Brandon Davids is hoping his win in Sunday’s 20 edition of the Telkom 947 Cycle Challenge will be the catalyst that will propel him into racing on the World Tour in the next few years.
Davids, who has experienced much success as a mountain biker and is making the transition to road riding, said that he was still coming to terms with his first big win on tarmac at the Riversands Commercial Park. He beat second-placed Eddie van Heerden (Team Hollard) and Morne van Niekerk (Team Telkom), who was third, in an all-South African podium.
“I don’t think it has quite sunk in yet,” said Davids, who rode in the colours of Swiss Cycles. “It’s a little bit unexpected, to be quite honest. I came up to Joburg yesterday, and I didn’t really have great expectations. I’ve been concentrating on the mountain bike mainly, but I felt this race kind of suits me with the power climbs.”
Davids got into the significant break of the day, riding away with four others up Jan Smuts Avenue. He and the young Van Heerden and Van Niekerk managed to avoid a crash in the dip on Jan Smuts near Zoo Lake that took down six riders, including Brad Potgieter of Team Roadcover.
“We came across Nelson Mandela Bridge and there was a small break over there,” said Davids. “I saw Eddie van Heerden just up the road. I just took a dig, there was a bit of a crosswind and I managed to get a gutter going that made the others suffer. I managed to get across to them going past Rosebank. The bunch sat at 50 seconds for a while, then before we knew it we had a gap of two minutes.”
Davids, being a staunch KwaZulu-Natal man, admitted he knew little about the route and relied on advice from a close friend. With just 15km left to go, he put pressure on the others and made the break smaller.
“The group splintered and there were just the three of us left, myself, Morne and Eddie. The cat and mouse games started as we entered Steyn City. This being my first Cycle Challenge, I had no idea what to expect. When we came down the descent of Steyn City, I lost about 10 bike lengths. I didn’t know where we were going, what we were doing. I took a dig near the end and came over the top of Eddie for the win.
“I have always seen myself moving to the road in the future. It’s happening a lot quicker now than I thought it would. I expected to get to certain goals on the mountain bike and then move across to the road. The time is right now. I’m getting on now, the window of opportunity is closing, so I think it is time to bite the bullet and go for it now. Next year I will mainly be riding locally, with some international stints in Europe. Then I hope to be moving across to the world tour in a couple of years’ time.”
Riding in Europe is the aim of Van Heerden and Van Niekerk, with the latter having signed for a team in Spain for next season. Van Heerden has signed for Roadcover for 2017, a team he hopes to hone his career with. His first elite race was in May, having been a duathlete before that. After having some injuries last year, he decided to try cycling and loved it.
“I like undulating courses, more hilly courses. I’m definitely not a sprinter, as you saw today,” smiled Van Heerden. “I’m hoping to go overseas for three months and to learn from Nic White. He has taught me so much already.”
White won the first Cycle Challenge 20 years ago, and then again in 2010, his last race as a professional. He will be smiling that the race is producing South African stars of the future.