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Double defending champion Kim le Court, of Mauritius, completed a hattrick of Cape Town Cycle Tour wins on Sunday, 12 March. The Efficient Infiniti Insure rider had to work harder for her fourth title than any of the others, though, after Candice Lill broke up a select group who had entered the finale together with an audacious attack in the final kilometre. Le Court and her fellow sprinters reeled Lill in before the winner outsprinted Vera Looser, Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio, Hayley Preen, and Cherise Willeit to take the 2023 title.
Since 2018 the elite women have enjoyed their own start group and a race free of interference from the age group men. Starting in Fish Hoek, they complete 79 kilometres of the classic Cape Town Cycle Tour route, including the ascents of Smitswinkel, Chapmans Peak Drive, and Suikerbossie. A blustery South Easter affected the racing, which led to a bigger group staying together deeper into the race and regroupings later in the piece.
“The wind, especially in the beginning, going towards Simons Town slowed the pace a bit,” Lill explained. “But once it gets into the rolling terrain, it was full gas!”
As Lill pointed out, a block headwind on Smitswinkel allowed a larger group than usual to get over the first ascent in contact with the leaders. Catherine Colyn, riding for Moolman-Pasio’s Rocacorba Collective, did the bulk of the pace making but in the wheels behind her, riders were able to get swept along up the climb. On the descent to Scarborough, Emma Pallant-Browne and various riders from the Reach for Rainbows and Custom Cycling teams tried their luck, but nobody was able to establish a significant gap.
By the foot of Chapmans Peak Drive, 40 women remained in contention. Moolman-Pasio shred the field into splintered groups on the famous climb. The 2012 winner was joined by Lill, Le Court, Preen, Willeit, and Pallant-Browne over the summit. The descent, which is a sweeping drag initially before steepening into Hout Bay, allowed S’aanara Grove, Looser, Melissa Kretzinger, Tiffany Keep, Jo van de Winkel, and a handful of others to make it back to the leaders before Suikerbossie kicked uphill once more.
On Suikerbossie Moolman-Pasio attacked again, this time, only Preen, Lill, and Le Court could follow. Pallant-Browne was the best of the rest over the summit, 10 seconds behind the group. The British triathlete Grove, Willeit, and Van de Winkel then fought their way back to parity before the race reached Bakhoven. In Camps Bay, the group swelled once more, with Keep and two of Grove’s Rennen Racing teammates also making contact. This set the women up for a likely sprint finish.
“This race is always good fun and games,” Lill smiled at the finish line. “I always find it’s very difficult to stay away after Suikerbossie, though. We had a good group going over there of four riders. But then the other women started to catch us, and it became a bit hectic towards the end. I tried a bit of a flier because I know I’m not much good in a sprint. So I’m proud of that move, even if it didn’t pay off.”
Lill’s kick forced her rivals to open up their sprints earlier than they would have liked. “It was a bit tense, to be honest,” Le Court reflected. “With most of the sprinters back in the bunch, I was pretty nervous going into the finale. Then Candice [Lill] did a flier from the back, which was really a good move. We struggled to bring her back, and as I did, I thought it was too early to start the sprint. But everyone else was sprinting too, and I just opened it up, and no one came past. I could see a wheel looming up on my left… I know it was Vera [Looser] now. But I just hang on. And I’m really glad I could hang on to the end!”
Le Court’s victory is her fourth in the Cape Town Cycle Tour, moving her to joint four alongside Anke Erlank on the all-time standings. The 2023 women’s winning time was 2 hours, 13 minutes, and 20 seconds. The top five were all awarded at the same time, with Looser placing second ahead of Moolman-Pasio, Preen, and Willeit.