TufoBMC rider, Chris Jooste put on a clinic on how to manage a breakaway on Sunday, March 12th to win the Cape Town Cycle Tour in a time of 02:36:14. Jooste outlasted Andries Nigrini (TEG), Jaedon Terlouw (Honeycomb) and Daniel Loubser (Cycling Friends) in a thrilling sprint finish to claim the coveted title. The four had been together for over 50kms and Jooste’s experience was evident throughout.
Although it is typical for the lesser-known riders to try to gain attention by launching early attacks (as happened on the day), it is uncommon for a breakaway to actually succeed in staying ahead of the pack. However, we analysed five factors that contributed to the breakaway’s success.
1. The makeup of the breakaway
The weather (early) on the day was ideal for racing. After some rain the previous day, it was partly cloudy and cool, with a light southeasterly wind. The mint conditions made for a few early attacks (characteristic of the Cape Town Cycle Tour, as we mentioned), but all the major teams worked to bring it all back together. However, up the deceptively tough Smitswinkel climb, five riders broke away and established a lead that proved insurmountable.
2. The makeup of the breakaway
The composition of the breakaway was favourable as most of the big teams, (with the notable exception of multiple-winner Nolan Hoffman’s Aluwani), had representation. Consequently, the chasing group didn’t immediately start a serious pursuit. The breakaway consisted of Nick James (DMS), Chris Jooste (TufoBMC), Jaedon Terlouw (Honeycomb), Andries Nigrini (TEG), and Daniel Loubser. Moreover, the group was a perfect mix of powerful, youthful, and daring riders, combined with the experience of the ultimate victor, Chris Jooste. “It was all about keeping the composition right so that the big-hitter teams wouldn’t chase too hard up Smitswinkel,” explained Dan Loubser who put in big efforts up the climbs all day.”
3. They got away fairly early
The five-man break formed just before Smitswinkel, less than halfway into the 109km coastal route around the Cape Peninsula. This meant that most punters would never have given them a chance. Indeed, when interviewed after the race TEG’s Nigrini conceded that he was initially rather weary of even going with the break, thinking that it might be a pointless pursuit.
“Chances of a break were super small and then Dan just went when I got into the group I immediately realised it’s a strong group, but I was hesitant to commit to the breakaway because I knew our team’s plans and also the other teams’ plans, the break always gets brought back by the bunch, so I was 50/50,” he said.
4. They ‘believed’ and did the work
While the breakaway did not always seem to work together in a consistent fashion, especially not early on, Jooste and Loubser worked tirelessly to forge an allegiance, with Jooste’s experience proving crucial in the end.
“I guess the real belief that we might stay away came when we rode into the headwind and continued at a super-fast pace,” said eventual winner Jooste. “We went up Chappies at the same pace as the bunch did the previous year and then I knew.”
In addition to Jooste’s experience, Loubser’s local knowledge of the course proved invaluable to their fellow breakaway riders. Loubser was able to read the ever-changing conditions and offer crucial insights. He helped guide the five by sharing vital information about wind patterns and optimal feeding locations to help them maintain their lead.
The five stayed together until Hout Bay, when Nick James (DMS) dropped back. “That’s when the realisation kicked in that we were going to go to the finish and a podium was a potential,” said Andries Nigrini (TEG) who finished second behind Jooste.
5. The chase started way too late
The chasing bunch finally got organised up Chapman’s Peak, driven by DMS. They were closely watched by the team of Honeycomb who were represented by Terlouw up front. In Honeycomb’s ranks was defending champion Marc Pritzen (although riding in the colours of his team Team EF Education-NIPPO Development).
The bunch very nearly caught the break in the final kilometre but ultimately left it too late. Ironically it was the chasing bunch that caused Terlouw to perhaps open the sprint too soon.
“I kicked a bit too early,” commented third-placed Terlouw, explaining how he saw the main bunch coming back. “I got a bit nervous there and went out as hard as I could but couldn’t hold out. That was my first time in a breakaway and I learned a lot,” he said.
Well there you have it, not many would’ve put money on a break staying away, but as with so many of these things, now that it has happened the racing dynamic is bound to be very different come 2024!