The two UCI World Cycling Centre (WCC) Africa teams demonstrated their speed, skill and teamwork at the Trac N4 National U23 Tour, which ran from 21 to 24 March 2013 in Nelspruit, in South Africa’s Mpumalanga province. Till Drobisch (Namibia, MTN-Qhubeka WCC Feeder Team) won the tour, and his WCC teammates also did well, earning stage wins and various jerseys throughout the tour.
WCC Team Manager Andrew Smith explains that the WCC has two teams racing, the first in MTN-Qhubeka WCC Feeder Team kit and the second in WCC-Africa kit. “The two teams race each other and we use the race as selection for the upcoming Mzansi Tour,” he says.
Nic Dougall of the MTN-Qhubeka WCC Feeder Team took top honours at the first stage of the Trac N4 National U23 Tour in Nelspruit this week.
The first stage was 122km long. WCC athletes taking part were Nic Dougall (South Africa), JC Nel (South Africa), Alem Grmay (Ethiopia), Tedros Redae (Ethiopia), Costa Seibeb (Namibia), Mekseb Debesay (Eritrea) and Till Drobisch (Namibia).
“The teams raced aggressively almost from the start and were represented in each break-away group,” says Smith. “After an early escape by Costa Seibeb and Mekseb Debesay, numerous attacks split the peloton and joined the break-aways in front to form a group of about eight riders.”
Although Nic Dougall had initially missed this move, he managed to break clear from the remainder of the chasing peloton with Tedros Redae on his wheel. “Dougal then proceeded to solo across a gap in excess of 1min30sec to join the front of the race before attacking again 8km from the finish to solo to victory,” Smith says. “Dougall’s MTN-Qhubeka WCC teammates Alem Grmay and Till Drobisch neutralized numerous attacks from ASG and Europcar’s Willie Smit. Smit managed to take second on the stage and Calvin Beneke (WCC Africa) third.”
Smith notes he was proud and happy with both teams’ efforts, as they controlled and contributed to most of the day’s racing.
Alem Grmay took the KOM Jersey, while Dougall’s stage victory secured him the Yellow Jersey, as well as the Green Points Jersey.
“Nic Dougall’s performance yesterday was one of the most impressive I have seen in any form of racing,” says Smith. “It was a well deserved victory.”
Results for Stage 1:
1st: Nic Dougall (MTN-Qhubeka WCC Feeder Team)
2nd: Willie Smit (Europcar)
3rd: Calvin Beneke (WCC Africa)
Stage 2 of the Tour was 127km and was won by Till Drobisch of the MTN-Qhubeka WCC Feeder Team, while Calvin Beneke (WCC Africa Team) placed second and Mekseb Debesay came in third and Alem Grmay in fourth (both riders MTN-Qhubeka WCC Feeder Team).
Tesfom Okubamariam (WCC Africa) claimed KOM, while the Green Points Jersey and Yellow Leaders Jersey were both awarded to Beneke.
“Once again the teams were well represented in all the break-aways and this put pressure on BMC Westvaal, ASG and Europcar to pull back the break-away, putting our teams in a good position to attack,” says WCC Teams Manager Andrew Smith. “The riders from our two teams were dominant in the stage.”
He says that after an early break by Getachew Yohans (MTN-Qhubeka WCC Feeder Team), Nahom Desale (WCC Africa), Myles van Muschnbroeck (Tasol GT) and Shaun-Nick Bester (BMC Westvaal), the pace was set high by the peloton on the climb of Spitskop about halfway into the race.
“This put Nic Dougall (MTN-Qhubeka Feeder Team) under pressure and he eventually dropped off the back of the peloton as the effort from the previous stage proved too much. Fortunately we have depth in our team and Drobisch and Beneke were placed in ideal situations where the racing was up to the other teams to distance themselves from Dougall. Till went on to win the sprint from Beneke.”
Smith says he is thrilled that the team could pull off a second stage win and keep the jersey within the WCC teams.
Results for Stage 2:
1st: Till Drobisch (MTN-Qhubeka WCC Feeder Team)
2nd: Calvin Beneke (WCC Africa)
3rd: Mekseb Debesay (MTN-Qhubeka WCC Feeder Team)
On the final day of racing at the tour, Nic Dougall (MTN-Qhubeka WCC Feeder Team) and Calvin Beneke (WCC Africa) made it into the early break-away of six riders during the last stage.
WCC Teams Manager Andrew Smith notes that the other teams represented were Europcar with two riders, Team Smith & Associates and Westvaal BMC. “Dougall drove the break hard along with Beneke,” he says. “Dougall did so in order to place pressure on James Fourie (ASG) and his team to control the race. Beneke was taking his chances since he was only 2min14sec behind Fourie in the tour. The break eventually had a gap of 2min45sec by the bottom of the climb to Boulders.
“By this time Fourie had spent most of his teammates and was forced to attack the remainder of the peloton on the Boulders climb. However, the MTN-Qhubeka Feeder Team and WCC Africa riders, along with Willie Smit (Europcar) managed to distance themselves from Fourie. Fourie rode valiantly to try to defend his jersey by himself. A group of 10 riders eventually formed on the other side of Boulders, working together to the finish. This gave Till Drobisch (MTN-Qhubeka WCC Feeder Team) more than enough time to take the Yellow Jersey, whilst his teammate Mekseb Debesay won the stage.”
Smith says the whole team and staff reacted with absolute elation as the team was not leading the tour going into the last stage.
“The final stage was of the best, most unified team performances we have shown this year and the win would not have been possible otherwise,” says Smith. “We were under pressure and discussed the race plan the night before, and the team pulled off what we had planned perfectly.”
Results from the final stage:
1st: Till Drobisch (MTN-Qhubeka WCC Feeder Team)
2nd: Willie Smith (Europcar)
3rd: Calvin Beneke (WCC Africa Team)
4th: Tesfom Okubamariam (WCC Africa Team)
King of Mountains Tesfom Okubamariam (WCC Africa)
Green Points Jersey: Mekseb Bedesay (MTN-Qhubeka WCC Feeder Team)
Yellow Leaders Jersey: Till Drobisch (MTN-Qhubeka WCC Feeder Team)
About WCC Africa:
The World Cycling Centre Africa is the hub for cycling in Africa, based in the city of Potchefstroom, South Africa. It was established in 2005, and has welcomed more than 200 athletes to date, some of whom have won medals at African Continental Championships, taken part in UCI World Cups and participated in the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games. Many WCC trainees have moved into professional teams, such as Europcar, Orica Green Edge and Africa’s own Pro Continental Team, MTN-Qhubeka.