By Bardy the Action Scribe

Rising South African star Jay Thomson showed a superb display of ‘big match temperament’ on Tuesday when he won Stage 1 and claimed the race leader’s Yellow Jersey at the Tour d’Egypte.

The 21-year-old Thomson was asked to take on the role of team leader for the seven-day 900km event after his MTN Energade team captain, Nicholas White, the current leader of the UCI Africa Tour, remained in South Africa following the death of his father last Friday.

Thomson came agonisingly close to claiming the race lead in Monday’s tour-opening 8km prologue individual time trial when he finished just hundredths of a second slower than Kazak stage winner, Pavel Nevdakh (Team Brissaaspor).

On Tuesday’s first road stage, an out-and-back 135km leg between Noweiba and Taba, Thomson was the rider that created the race-winning move when he rode across to a nine-rider break – which contained his teammate Kevin Evans – and attacked the small pack as soon as he’d bridged.

“Kevin and a strong rider from the Syrian national team came with me and we managed to stay clear of the peloton for the last 25km,” explained an elated Thomson. “As we turned with a tailwind with 1.5km to go I attacked and stayed out front to the line.”

Thomson says that it wasn’t in the team’s plans to get the race lead this early on as there are still five days of racing with three hilly stages over the next three days.

“We couldn’t let today’s opportunities pass us by and now we have Yellow. It puts all the pressure on us now but we have a strong team here that I believe can defend the Jersey. We have to just be clever because we only have five riders and all the other teams have six.”

White, the Egypt-bound team’s only stage-race specialist wasn’t replaced due to the limited time available to obtain a visa, so the MTN Energade squad started the 2.2-graded tour one rider short.  

Evans completed a strong podium presence for MTN Energade on Tuesday by collecting third place on the stage, a result that moved the South African marathon mountain bike champion up to third on the General Classification. The team’s designated sprinter, Juan van Heerden, won the bunch sprint for fourth place.

Wednesday’s Stage 2 is a 140km out-and-back leg between Noweiba and the St. Catherine Monastery at the foot of Mount Moses.

2008 Tour d’Egypte
Leading results
Stage 1, 135km Noweiba–Taba– Noweiba
1 Jay Thomson (MTN Energade – South Africa) 03hrs47min25sec
2 Omar Hasanin (Syria) @ 23sec
3 Kevin Evans (MTN Energade – South Africa) same time
4 Juan van Heerden (MTN Energade – South Africa) @ 1:15
5 Fadi Khanshikhoni (Syria) same time

General Classification after Stage 1
1 Jay Thomson (MTN Energade – South Africa) 03hrs58min23sec
2 Omar Hasanin (Syria) @ 26sec
3 Kevin Evans (MTN Energade – South Africa) @ 35
4 Aymen Ben Hassine (Tunisia) @ 1:24
5 Rafaa Chtioui (Tunisia) @ 1:32

Team General Classification after Stage 1
1 MTN Energade – South Africa 11hrs23min53sec
2 Tunisia @ 2:53
3 United Arab Emirates @ 3:27