UCT cyclists KO gruelling Mauritius tour

02 October 2017 | Story Yusuf Omar. Photos Daphney Dupré.
Eyes on the prize: it was this kind of steely focus that saw the UCT cyclists over the finish line in Mauritius.
Eyes on the prize: it was this kind of steely focus that saw the UCT cyclists over the finish line in Mauritius.

The UCT Cycling Club raced around picturesque Mauritius for the gruelling Tour de Maurice in early September.

UCT cyclists Martin Freyer, Matthew How, Wayde Finch, Alexander Rohrer, Luke Evans and Gregg Christy powered around the tropical island for six days, competing against some top professionals from around the world. How, a Mauritian, raced for his hometown club, but as a member of the UCT Cycling Club travelled with his UCT club mates as a tour guide.

Freyer and How were fresh (sore?) from the Tour de Windhoek in Namibia in the last week of August, making their exploits in Mauritius all the more impressive.

The UCT Cycling Club team that took on the Tour de Maurice, with Matthew How in Red.

Those exploits involved things like a 140 km battle with crosswinds during Stage 1 and a 108 km loop of the south-east corner of the island for Stage 2. Freyer was awarded as the most combative rider for the day after Stage 1, and would follow that up by surging ahead of his rivals in the days that followed.

While the Mauritian national team had the yellow jersey at this stage, Freyer claimed the white jersey by the end of the punishing stage. Interestingly, he claimed it from How, who, despite racing for his local club, had been wearing UCT kit when he won the white top after Stage 1.

A “flipping tough” climb (in Christy’s words) at the end of the second stage had fragmented the group, but the day was still a complete success according to the UCT team.

This was confirmed by the rider standings, which put Freyer in fourth on the general classification table. How was sixth. The young riders’ table, meanwhile, was a sea of blue. Freyer held top spot, How second, Rohrer seventh, Christy eighth and Finch 10th. Evans, sadly, suffered several mechanical gremlins the day before, but by all accounts had a good day at the races anyway, leading one of the early breakaways to make up for the setback.

Indeed, it was Evans’s sprint that gave UCT an early start for Stage 3, which began with a 13 km time trial, followed by a “short” (according to the riders) 77 km stage in the afternoon. Despite his blazing start, an unfortunate wrong turn took Evans away from the pack, meaning he had to fight it out for last place.

A quad-crunching climb in the afternoon blew the race wide open and Freyer and co had to push to protect the white jersey, which they managed to do.

The tour ended with a 75 km circuit race and a customary dip in the pool for the exhausted racers.

Mauritius tour a cherry on top

Tour de Maurice was the crowning glory for what has been an amazing year for UCT cycling.

This year saw the UCT cyclists go up a few levels, and top-level performances became the norm rather than the outlier.

“Our team as a whole is maturing and the years of hard training are starting to reflect in the strength of the guys and girls,” wrote chair Liam Swanson in a wrap-up of their early 2017 adventures.

Courtney Webb, a first-year recruit, claimed second place in the elite race at the first leg of the Trailseeker series in Tulbagh, a sixth-place finish at the Cape Town Cycle Tour MTB Challenge and a third-place finish at the Bloemendal WP cross-country race.

Celeste Renaud and Birgitt Ouweneel also put in some impressive showings – Renaud won second spot at the nationally acclaimed Stellenbosch Cycle Tour late last year. Renaud and Ouweneel also claimed the top two podium spots at the Western Province Century City Criterium.

Earlier in 2017 Freyer won the Western Province League Race – a first for a UCT racer.

The list of some of UCT’s best results over the past year is impressive.

  • WP League Criterium: Winner of Elite Men (Martin Freyer)
  • 99er Cycle Tour: Second Elite Men (Martin Freyer)
  • Century City WP League Criterium: Fifth Elite Men (Gregg Christy)
  • Hermanus Xtreme MTB Criterium: Third Elite Men (Wayde Finch)
  • Tour of Durban: 11th Elite Men (Matthew How)
  • Tour de PPA: Second Elite Men (Martin Freyer)
  • WP Killarney Circuit Race: Second Elite Men (Martin Freyer)
  • 7 Sirs Circuit Race: Second Elite Men (Martin Freyer)
  • Gravel and Grape MTB: Third Elite Men (Zandi Rohrer and Martin Freyer)
  • Sani2C: Winner of the mixed category (James Reid riding with Mari Rabi)

And, yes, they’re all still full-time students!

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