The Masters World Road championships were held on a hilly course outside Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. A vertical mile of climbing was spread out over three significant ascents on the lollipop shaped, never-flat 96k route. Race day arrived with unseasonably hot temperatures in the 90s and 20mph wind scouring the course.
A strong contingent of NorCal riders sought the Rainbow Jersey: Cale Reeder of Echelon (M45-49), Alex Osborne of Thirsty Bear-Iron Data (M50-54), Rob Anderson of Specialized Masters Racing (M55-59), Kathryn Curi Mattis of Vanderkitten-Focus (W35-39) and Molly Van Houweling of Metromint Cycling (W35-39).
As happened with nearly every race on the day, the Mens 45-49 age group was marked by a selection on the second significant climb on the course, a 9k cross-winded slog to Wartburg. Reeder joined a group of five, led by South African hardman Andrew McLean, which went clear on this decisive section of the course. Italian Giovanni Lattanzi left his four companions behind near Wartburg and developed a gap of over one minute. But misfortune struck when Lattanzi made a wrong turn on the course, lost his advantage, and was forced to rejoin his pursuers leading into the third and final climb. Reeder found himself unable to sustain the pace as he cramped going up this 3k rise, and watched as all but one of his break-mates stretched out a measurable gap. However, coming down the long descent Reeder regained this group to contest the sprint back in Alexandra Park, ending up in 4th place a few feet short of a Bronze medal. The Rainbow Jersey went to Gregoire Balland of France, the second Silver in as many races to Andrew McLean, and the Bronze to Vitor Lourenco of Portugal.
The Mens 50-54 contest did not follow the same pattern. A larger selection remained together until the descent down the 9k hill that was a decisive climb in the other races. On this fast but cross-winded downhill a small group developed a gap with Alex Osborne the last to make it across. This group stayed together to the finish, where a strong
close on his wheel in second position. The Bronze went to James Gibson of Australia.
The animator in the Mens 55-59 was Rob Anderson. After a few probing attacks, he hit the front on the long climb into Wartburg, created a selection of 5, which dwindled first to 3, and then to 2. Anderson was now teamed up with South African Paul Furbank. The pair quickly stretched their gap and it became clear that one would win the Rainbow Jersey. Hitting the final climb into Pietermarizburg, a tiring Furbank commented to Anderson This is a very long way for two riders. Anderson attacked forthwith. His maximum effort was just enough as he slowly eked out the meters on his South African pursuer. By the time Anderson crossed the line with his arms raised high, he had a gap of more than two minutes over Silver Medalist Furbank, and over 10 minutes over Bronze Medalist Johan Spies of South Africa.
The Womens race combined 4 separately picked age groups, Under 30, 30-34, 34-39, and 40-44. It rolled gently up the first hill out of PMB and the real action did not begin until the 9k climb to Wartburg. At this point, Lynette Burger (30-34), a South African standout and current African Continental Road Race Champion, took the front and the gutter. She pushed hard up the climb with NorCals Van Houweling and Mattis enjoying a limited draft on the debris covered shoulder. At the top in Wartbug only 5 women remained. Burger (30-34) and Annette Loubser of South Africa (40-44) were the lone representatives of their age groups. Cashandra Slingerland joined Mattis and Van Houweling in making up the 35-39 age group. The course flattened a little and the group began a well-functioning echelon that stretched almost perpendicularly across the tarmac.
Before the race Van Houwelings coach, Dave Jordaan, who went to college in PMB, told her the road course was her kind of hard. She proved this on the next stretch, which was 3 miles of a false flat on very heavy chip seal. This same section of road had played a key role in Van Houwelings TT victory earlier in the week and she knew it was her chance. So she moved over to one side and accelerated. Only Burger joined her as a passenger. Mattis jumped away from the remaining riders and nearly completed a hard bridge to the two up front. Most of the workload was shouldered by Van Houweling, who had a strong incentive to drive the pace with a South African pursuer from her age group close behind.
A fresher and stronger Berger crossed the line first with Van Houweling on her wheel, and with both gaining Rainbow Jerseys. Mattis secured a silver medal after a long, mostly solo effort in the brutal conditions. Slingerland added a Bronze to the Silver she had won in the TT. Even Mattis, a veteran of the Womens professional peloton, a former U.S. Elite Road Race Champion, and one of only four American women to win a UCI World Cup race, scored this UWCT Final as one of her more testing days on the bike.
Nor Cal Medal Count
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