Bell, Combrinck win stage
Gawie Combrinck (Gallo Images)
Johannesburg - Overall leaders Kevin Evans and David George (Nedbank 360Life) safely saw off another stage of the seven-day Bridge Cape Pioneer Trek mountain bike stage race on Thursday, with another second place finish.
Only this time, they were second to Gawie Combrinck and Nico Bell who claimed their first stage win in an international stage race and moved to within striking distance of second place on the General Classification.
At 63km, Stage 4 was short on distance, but high on difficulty, taking the riders up and down very steep, rocky terrain through the Kamanassie Mountains between the Karoo towns of De Rust and Herold, with a total of 1894m of vertical ascent.
The battle for the women's title intensified as Yolande Speedy and Yolande de Villiers claimed their second successive stage victory and narrowed the lead held by Ischen Stopforth and Catherine Williamson from 12 minutes to just over five minutes with two stages remaining. Swiss pair Kathrin Stirnemann and Sandro Soncin won the stage and extended their lead in the Mixed category over early leaders Max Fridrich and Nadine Rieder from Germany, while Barti Bucher and Ernst Engeli secured a fifth consecutive stage win to increase their grip on the Master's division lead.
The Veteran's category saw Germany's Nico Pfitzenmaier and his South African team-mate, Robert Sim capture stage honours and open up their lead from less than a minute to a slightly more comfortable 19 minutes over the Dutch pair of Micha de Vries and Willem van Heerdt.
Pfitzenmaier and Sim have had to deal with mechanical challenges almost daily, but on Thursday were unhindered and secured an impressive third overall on the stage and moved into fifth in the overall rankings.
In the Solo men's race, Austrian Heinz Zoerweb had a storming stage to claim the victory well ahead of category leader, Timo Cooper, who still holds a substantial overall lead, while Diana Carolin captured another stage win and closed the gap to Solo women's category leader Desiree Loubser to just over three minutes.