Johannesburg - The seventh day of the Old Mutual joBerg2c mountain bike race proved to be the lucky number for Louis-Bresler Knipe and Kevin van Hoovels when they clinched their second stage win on Thursday.
The Contego team, who are cross-country specialists, came to the fore on a fast and technical 78km stage from Hazeldene farm near Underberg to MacKenzie Club in the vicinity of Ixopo in KwaZulu-Natal.
Belgian Van Hoovels, who had been battling illness since their win on day four, recovered well to drive the racing upfront from the start on an undulating stretch of district road.
"I kept the pace high because I don’t like the fast-slow-fast riding; it hurts my legs," Van Hoovels said.
"I’m not 100 percent yet, but [I was] good enough for the win today."
They outsprinted race leaders Brandon Stewart and Neil MacDonald to take a four-second victory in two hours, 59.15 minutes (2:59:15), with Waylon Woolcock and Lourens Luus a further second off the pace.
The overall podium remains unchanged, with Stewart and MacDonald (27:01:30) still three-and-a-half minutes ahead of second-placed Woolcock and Luus (27:04:58), with Bridge riders Nico Pfitzenmaier and Timo Cooper in third (27:29:06).
Their stage win sees Contego move up five places to 13th in the general classification (29:16:43).
Knipe said his team-mate, who finished in the top 20 at the Olympic Games last year, had made it hard for everyone, including himself.
Coming out of the Oak Dual Track section 12km into the stage, the three leading teams hit the first big ascent of the day.
"It was a long drag of a climb and the pace was extremely high, it was maximum effort," Knipe said.
"Kevin was just sitting up front and making the pace hard. Lourens was having a hard time and so was Brandon.
"They both dropped off a bit on that climb and then I knew we had a chance at this because we’d had an easier day the day before."
The three teams gritted their teeth and rode together, with the Contego duo leading the way onto the floating bridge across the Mossbank Dam at the 30km mark.
Despite fatigue setting in, the leaders kept a flat-out pace and stayed together all the way, resulting in a three-team sprint on the short uphill climb to the finish.
Erik and Ariane Kleinhans put in another commanding performance to take their seventh straight stage win in the mixed category in 3:11:26 (28:44:29).
The Swiss pairing of Jane Nuessli and Yves Corminboeuf followed a distant second on the day in 3:17:14, with Antonia Wipfli and Patrick Jauch third in 3:19:58.
The Kleinhans duo now hold a more than 22-minute lead over runners-up Catherine Williamson and Jarryd Haley (29:06:51), while Wipfli and Jauch lie third on aggregate (29:31:21).
The two-time champions now lie seventh overall in the general classification.
Women’s category leaders Ischen Stopforth and Yolande de Villiers claimed their third stage win in 3:25:33.
This cements an almost 15-and-a-half minute advantage over second-placed Cherise Stander and Lise Olivier of the Burry Stander Foundation, who also finished second on the stage in 3:32:37 (30:49:55).
Yolandi du Toit and Nicci Grobler round out the podium in 3:41:41 (31:09:39).