Golden Gate - Team MTN-Qhubeka continued its dominance on the Mzansi Tour after South Africa's national road champion Louis Meintjes climbed his way to victory in three hours, 46 minutes and eight seconds (3:46:8), on the second stage of the five-day race at the Golden Gate in the Free State on Thursday.
The talented climber outclassed fellow teammates Merhawi Kudus, who was 45 seconds behind, and Daniel Teklehaimanot, who came in third, rounding up the yellow podium.
Jacques Janse van Rensburg (MTN-Qhubeka) retained the yellow jersey after finishing fifth on the stage, opening up a 43 second lead ahead of Meintjes, who creeped into second on the general classification (GC), while Kudus climbed to the third spot.
Janse van Rensburg was also named as the best African rider on the day and took the points jersey, while Meintjes walked away with the best young rider jersey as well as the king of mountain (KOM) jersey.
The 155km stage started in Clarens, went through Bethlehem and Kestell, before ending with a mountain top finish at the Golden Gate national park.
There were a few attacks in the early stages of the race, but they did not amount to much as they were neutralised by the peloton.
A patch of heavy road on the N5 heading to Bethlehem slowed the peloton, bringing the speed down to 30 kilometres per hour.
An hour into the race Willie Smit (Team vini Fantini-Nippo-De Rosa) made a solid attack and was joined by Jayde Julius (Bonitas Pro Team) and Ryan Felgate (South African national team), opening up a 20 second gap ahead of the peloton.
The three briefly maintained their lead before they were brought back.
Another break formed 70km into the race where Hendrick Kruger, Christopher Jennings (Bonitas Pro Team), and Nolan Hoffman (Team Abantu) opened a slight lead ahead of the main group.
The three maintained the lead as the race remained calm while it whizzed through the small town of Kestell, making its way to Golden Gate, where riders faced a 30km uphill battle to the finish. The climbing after the slipway before the R712 took its toll on the three riders who slipped back into the peloton.
A decisive attack by Meintjes, who pedalled ahead towards the last 10km positioned him ahead of the group, giving him a 100m lead. He successfully maintained the lead to win the stage on day three of the tour.
“We decided not to control the race from the start... it makes the race a bit harder and tires everyone. The plan was also to get to the bottom of the climb with everyone together and then try get me or Merhawi away to make sure we get the stage victory,” said the Under-23 silver medallist at the 2013 UCI World Cycling Champs.
“From 12km to go there was a lot of hard work we did, there were no real descends and it was a pretty hard climb.
“I think it pretty much went according to plan, I got away with about 10km to go and Jacques just stayed with all the dangerous guys.”
Janse van Rensburg is no stranger to winning. Besides being crowned the 2014 national road champ, and the Under-23 national time trial, he bagged wins at last year's Tour of Korea, where he won the fifth stage and took a win in stage three of the Tour of Rwanda.
The Mzansi tour continues on Friday with 201km ride from Bethlehem to Vanderbijlpark.
The young rider said the team would plan their strategy for the race later Thursday and hoped the weather would play in their favour.
“We still need to discuss tomorrow. Its rolling hills and I would really like it if it's a bit windy, it makes it hard for the bunch and we've got a really strong team so we can just sit on the front and protect each other and tire out the bunch.”