Cape Town - It was a day all about South Africa on the joBerg2c’s last official race day.
South African MTB stars Philip Buys and Matthys Beukes sailed over the line to win Day 8, and claimed the event outright for the recently formed PYGA Euro Steel team.
In their first joBerg2c - the race across South Africa that shows you the best of the country's scenery and heart - Buys and Beukes were dominant from Day 4 of the nine day ride, winning the final five days.
Their winning machinery was proudly PYGA, and proudly South African. The team’s Day 8 time was 3:32:11, with an overall race time of 29:51:02.
Gawie Combrinck and Nico Bell (NAD Pro MTB) finished Day 8 in third and finished the event second overall with a total time of 30:11:40.
In the Mixed Category Darren and Candice Lill (dormakaba) enjoyed an utterly dominant joBerg2c, and ruled their category from start to finish. They finished day 8 with a time of 3:59:05 and an overall time of 32:16:43.
Grant Usher and Amy Beth McDougall (Lanham-Love Valencia) finished seconds after dormakaba on Day 8, with a stage time of 4:00:36 and an overall time of 32:40:06.
The nine day joBerg2c has slightly tweaked its format for 2017, with the last day of riding - the ninth day - now a neutral stage called the Old Mutual Wealth (Champagne) Stage.
That means the winning results are provisional until all riders have completed the final day’s 80km ride from Jolivet to Scottburgh. The provisional winners shouldn’t have too many worries going into the final day, though, as they have around eight hours to complete the short, mostly downhill stage.
"It's been another fantastic nine days at the joBerg2c," said Karen Thomas, Old Mutual Head of Brand.
"Every year the race villages get better, providing riders with everything and anything they could desire. The riders have said the route has been incredible too, so it's no surprise that this event continues to go from strength to strength. As a sponsor, we are thrilled to be involved in an endurance event that not only tests participants, but also shows them the beauty of the South African countryside. Well done to the winners, and well done to every rider that completes this one-of-a-kind mountain biking experience. We look forward to seeing you again in 2018!"
Relieved and clearly elated, Beukes was happy to finish on top again and without any major mechanicals over the last eight days.
“Today we made it count. We’ve waited the whole week for this day and if there is one day you can really race it’s this stage. There was some nice big climbing but first we just enjoyed the descent into the Umkomaas Valley and then we just hit that climb and pulled the gap from there and rode steadily,” said Beukes.
He added that the unique aspect of crossing so much of the country during the joBerg2c was a definite event highlight.
“My favourite aspect has definitely been the journey. First of all we came here to enjoy the ride and just experience something different and not just focus on super intense racing. I think we definitely got that out of joBerg2c; there is also some good prize money for first place and that’s really nice too.”
Philip Buys explained that the win was a bonus on top of an incredible experience.
“I think the whole track down here is just great. What’s nice about joBerg2c is that you see parts of the country that you don’t usually see. Being on a bike we took some time to see everything that there is to see on the route. I think it’s a cool race to see and experience our country and its hospitality. It was a fun experience for us.”
Husband and wife team Candice and Darren Lill finished joBerg2c looking relaxed and happy. Competing as a couple, and winning as one too, has made joBerg2c a particularly special experience for them.
“I count myself as very fortunate and blessed to be able to do something like this with Candice, I don’t think there are many people that can do anything competitively with their spouse and make it work well together under pressure,” said Darren Lill.
“It is really special to be able to enjoy such a wonderful experience together - win or lose, but obviously it’s nice to win. Either way we were out here having a great time together giving our best each day.”
Candice Lill was pleased with the pair’s dominant ride at the event.
“Finishing joBerg2c undefeated does feel quite good. I mean, what fun we had ... and such different stages. Even today, the changes made to the route were quite tough. I wasn’t expecting the new climbs to be so steep. Luckily we had a nice lead going into this stage and managed to keep it and we still had fun at the same time,” said Candice.
Candice Lill added that there are many great aspects to joBerg2c, with some standing out to make the nine days truly memorable.
“For me, my favourite part is the journey - the whole experience going through all the different towns and seeing how much it all changes, like going through the Free State and seeing all the towns and onto KwaZulu-Natal. It’s a magical all round experience.”
The race organisers were thrilled with the 2017 event. Glen Haw noted that the joBerg2c is as tough as it is unique.
"This event really showcases how special the country is, and takes people to some really unique places," said Haw.
"But joBerg2c is not easy," he added. People think that because of the relaxed nature of the event, there is the misconception that it’s a tour - if you look at it and compare it on paper, I think this event is as hard as something as the Cape Epic. It's a challenge, but very rewarding."
Craig Wapnick, meanwhile, added the joBerg2c attracts the right type of mountain biker, specifically, those that know how to enjoy themselves on and off the bike.
"We are always trying to make it better," said Wapnick.
"It’s a work in progress every year. But without great riders, you can’t have a great event. I think we are at a stage where we are attracting the right kind of rider; the people who like a challenge, who are fit enough to enjoy the 900km off-road mountain biking challenge, but who also want to sit around in the evenings and enjoy good beer and gees."
The third of the energetic and enthusiastic joBerg2c organising team, Gary Green, said, "What we try to offer riders is a few great events all rolled into nine incredible days. Judging by the smiles I've seen after eight days of tough riding, it looks like we've achieved that and more in 2017."
Entries for the 2018 joBerg2c will open in May.