Johannesburg - Johann Rabie and Gawie Combrinck held their nerve in a four-team sprint to win the stage and secure the overall lead on day two of the Old Mutual joBerg2c mountain bike race on Saturday.
The EAI Cycling team claimed the 93km stage from Frankfort to Reitz in a time of 3:20:03 as the serious racing got underway in the nine-day race.
They were chased all the way to the line by the Cannondale-Blend combination of Darren Lill and Waylon Woolcock (3:20:04), with FedGroup-Itec's Kevin Evans and Max Knox rounding out the podium five seconds later.
The racing got off to a frosty start, as the riders slowly warmed up their legs on the flattish route through the Free State. All the elite teams were in the mix as a large bunch rolled through the first two waterpoints together.
Shortly after the second waterpoint, around 67km into the race, disaster struck for the Contego pairing of Craig Boyes and Louis-Bresler Knipe when the latter sustained a ligament injury to his knee, forcing them to drop back.
With 30km to go, the major contenders - including Karan Beef's Hanco Kachelhoffer and Chris Wolhuter and EuropcarSA's roadies Stuart Fitzpatrick and Calvin Beneke - pulled clear.
Fitzpatrick and Beneke were distanced just before the fast Red Bull Run section, which came after 82km, leaving just four teams to dice it out in the closing kilometres.
Lill and Woolcock drove the pace but Woolcock was unable to stay on his teammate's wheel in the final dash to the line.
In the women's race, Valencia Girls' Amy McDougall and Janine King took an uncontested victory in 3:48:27.
They were followed home by Old Mutual's Brenda Potts and Sarah van Heerden in 3:53:35, with Reevax Ladies' Heidi Buttiens and Siegrid van Bever third in 4:23:22.
In the mixed category, Biogen Toyota's Robyn de Groot and David Cooke rode hard to take the stage win in 3:25:37, just under a minute clear of Sasol Racing's Yolande de Villiers and Franso Steyn.
The second Sasol Racing duo of Leana de Jager and Johan Labuschagne finished third in 3:26:54.
On Sunday, more than 800 riders will take on the 122km third stage from the Reitz showgrounds to Sterkfontein Dam near the KwaZulu-Natal border.
STAGE 2 RESULTS
1. Johann Rabie & Gawie Combrinck (EAI Cycling) 3:20:03
2. Waylon Woolcock & Darren Lill (Cannondale-Blend) 3:20:04;
3. Max Knox & Kevin Evans (FedGroup-Itec) 3:20:09
4. Hanco Kachelhoffer & Chris Wolhuter (Karan Beef) 3:20:11
5. Calvin Beneke & Stuart Fitzpatrick (EuropcarSA) 3:20:14
1. Janine King & Amy McDougall (Valencia Girls) 3:48:27
2. Sarah van Heerden & Brenda Potts (Old Mutual Girlz) 3:53:35
3. Heidi Buttiens & Siegrid van Bever (Reevax Ladies) 4:23:22
4. Natalie Robbs & Kathryn Ackermann (Itec Ladies) 4:31:18
5. Lara Hirst & Liesl Lourens (Aramex Girls) 4:58:09
Mixed: 1. Robyn de Groot & David Cooke (Biogen-Toyota) 3:25:37
2. Yolande de Villiers & Franso Steyn (Sasol Racing) 3:26:32
3. Leana de Jager & Johan Labuschagne (Sasol Racing) 3:26:54
4. Alison Richardson & Rob Dormehl (Avis Van Rental) 3:48:30
5. Louise Ferreira & Henning Blaauw (Globeflight) 3:51:55