Cape Town - The team of Alan Hatherly and Matt Beers were too strong for the opposition and sprinted to victory on stage three of the Cape Pioneer Trek on Tuesday.
Their female compatriots were not able to match their winning streak however, as Robyn de Groot & Sabine Spitz raced to their first stage win of the race crossing the finish line, in George, first in the elite women’s competition.
The 99 kilometre long stage, from Mossel Bay to George, took in 2 000 metres of climbing, but the largely smooth road surfaces made for an easier day than on the preceding, rocky, stage. Once again the wind played its part, but unlike during stage two the South Westerly wind blew the riders towards their destination rather than impeding their progress towards it.
In the elite men’s race the tail wind kept the leading group of riders together until the final water point at the 75 kilometre mark of the stage. By then of Nico Bell and Gawie Combrink, and Hatherly and Beers had whittled the initial group of eight teams down to the four main contenders.
Joining the general classification leaders and their nearest rivals at the front of the race were the team of Bram Rood and Gerben Mos, and the Czech's, Jiri Krivanek and Marek Rauchfuss.
Krivanek and Rauchfuss were the first to falter in the stage’s first singletrack after the final water point. Then an acceleration from Hatherly reduced the group further. “They are just stronger than us, so we are focusing on third” Rood confessed post stage.
“We tried to race smart today and conserve energy for the final hour” Hatherly said.
“We attacked on a sharp singletrack climb and got a little gap, but then I slipped and moved over on the next little climb – because it is the sporting thing to do – which allowed Nico [Bell] and Gawie [Combrink] past” Beers elaborated. “Then we had to work hard to catch back up to them, and when we did we knew it would come down to a sprint” he concluded.
“I’m not known for my sprint so I knew we would have to go early and make it around the corner onto the sport fields first to take the stage win. I went with about 300 meters to go, but we could not hold them off” Combrink reflected on the decisive moment of the stage. Hatherly powered passed the pairing and Beers hung on as best he could to secure their third successive stage victory by a single second.
The women’s race was also a war of attrition, with the last two days taking their toll on Amy-Beth McDougall in particular. “Yesterday was really hard and I struggled a lot, so I think it’s accumulative. I’ve been having a little bit of a chest problems too, so from 85 kilometres onwards I was suffering” McDougall elaborated. “Robyn [de Groot] and Sabine [Spitz] were leading through the singletrack and after a slippery section, which we had to walk up, I lost concentration and fell. It was not a bad crash but they got a gap and we could not close it” she concluded.
De Groot and Spitz raced to victory and in so doing clawed back 1 minute and 22 seconds to Ariane Luthi & Amy-Beth McDougall in the general classification standings. “Today went smoothly” De Groot said, after completing her first stage win of the race. “There was a lot of wind at the start and a few obstacles which kept the bunches together. We were fortunate to have a tail wind which blew us along the contours and towards George. It was pretty muddy and chilly. But I’m happy with how it went” she summarised.
Stage four marks the Cape Pioneer Trek first ever mid-race time trial. After a hint of the singletrack conditions in the forests above George, in the final ten kilometres of stage three, the riders by-in-large know what to expect from Wednesday’s 31 kilometre long stage.
“It is going to be muddy and slippery, especially on the new trails” Bell predicted. “The downhill sections are fine because you can ride off the track on the grass, but the climbs are going to be tricky.” The leading men will probably take just over an hour to complete the route and while it is unlikely to provide a race winning time gain; it could cost a team the race, should they suffer a serious crash or mechanical. On the muddy trails, with the added pressure of the time trial, emerging unscathed could well prove more important than gaining a few seconds.
Results: 2017 Cape Pioneer Trek
UCI Men | Stage 3
1. Alan Hatherly & Matthew Beers (3:58:17)
2. Nico Bell & Gawie Combrink (3:58:18 | +00:01)
3. Bram Rood & Gerben Mos (3:59:44| +01:27)
4. Jiri Krivanek & Marek Rauchfuss (4:03:40 | +05:23)
5. Derrin Smith & Timothy Hammond (4:04:57| +06:40)
UCI Women | Stage 3
1. Robyn de Groot & Sabine Spitz ( 4:22:33)
2. Ariane Luthi & Amy-Beth McDougall (4:23:54 | +01:21)
3. Nicky Giliomee & Frankie du Toit (5:02:54| +40:21)
4. Ila Stow & Marianne Bergli (5:21:40| +59:06)
5. Jenna Borrill & Tandy Kitching (5:31:31 | +1:08:58)
UCI Men | General Classification after Stage 3
1. Alan Hatherly & Matthew Beers (10:36:07)
2. Nico Bell & Gawie Combrink (10:37:10 | +01:03)
3. Bram Rood & Gerben Mos (10:42:35 | +06:28)
4. Jiri Krivanek & Marek Rauchfuss (10:53:09 | +17:01)
5. Derrin Smith & Timothy Hammond (10:53:52 | +17:44)
UCI Women | General Classification after Stage 2
1. Ariane Luthi & Amy-Beth McDougall (11:45:48)
2. Robyn de Groot & Sabine Spitz (11:51:35 | +05:47)
3. Nicky Giliomee & Frankie du Toit (13:24:49 | +1:39:01)
4. Ila Stow & Marianne Bergli (14:15:02| +2:29:13)
5. Jenna Borrill & Tandy Kitching (15:12:09 | +4:36:02)