on the 40km bike so I knew it was going to be a fast 2.5km run off the bike. Brand du Plessis, Theo Blignaut and I kept rolling through and kept a good pace on the ride. I made sure I was out T2 first, and just gave it everything I had. I must admit it did hurt a bit, but to take honours at the end makes it worthwhile,” said Wolfaardt, who ran an 8:12 for the 2.5km, the fastest individual split of the day.
The person whose final run counted most was young Pienaar’s 8:37, which leapfrogged from sixth into third overall. Since he had entered as a Junior and not an Elite, he was not awarded third place overall, although he was given third-place prizemoney. Fourth place finisher Theo Blignaut was disqualified, putting Wilhelm Steyn into third Elite man overall, also receiving third place prizemoney. Fourth place finisher Theo Blignaut was disqualified, putting Wilhelm Steyn into third Elite man overall.
Brand du Plessis consistency and attendance at all six events gave him a clean sweep of the National Series, winning every year since its inception in 2008.
The men’s team of Jean Brummer and Shaun Leach produced the fastest performance of the day, after Leach jumped fellow breakaway team rider Peter Lambert going into T2, to hand over to run teammate Adriaan Geldenhuys. Lambert, a pro in Belgium for four years, had done the lion’s share of the work in the latter half of the ride, leaving the individual men hanging on for deal life. Both teams just got the better of the Elite men’s time – testament to the individual’s impressive pedigree.
World Duathlon Championship medallist Andrea Steyn (Team BSG Elite) matched the first run with Carla van Huyssteen (Team Rebel inov-8), winner of two events in the Series so far. Steyn had won the opening race at Waterfall Estate and had shown how good her riding was at the Roodeplaat Dam event in June. Steyn had a slightly faster transition, hit the road first and opened the taps on the 40km course, building an unassailable minute’s lead on her fellow Pretorian rival. Van Huyssteen (Team Rebel Elite) told us “It seems that going into a road duathlon these days is more stressful than off-road! I knew Andrea would be there hungry to claim a win again, her biking strength superb so I prepared myself for a tough race. It’s not easy being consistent on and offroad! Very few athletes even try this, so this plays to my advantage in a series like this one, unique in its way, Being a good allrounder is a plus!”
Onto the final 2.5km run, Steyn took another three seconds out of van Huyssteen, well-known for a strong finishing run. Van Huyssteen may have settled for second on the day but her two previous victories and two second places gave her the Series title for the first time. She has a busy schedule ahead of her, flying out to Germany a day later, to race XTERRA Germany the following weekend and staying in Europe for XTERRA Switzerland on 10 September.
Capetonian Alae Brand battled in the cold conditions, complaining of ‘dead legs’ on the opening 5km run and soldiering on for third. Van Huyssteen may have settled for second on the day but her two previous victories and two second places gave her the National Series title for the first time.
The kiddies race proved popular with a good entry and strong signs of growth on previous years. A total of 219 individuals and 29 teams finished the main event. Results on www.spectrumsport.co.za and reports and images on www.duathlon.co.za