Late entrants Erik Kleinhans and Matt Beers were rewarded for their spontaneity when they won the opening stage of the 2016 Cape Pioneer Trek international mountain bike stage race in Mossel Bay, South Africa on Sunday.
Competing as Team Full Sus/Topeak Ergon/Red-E, the South African pair sped around the scenic oceanside 13km prologue stage in 28 minutes 31 seconds to secure themselves the first leader’s jersey of the event, which finishes on Saturday in Oudtshoorn after more than 500km of racing.
Next fastest was the Estonian pairing of Peeter Pruus and Peeter Tarvis (KOMO/RMW) who finished in 29:33 with 2012 winners, Gawie Combrinck and Nico Bell (Team NAD) rounding out the top three in 29:38. The hopes of stage favourites, James Reid and Julian Jessop (Team Spur) were scuppered when Jessop punctured. They didn’t lose too much time though and finished fourth with the Dutch duo of Jeroen Boelen and Erik Groen (Stappenbelt Specialized) rounding out the top five.
“We expected to be up there, but we weren’t sure of the Estonians and obviously we knew James (Reid) and Julian (Jessop) would be quick on this course. So it’s not too much of a surprise to have won, we are very happy and we have a reasonable lead, which a bonus,” said Kleinhans.
“But I really only led for the first 500 metres and the rest of the time I just sat on Matt’s wheel. He was super powerful today and this course had a lot of short, punchy climbs, which suits power riders. We won’t be aggressive tomorrow, but will be involved and grab any opportunities if they present themselves,” added Kleinhans, a former two-time overall winner of the race.
The OMX Pro team of Cherie Redeker and Mariske Strauss secured a comfortable stage win in the women’s category. As XCO specialists, the short, fairly technical stage, dubbed #PointPursuit, obviously suited the South Africans and they clocked an impressive time of 35:02.
There was an exciting battle for the minor stage positions with Britain’s Catherine Williamson and South Africa’s Leana de Jager (Klein Karoo Ladies) clocking 39:22 to take second place. They were just six seconds faster than Yolandi du Toit and her Mauritian teammate, Aurelie Halbwachs (Team Garmin) in third.
“It was a good day. We paced it well, taking it easy in the beginning. We tried to focus on having fun because there’s still a long way to go,” smiled Redeker.
In the Mixed division, Neill Ungerer and Yolande de Villiers (Ulitmate Cycling) clocked the fastest time of 35:11 to give them a confidence-boosting early lead over defending champions, Kobus and Fiene Barnard (Klein Karoo Mixed), who were 1:40 back. The German duo of Gwenda Ruesing and Jens Schoenhofen (ToMotion Racing by Black Tusk) were third.
There was a tight tussle for the stage win the Veteran Men’s category. Iniel Hattingh and Vickus Boschoff (Klein Karoo Ko Op) clocked a time 34:04, which was just four seconds quicker than that set by Fanie Venter and Igna de Villiers (LGE Midas BusinessPrint). The final podium spot went to Wim Tollenaere and Hans Planckaert (De Fietser Rotwild Zaes) of Belgium, a further minute back.
Izak Visable and Linus van Onselen (Anderson Masters) secured a dominant victory in the Master’s race. They clocked a snappy 36:35 to put them 2:46 ahead of Belgians Daniel Evrard and Joseph Kerkhofs (Team Joven) with the Italian pairing of Roberto Gallo and Niccolo Violati (Pitstop) taking third place.
In the Solo men’s race, South African Brandon Stewart secured the stage win in 31:21, with Jiri Krivanek of the Czech Republic and Franco Pelser taking second and third respectively both within less than a minute of Stewart. Nicky Gilliomee (RSA) claimed the win the Solo women’s race, ahead of German Sabine Stampf and Norwegian Marianne Bergli, who were second and third respectively.
Monday’s Stage 1, dubbed #GondwanaGlory, is a 95km leg that starts and finishes in Mossel Bay. It will take the riders along the coast above Diaz Beach to start and finish at Milkwood Primary School but the rest of the route heads inland through the Gondwana Private Nature Reserve, home to Africa’s Big Five. There’s a total of 1 700 metres of ascent, which should make for a challenging day.