10 November 2008

All Africa Champs Road Race, Casablanca, Morocco 9 November 2008

The African Cycling Champs Road Race was held on a reasonably flat 11km circuit along the coast where the men had to complete thirteen laps to make a total of 143km. There were 70 starters from 13 different African nations making it one of the best attended champs in its short history.
At around the half way mark a group of 15 riders managed to break away from the peloton and soon enough we had a sizable lead on the chasers. With just less than four laps to go the attacking started from the front group and after a slight lull in the attacking a Moroccan rider went solo and built up a sizable gap to the chasers. Somehow I didn't even realise that the guy had gone down the road. This was the same guy who stuck his tongue out at me (it was more his look than his tongue that got to me) and spat at South African Jay Thomson, so lets just say there was no love lost towards this dude.
With seven kilometres remaining in the race I broke away with  an Algerian rider started chasing the lone leader, even though I did not actually realise that he existed at this point. Going over the only two short climbs in the race I dropped the Algerian and it was only at this point that I saw the lone leader and realised that I was only in second position.
Having been out on his own for almost 30 kilometres he was rather buggered and I moved in on him quickly, but not quickly enough....
Coming into the final bend, with less than five hundred meters to go I was still behind him and even though I was already going flat out I had to dig even deeper and force some kind of sprint if I wanted any chance of catching him.
Mr  Morocco was in the left most lane of a four lane road, taking the shortest route to the line. As he saw me coming up on his right he started swinging right across the road to block my way.
With the African Title on the line this was one time that I was not going to back down and the two of us made contact as I came past with virtually no place to spare on my right hand side. I don't think that he was expecting this reaction to his dirty tricks and as a result he lost control and crashed a mere fifty meters from the line as I struggled to keep my bike upright and cross the line without any hint of a victory salute.
Had the outcome been any different and had he been of any other nationality he would have been DQ'ed.
I had come to Morocco to win the Gold in the time trial but I was only able to take the bronze medal. So making up for that disappointment in this way is fantastic, especially as the road title is more valuable. I would rank this as my second most important victory after winning the 1.2 GP Cristal Energie in France, but back home this one will mean a whole lot more!
Although I have still not heard from any managers, the response from friends and family has been amazing so far! My Facebook is absolutely overflowing and I am really humbled by the experience!
Thank you everyone! Especially Splashworks, First Cut and Rosewall Agencies; the three companies that made this trip a reality!
Now the bike is in the bag and it's going to stay there for three weeks! It's about time I had a real holiday!