By Derek Wilsnagh
Gadi Chait struck gold for the SA team taking part in the UCI B World Championships at the Bellville Velodrome Tuesday night, using his power and guile to secure an emphatic victory in the keiren event.
His effort was backed up by SA national road champion Ronel van Wyk, who showed she still has enough leg speed on the banked track to command a bronze in the women's Individual Pursuit, finishing third to Evelyn Garcia and Satomi Wadami.
These were South Africa's only two medals of the evening - which proved no mean feat, considering there was some outstanding cycling talent on display, with about 60 nations in attendance.
Chait, contesting the final with fellow Bok Martin van Wyk, was clearly a man on a mission as he dominated the slot at the wheel of the pacing scooter, hovering menacingly as it peeled off to leave the riders to fight out the final few laps.
Attacking like a man poss-essed, Chait took two turns to go over Daniel Novokov (Estonia) to open a decisive gap. Novokov showed a lot of pace trying to chase him down but his effort fizzled late. Van Wyk took third in a photo-finish but lost the bronze in the board-room for using illegal tactics.
"It was pretty hard," grinned a delighted Chait, who came into the squad as a late replacement for Morne Blignaut.
"I knew I could make it from the first heat. I could see by the way he (Novokov) rode his distance (the length of his sprint effort) was not that good and decided I should get to the front with a lap and a half to go.
"It's an Olympic qualification... I feel really great."
SA men's team manager Elrick Kulsen heaped praise on Chait: "You can see these riders have been racing regularly in Europe. They are quick and strong. But so is Gadi.
"He's got the endurance and that's why we decided he should go with two laps to go.
"We wanted him to just push it flat-out so the guys would have to match him to win. That won him the race.
"He's strong and has a good chance of winning the time trial or the 10-kilo as well."
Van Wyk had proved no match for El Salvador's Garcia in the earlier heat, the latter then showing far more fight in the final to edge ahead of Japanese rider Wadami.
Dean Edwards and Garth Thomas contested the 15km scratch event, which proved the race of the evening, but looked outgunned after a feisty first third of the race where they mixed it up in promising fashion.
However, when the big moment came they, and most of the field for that matter, never had the legs.
Bulgaria's Radoslov Konstantinov looked in a class of his own, a majestic solo break allowing him to lap the entire field - bar a five-man group containing Kazakhstan's Alexey Lyalko, who latched on.
Konstantinov controlled all the break attempts with ease and made a bold bid to sprint clear in the final lap.
However, a cucumber-cool Lyalko latched onto his wheel, whipping alongside late to pip him in the sprint and prove there is only one place that counts - the finish line.
"I was a little disappointed our riders missed the break," said Kulsen, "but that's racing." SA's Carla Rabie and Tracy van Niekerk face one another in a semi-final of the 200m time-trial sprint tonight.
Racing starts at 5.30pm Wednesday night and Thursday.