It’s a good thing for South African cycling that Reinardt Janse van Rensburg often failed to see eye to eye with his rugby union coaches when he played the game as a schoolboy.
Janse van Rensburg, 27, still loves rugby and follows the Springboks. But he has no regrets about giving up the game that in South Africa is akin to a religion and which he played in the position of flanker at the Hoërskool Waterkloof, a school steeped in rugby in his native Pretoria.
For cycling has been Janse van Rensburg’s calling ever since his father Anton, who took up the sport for “health reasons”, encouraged him to do the same at the age of 14 – to the point that he is now one of the Rainbow Nation’s leading professional riders.
“My dad started just for health reasons basically and got me involved and I started. I was really passionate about rugby when I was younger, but I fought too much with the coaches and started to do cycling and riding instead,” Janse van Rensburg told Cyclingnews before the start of Monday’s stage 6 of the Tour de Langkawi. Later in that drama-filled day, he would leapfrog Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) to take the race lead after the Colombian rode into a hole with six kilometres to go, broke his wheel, and lost 35 seconds.
Until then Lopez, 22, was in a strong position to win the tour, and Janse van Rensburg’s only chance was to use his sprint prowess over the Colombian to claw back time through bonuses in the daily intermediate sprints and sprint finishes. He was 23 seconds behind the Astana rider after losing 35 seconds on stage 4, but had hoped to be closer. A flat tyre two kilometres before the second intermediate sprint in Sunday’s fifth stage cost him a chance to win a time bonus.
“I had the overall in the back of my mind,” he says. “We didn’t know exactly how hard the climb [on stage 4] was going to be, but after I saw the profile from the previous years, then I reckoned I could survive that, and then the overall was always in the back of my mind. But you have to see after the climb where you are and see if it is still possible.”
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