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2 minute read
20 Aug 2014
4:02 pm

Van Zyl back to spice up women’s road race

After a break of nearly four months, the Spar Women's Grand Prix series gets under way again on Sunday in Durban.

FILE PICTURE: Irvette van Zyl during the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon media conference at the Cullinan Hotel on March 29, 2013 in Cape Town, South Africa.Photo by Peter Heeger / Gallo Images

The race to the Grand Prix title — the overall points winner of the five-leg series — is hotting up with the return to form of Irvette van Zyl, twice winner of the series.

Lebo Phalula has a head start after winning the Cape Town and Port Elizabeth races. With bonus points for beating the previous years’ time in both races, she now has 60 points on the leaderboard – 26 ahead of her nearest rival, Mapaseka Makhanya.

Makhanya, who was last year’s Grand Prix winner, finished fifth in Cape Town and third in Port Elizabeth and has a total of 34 points. She is just two points ahead of three times Grand Prix winner, Rene Kalmer.

Kalmer finished eighth in Cape Town and second in Port Elizabeth. Two points behind her, with 30 points, is Nolene Conrad, who finished third in Cape Town and ninth in Port Elizabeth.

While Phalula may feel she has one hand on the key to the Nissan Micra which will be presented to the overall Grand Prix winner, she may be casting a nervous eye over her shoulder at Van Zyl, who has come storming back into contention after struggling with injuries for nearly two years.

Van Zyl won the Totalsports Women’s race in Stellenbosch earlier this month in 32.20 minutes — the third fastest 10km by a South African woman. Her time equalled that set up by 17-year old Zola Budd in Bloemfontein in 1983.

Having recently changed coaches, Van Zyl said her training programme, devised by Lindsey Parry, had brought her back to where she was before she was injured.

“For the first time in 15 months, I’m running pain free. Lindsey had me swimming and cycling during my rehab period, and this kept me fit. Now I’m faster than I was before my injury.

“I am feeling very good, and I am over the moon about my time in Stellenbosch. It came as a bit of a surprise — I’ve been preparing for the Cape Town Marathon in September and didn’t think I had the speed for a time like that.”

Phalula won the Port Elizabeth Challenge in 32.27, so there could be a great tussle for line honours in Durban between her and Van Zyl, while Makhanya and Kalmer could be expected to give them both a good run for their money.

“I think it’s going to be a very fast race,” said Van Zyl.

“Lebo, Mapaseka, Rene and I will all be giving it our all.”

– Sapa