Todays stage was always the original race of the festival and having ridden the race a few times in the past I knew what to expect. The route consisted of only gravel roads, going out through Calitzdorp, around the back of the Red Hills and along the foothills of the Swartberg Mountains. However it would only have 800m of ascent compared to the 2000m from yesterday’s stage.
After about 10km, Mathys attacked with another rider from the Daikin team. The bunch let them go and this would be good for Dave and I to be able to sit in a bit. When we hit the climbs, Erik Kleinhans (GT), Moolman Welgemoed (Daikin) and a few fresh riders only riding today’s stage split the group up until we were about 7 riders. At this stage, about 50km in to the race, Mathys still had about 90seconds on us and had left the other rider behind. The small group worked well together, everyone rolling through, but with no more climbs, the last 40km was extremely fast.
Mathys hang on until 10km to go, great effort from him and as he was brought back, it was myself that attacked first. The guys brought me back and Dave went. They brought him back and I went again, and again, and again! Every time they came back as Moolman had good legs and two other riders hadn’t raced the previous stage.
The average speed for this final 10km was in excess of 41km/hr, quick on the gravel roads. Going into the final corner, Moolman jumped and I stuck on his wheel but with the “Talisman” finish ramp up to the line there was no place to pass and he took the stage, and his first win on a mountain bike. Erik Kleinhans took third.
Tomorrow’s final stage is the 40km individual TT and hope we can get the legs rested and recovered in time for that!