ProTouch rider JC Nel made a flying start to the Bestmed Jock Tour when he took the honours in the stage one individual time-trial at Kaapsehoop outside Nelspruit, Mpumalanga, on Friday.

The 24-year-old Nel, from Honeydew in Johannesburg, edged top tour title contenders Nico Bell, who was second, and defending champion Willie Smit for the top place on the podium in perfect conditions.

Nel said he was “really happy” with the result, having targeted the yellow jersey on the opening day of one of South Africa’s most challenging road stage races, which is presented by Rudy Project.

“The idea going into the time-trial was to take the yellow jersey, but having the idea and actually doing it are sometimes two different things,” said Nel.

“It always creates a bit of pressure, but the conditions were perfect and it was a really fast time-trial. I think we were about three-and-a-half minutes quicker than last year.”

At one stage Nel wondered whether he had set out too fast, but added that recent training camps in Nelspruit when they had tested the 27km route, which is mostly uphill, had helped him.

“After about 20 to 25 minutes I wondered if I had not gone out too hard, but then I was nervous to slow down too much so I just kept going.

“I knew there was a hard climb with about seven to eight kilometres to go so I did not overdo it there and that allowed me to pick up the pace on the last stretch which was fairly flat.”

Having achieved his objective, Nel is looking forward to the rest of the race but knows there is much work to be done.

“I have a strong team with me, although the guys are young and do not have much experience. But what they do have is big hearts and real fighting spirit.

“We know we will have to work hard but we are ready for the next challenge.”

Saturday’s second stage, which starts and finishes in Nelspruit, is over 140km and the route, via White River and Sabie, includes climbs such as Spitskop and Long Tom Pass.

The traditional one-day Bestmed Jock Classique, which consists of three stages totalling 154km with 2 900m of climbing, takes place tomorrow alongside the feature event.

Stage one results

  1. JC Nel 55:02
  2. Nico Bell 55:08
  3. Willie Smit 55:15

General classification after stage one

  1. JC Nel 55:02
  2. Nico Bell 55:08
  3. Willie Smit 55:15