Port Elizabeth - Waylon Woolcock and HB
Kruger of BCX left their breakaway companions in the dust as they climbed to
victory on stage one of the three-day Great Zuurberg Trek mountain bike
race outside Port Elizabeth on Friday.
The duo’s finishing power
on the final ascent was too much for their rivals and, after dislodging them, they
were able to cruise home in 2:40:07 after 67km of undulating racing.
Gert Heyns and Arno du
Toit of Ascendis-LCB, who clocked 2:41:36, were next to reach the finish at the
Zuurberg Mountain Village with Marco Joubert and Andrew Hill of TIB
Insurance-Momsen third in 2:42:02.
Woolcock, who won the three-day
Winelands Encounter in the Western Cape alongside the 26-year-old Kruger last
month, said the race was far from finished.
“The lead we have means
very little in mountain biking terms and we will go into tomorrow knowing that
we have to be cautious while also trying to maintain the pressure on our rivals,”
said the 34-year-old from Stellenbosch.
He said all the favourites
were together as they hit the first major descent and their sole focus was on
making sure they didn’t have any mechanicals.
“We went into the first
single-track and all the cross-country boys were very excited, but all I could
think of was safety first – look after your tyres, look after your bike and
yourself,” he said.
“Arno and Gert went
screaming down the single-track and had gapped us quite a bit, but when we came
around a corner, we saw that Arno had a puncture.”
The two teams joined
forces as they headed towards the day’s first major test.
“On the climb just before
the waterpoint, about 20km in, we saw Arno was taking a bit of strain, so we
gapped them quite a bit,” explained Woolcock.
“But we knew it was too
early to ride alone from there as there are a lot of flat sections before the
After the waterpoint, two
teams – Hill and Joubert and Chris Wolhuter and Craig Boyes of Imbuko Wines – rode
up to the leaders and Woolcock said the workload was shared evenly at that point.
“There was nothing tricky
or technical as it was jeep track and mostly open district roads, but we knew
the last climb was going to be decisive.”
As soon as they started to
climb Zuurberg Pass that linked the valley at the bottom with the hotel at the
top, Kruger went clear at the front while Imbuko Wines started to falter at the
“HB had a gap of a few
hundred metres and when I could see that Arno couldn’t respond, I attacked him
and rode across,” said Woolcock.
“Once I got there, HB kept
up the tempo to give me a bit of breather and we then worked together to keep
the gap until the finish.”
Woolcock said the nature
of the course on the opening day played to their strengths as they were both
“I might have the edge on
the climbs, but HB is able to keep a higher tempo on the flats and rolling
Woolcock said being in
front was the best possible scenario.
“It’s always better to
lead than to chase. I wouldn’t say it takes the pressure off, but it does mean
we don’t have to force it.
“Tomorrow we will work to look
after the bike because it’s better to lose a few seconds in a technical section
than to try to close the gap after having a puncture.
“So it’s always a bit of a
relief to have that buffer.”
Neill Ungerer and Yolande
de Villiers of Dryland-Ultimate Cycling, who won the GR300 last month, finished
in 3:02:26 to lead the mixed section.
Andrea and Steven Shirley of
On Your Bike finished second in 3:25:46 with Roan Rossouw and Heather Slabbert of
Totally Stoked third in 3:48:48.
Siska van der Bijl and Annie
Davids of GZT-Ladies were the first women home in 3:45:44.
Riders will tackle the
queen stage over 78km with 1 750m of climbing on Saturday.