The Saffers are back, and this time it's in the lowveld region with a five stage four day race in and around Graskop, Mpumalanga. Long time to go, but flip it, I'm online now and may not be then.
Last year was a battle between the seasoned class of Darren Lill, Qhubeka stage racer Dennis van Niekerk and an upstart in his first year in the senior ranks, Louis Meintjes. The outcome though was far less obvious at the start of last year's race with van Nieker, Lill and Meintjes conceding six minutes to the winner of the first stage, and Darren's teammate, Gawie Combrink. A recovery ensued in the following 156km stage and then the Time trial was the decisive factor as Louis Meintjes finished 40 seconds ahead of Lill to take the lead and hold on to victory on the final day. Will 2012 see as bright a potential star be born again?
The stages are long, some above 150km and shall sort out any sprinters who don't have the length.GC
|3||11||Dennis van Niekerk||00:26.0|
|5||17||Jacques Janse van Rensburg||14:35.6|
|9||18||Reinhardt Janse van Rensburg||31:20.2|
Some spanking talent in that top 10.
Where's the travel you ask?
Why of course, it's around Graskop itself.
The Graskop Gorge
Yes, those are building, and no, I've got no clue as to what they're doing there.
The horseshoe falls
The Mac Mac Falls not 20km from Graskop
The Pilgrim's rest (with a bit of a background story as it merits one)
The history of this small delightful village dates back to 1873 when a miner, Alex Patterson, discovered alluvial gold on the farm named Ponieskrantz.
He had left the Mac-Mac area to search for a place that was less congested.
Though the discovery was kept as a secret, the inevitable happened when a second prospector William Trafford also discovered gold close by.
What they had found in this beautiful valley drew optimistic gold panners and prospectors from all over the country and the World (news of gold strikes of this magnitude travel fast !).
On 22nd September 1873 Pilgrim's Rest was officially proclaimed a gold field and the scatter of tents and rudimentary shacks soon grew into a flourishing little village complete with sturdy brick houses, church, shops, canteens, a newspaper and the well-known Royal Hotel.
The diggers called it Pilgrim's Rest because here, at last, after so many false trails and faded dreams they had truly found their home.
In due course the alluvial deposits were depleted and the locals turned to forestry, but their village, whose residents still number in the hundreds, has been painstakingly preserved as a "living museum" and major South African tourist venue. http://www.pilgrimsrest.org.za/
I gain even more respect for the South Africans, bars and pubs be listed ahead of arts and crafts. Good folk, but to temper it a bit, it's below restaurants. It's them boerewors sausage, it's them that corrupted the minds.
A litany of images can be found elsewhere.
And there's the defending champion
Toyota lotto and CSA have something going on, Moolman and now Meintjes? Not the worst signings by any stretch. (not the same Toyota team)
Why the stages. I forgot about them-
No TT profile as yet, but it should be a bit hilly
Elite Men's and U23 profilesStage 1
So then, now to wait for the teams and lists.
Could well see Tasol doing a good job here considering Bonitas are now in Europe and Qhubeka will be heading off there too.