Johannesburg - Neil MacDonald and Brandon Stewart claimed their second stage win, and with it the overall lead, on day five of the nine-day Old Mutual joBerg2c mountain bike race on Tuesday.
The FedGroup-Itec duo turned up the heat on the 98km stage from Winterton to Kamberg in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, which featured a total ascent of more than 1 500m.
With only RE:CM’s Waylon Woolcock and Lourens Luus able to keep pace on the final climbs, the stage looked set for a ferocious dogfight between the two teams until the overnight leaders suffered a technical setback with six kilometres to go.
This gave MacDonald and Stewart an uncontested stage victory in three hours, 30 minutes, 50 seconds (3:30:50), with Woolcock and Luus crossing the line a minute later.
Bridge riders Nico Pfitzenmaier and Timo Cooper rounded out the top three in 3:35:59.
The win saw MacDonald and Stewart reclaim the overall lead with an aggregate time of 20:41:11, a mere 34 seconds clear of Woolcock and Luus.
Charles Keey and Darren Lill of Cannondale-Blend remained third overall, six minutes further back.
“I think Waylon and Lourens were just super unlucky today with the chain break because they were really strong," MacDonald said.
"It’s still really, really close; just a couple of seconds in it.”
In the women’s race, Burry Stander Foundation riders Cherise Stander and Lise Olivier took the stage in 4:03:44.
They were followed home by Ischen Stopforth and Yolande de Villiers in 4:05:46, with overnight leaders Yolandi du Toit and Nicci Grobler of USN-bizhub third in 4:16:14.
Stopforth and De Villiers regained the top spot overall with a total time 23:05:46.
Du Toit and Grobler slipped into second (23:09:52), with Stander and Olivier rounding out the podium (23:15:43).