Cape Town - Outpacing her competitors for most of her 2:51:00 race, Cherise Stander took first place in the women’s event for her third win in seven years.
The 24-year-old, born in Pretoria, captured second place last year. She had lost her husband, professional mountain bike cyclist Burry Stander, in a taxi collision two months earlier.
The loss of her grandmother, who she called “the anchor in my cycling career”, made the past year an even greater challenge.
Unlike the tears of grief at last year’s race, a smile lit up her face in Sunday’s post-race excitement. Embraced in a series of hugs behind the finish line, Stander said thinking of her husband and her late grandmother helped push her through to the finish.
“Last year everything was such a blur,” she said.
“It’s an extra important win for me, and I dedicate my win to both of these amazing people… They were the motivation that got me over the line.”
She said she was thankful for the support of her family and friends, along with her team, RECM, for “helping me get back on track”.
Though Stander took an early lead and dominated the race, Port Elizabeth’s Anriette Schoeman finished closely behind with a time of 2:51:31. An-Li Kachehoffer of Joburg finished third in 2:53:03.
“Today, considering the conditions out there, I’m happy with second place,” Schoeman said.
Both Stander and Schoeman said the wind complicated the race.
“From the start it was a very nervous race,” Schoeman said. “It was crazy, it was quite dangerous.”
Stander, who has completed her 15th Cycle Tour, said the wind was part of the game: “It was quite gusty, so it does pull you quite a bit… It made the climbs extremely hard.”
A cyclist trailing in the elite men’s group crashed just ahead of Stander, threatening to stutter her momentum, but she made it through without incident.
“It was quite important to stay in front of the bunch,” she said. “There’s always a crash, and I was happy I could stay out of the mess and finish safe.”