Nedbank Sani2c, Underberg-Scottborough
Hard to believe that this year would already be the tenth running of what has become the biggest stage race in the country. Its not easy to get an entry into this event and I would be fortunate to be racing my 8th one.
Over the years I’ve seen many different tactics play out in the race, but riding with Max, and knowing that our build up over the last month has been progressive, I sensed we had a slight advantage over the rest of the teams. We used this that to really take the racing to the teams form the start, as we set a hard tempo on the first stage, where only team RECM were able to ride across to us, where we would have a sprint finish up the hill to Mackensie Club and take the first stage with a handful of seconds.
Stage two is the ‘holy grail’ of mountain biking in this country, with 30km of technical descending down into the mighty Umkomaas valley. With the Adventure and Trail race starting two days before us, and about three thousand wheels riding the trails in, it would be a super fast downhill. Our plan for the day was to get through the first half safe, trouble free, and then race the next half out the valley as the climbing would suit us.
Unfortuntaley I had a bad crash at the bottom of the Umko when Andrew Hill washed out on one of the wooden bridges, leaving me with nowhere to go except over him and over my bars. I landed hard on my shoulder and thankfully the reinforced plate kept me in one piece.
We continued to follow our plan, and we powered out the valley getting the gap we needed. We soon caught and passed the two cross country teams who were out front, but with 10km to go, team RECM had pulled back our gap to 20seconds.
Max and I pushed on, and in the last 3km, Erik Kleinhans had a bad crash, which ended their race.
With only the final stage to the beach, all we had to do was follow the GC contenders and get to the finish safe with no hassles. I had been in this situation before, and a costly mistake cost us the win. This time, we stuck to the plan, and rode safely onto the beach, super happy to take our first stage win together, racking up my sixth win in the event, and Max’s third. The Treks were perfect; in fact, Trek bikes won every stage of the elite race. As usual USN kept us fueled, and our KIA’s got our staff around and to the water points with no hassles.
It was a bittersweet end to the race for our fantastic sponsors, FedGroup-ITEC, as Neil Macdonald announced his retirement from professional racing after 15years. Bridgette had the privilege of riding along side him in his last race.
Thanks again to our sponsors who continue to support us and give us all the opportunities to perform to the best of our abilities.
Next race, race, Max and I head off to continue the MTN Ultra series in Rooiberg. Hopefully some time at altitude will lessen the suffering, somewhat.
Till then, cheers.
1st FedGroup-ITEC (Evans/Knox) 8hrs57
2nd EAI Cycling (Rabie/Combrinck) 9hrs01
3rd Kargo (Croeser/Walker) 9hrs05