Matt Beers and Tim Hammond of Spot Africa Ryder Red E held off a late challenge from Team Bianchi to take overall victory at the 14th edition of the Trans Baviaans Mountain Bike Race which finished in Jefferys Bay this weekend.
The 230 kilometre non-stop race from Willowmore in the Karoo to Jeffreys Bay on the East Cape Coast took 486 four, three and two person teams through the remote, rugged wilderness area of the Baviaankloof Mega Reserve.
The initial phase of the race saw the main category contenders take a conservative approach as they cruised down the Nuwekloof Pass and through the Baviaanssluetel, the gateway to the World Heritage Site.
The severe drought in the region has lead to extensive corrugations on the district dirt road which made for an uncomfortable ride for those who had chosen to tackle the face on hardtail bikes. Allied to those conditions was a stiff head wind for much of the race which deterred many teams from being aggressive.
The action up front started after the first of six compulsory check points at Geelhoutsbos.
The Ultimate Cycling Knysna Mixed team of Yolande de Villiers and Neill Ungerer and the Bianchi team of Gert Fouche, Hansie Joubert and Jaco Ferreira checked in and out and then opened up a small gap as they headed up the first big climb, Baviaans Back.
Beers, riding his first Trans Baviaans and Hammond,the course record holder and two time winner, lost around 2 minutes as they replenished their bottles.
In a race as long as the Trans Bavianns, regular nutrition and food intake is critical to success.
The Western Cape based pair soon caught the lead group and when they reached the Fangs climb put in a meaningful attack.
“I know it was a long way out but I looked at the climb and said ‘cool, lets have a go here’ and it paid off, only just though!” said the laid back Beers.
The gap grew steadily as they took on the biggest climb, the 12 kilometres long Mother of All Climbs or MAC at 128 kilometres.
At the third check point at Bergplaas they had four minutes in hand over the chase group which included the top mixed pair of Yolande de Villiers and Neill Ungerer of Ultimate Cycling Knysna and the Madmacs team of Etnard Louw and Charlie Mcfall
However the early pace and Beers’ exceptional climbing form saw Hammond begin to take strain as they ground out the kilometres on the aptly named Neverender inside the last quarter of the race.
Three teams strong with the addition of the Bianchi trio of Gert Fouche, Hansie Joubert and Jaco Ferreira, the chase group sensed an opportunity and closed the gap to around 70 seconds in the last 20 kilometres.
Hammond hit the wall and Beers nursed his Botswana partner through what many veterans of the race believe is the hardest part as they chased the sunset.
Showing huge determination they dug deep to stay ahead until the threat from behind faded.
“Matt was incredibly strong all day and just had to hang into his wheel for all I was worth! I suffered badly. Matt is a great partner.”
Hammond and Beers crossed the finish line at the Fountains Mall in Jefferys Bay after 8 hours 46 minutes and 16 seconds.
Bianchi finished strongly four and a half minutes back in second place and the Madmacs,Mcfall and Louw were third
Yolande De Villiers and Neill Ungerer were fourth overall and the leading mixed team, finishing an hour and 26 minutes clear of second placed Christo Roos and Tanya Kirstein of Enduroplanet, with former top pro Ischen Stopforth completing her 10th race,finishing third with husband Peter.
Defending champion Theresa Ralph teamed up with cross country rider and Trans Baviaans novice Sarah Hill as Team Galileo Risk to take victory in the Womens team race ahead of Team Flugon of Natasha Viviers, Janine Muller and Mari du Toit.
Anna Rosa le Roux and Chelna Neethling were third.
All told 371 teams completed the Trans Baviaan Race within the stipulated 24-hour time limit,including five teams riding single speed hardtail bikes.
The mixed team of Estian Stander Diederich Kruyt and Lere were the last official finishers in 22 hours 53minutes and 33 seconds.
A second, identical event, The Trans Baviaans Repeat,takes place this weekend when a full field of 458 teams will assemble in Willowmore for Saturdays 10am start.
Entries for the 2018 Trans Baviaans will open on 1st December.
For further details go to www.transbaviaans.co.za.