Local star Daryl Impey got South Africa’s 2018 road cycling campaign off to a spectacular start in Australia, paving the way for a promising season.
Taking the lead on the penultimate stage of the Tour Down Under, Impey went on to snatch victory in a hard-fought contest over Australian Richie Porte (BMC Racing) after taking the runner-up spot on three of the six legs in the opening race of the UCI World Tour series between January 16-21.
The two-time World Championships medallist, competing for Australian pro outfit Mitchelton-Scott, became the first African rider to win a race in the top-flight annual campaign.
“Wearing the yellow jersey at the Tour de France was a magical moment but this is very close to that,” a delighted Impey said afterwards.
“I worked really hard for this one.”
Impey continued his fine form by taking third place at the Great Ocean Road Race, and earlier this month he won his seventh time trial title and lifted his first road race crown in a solo charge at the national championships.
The Tour Down Under, meanwhile, was also a memorable contest for 22-year-old compatriot Nic Dlamini, riding for SA team Dimension Data, who won the mountains classification on his World Tour debut.
“I am delighted to win my first leaders jersey in my first World Tour race,” Dlamini said.
“I think I learned a lot in just one week of racing, so going forward I think I will still improve a lot. As a team, this was a great start to our season and I feel we will also just get better as the season progresses.”
Dlamini’s teammate, Dutch rider Tom Jelte-Slagter, finished third in the general classification, and the squad took second place overall in the team competition.
A week later, at the second leg of the World Tour, Impey again put up a fight, grabbing third spot behind Australian rider Jay McCarthy (Bora-Hansgrohe) at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race in Melbourne to build on his superb form in the early stages of the season.
The third leg of the World Tour series will be held in the UAE, with the Abu Dhabi Tour taking place between .