The #swartbergshowdown lived up to its reputation today and was not without drama! The riders lined up this morning to depart Calitzdorp. With 20km of fast gravel road to start the stage, the front group stayed together until the action heated up on the first climbs. Still the group remained largely intact after it split on the jeep track sections and regrouped on the gravel roads. This meant that probably the biggest group in the event’s history hit the bottom of the Swartberg Pass intact.
Some 10 teams and a handful of solo riders arrived together at the foot of the beast and ultimately it was the solo rider Konny Looser who was the fastest man to the top, however the big prize is for the first team on top of the mountain… Asrin’s Hermann Persteiner was next up, but partner James Reid finished more than 2 minutes in arrears, so ultimately the prize was taken by the formidable Scott Factory Racing team. Scott will still need to accumulate 35 points and finish the whole race to secure the cash prize (points are accumulated at the end of each stage with 10 points being awarded for a stage win down to 10th place).
Unfortunately for Asrin, this means that they will probably acquire a penalty for being more than 2minutes apart (a rule of paired mountain bike stage racing), and this does not bode well for their GC aspirations.
Asrin’s James Reid had this to say about their day: “Today we tried our hardest to replicate what I was fortunate enough to manage last year. Herman was clearly feeling good and we decided he should go up the road early to give me an easy ride. He didn’t hold anything back, and showed everybody a clean pair of heels. Unfortunately, with 2km’s to go my lights went out and I exploded. I had absolutely nothing and the two Scott riders eased away with a lucrative stage. It’s racing, you win some and you lose some.”
Yellow jersey wearers, the Bulls, finished the day in 7th place. They conceded 4 minutes to Scott and this means that the GC race will see a shuffle up tonight. Following the commissaries’ rulings on the day’s events, the overall results will be published.
Hanco and I had a good day; we stayed with the lead group to the base of the big climb and settled into our own tempo when the attacks started. We finished 11th on the stage and may well move into the top 10 overnight. With another stage down, we look ahead to tomorrow’s stage #meiringsmagic. The 107km stage will take us from our overnight stay in Prins Albert to De Rust.