Cape Town - HB Kruger and Stuart Marais delivered a strong statement as they led the field home in the opening stage
of the TransCape MTB Encounter on Sunday.
The ASG-Ellsworth outfit drew first blood in the 614km seven-day race between Knysna and La Couronne Wine
Estate in Franschhoek, but Kruger was quick to acknowledge they still had a long way to go.
They covered the 71km stage from the Western Cape town of Knysna to Wilderness in 2:23:47,
about three-and-a-half minutes ahead of Norway's Eirik Fiskvik and Thomas Engelsgjerd
(Team Happysalmon) in the UCI men's category.
Hanco Kachelhoffer and last year's
champion along Travis Walker, Pieter Seyffert (Ellsworth-ASG), took third just over two minutes later.
The Paarl-based Kruger said there appeared to be good international competition and that he and his Durban-based
team-mate would have to focus throughout the race, which boasts UCI status for the first time.
"There is some
stiff opposition, with quite a few European teams, and you can never relax and say you have it in the bag," said
the 26-year-old who showed his versatility over the Christmas break when
he won the 25-mile race at the Paarl Boxing Day track meeting.
"Also, with a
mountain bike race, anything can happen and you never win a race of this nature on the first day."
The South Africans took the lead on Phantom Pass, one of seven categorised climbs. It presented the field
with their first proper challenge immediately after the 5km neutral zone through the outskirts of Knysna.
"As we turned
off the N2 some of the teams went to the front and we sort of waited a bit until we took the lead about 6km into the stage," added Kruger.
to set our own pace and that was enough to get a bit of a gap. After
that we just maintained it and tried to keep it steady and to keep the
bikes in one piece."
He said they had about a minute’s
lead over Fiskvik and Engelsgjerd early on, but gradually increased the gap as the day unfolded.
Kruger felt the route was challenging - especially with the corrugations on the gravel roads towards the end.
the last 5km were flat but corrugated so it does take it out of you and there will be some tired legs at the start tomorrow."
He said their strategy in the TransCape Encounter was to
build a lead but also to keep something in reserve.
don't go out all guns blazing and the aim is to get in front but to keep something in the tank for the remaining
Catherine Williamson, who won the mixed title last year, and Belgium's Kristof de Neys led the way in this category
after joining a group of about 10 riders after the first climb.
Williamson and De Neys, who rides under the LawPack banner, finished in 2:38:05 to establish a comfortable
lead over Reinette Geldenhuis and Wolf Stinnes (Woolies Trance) and third-placed Donald and Nicolle Weir (Weirdos).
"When you get
with a group of guys like that, you tend to go a little quicker," said Williamson. "So
we got pulled along really nicely, with Kristof doing his fair share of work at the front."
Having ridden together before, Williamson said they had once again clicked well as a team.
De Neys, who divides his time between Knysna and Belgium, said he was making his third appearance in the
TransCape and he knew the trails in the area well.
"We just tried
to stay in our power zone and not expend too much energy on the first day," he said.
The UCI women's
category was won by TransCape debutants Janine Muller and Mari du Toit (Oakley Group), both from Pretoria, in 3:08:19.
"I must admit,
I did expect a bit more climbing, but we managed to get away early and luckily there was no one really pushing us from behind," said Muller. "It really was a good day."
Monday's second stage will take riders over 86km and 1 900m of ascent from Wilderness to Mossel Bay.
Results: Stage one UCI elite men
1 HB Kruger, Stuart Marais (ASG-Ellsworth) 2:23:47
2 Eirik Fiskvik, Thomas Engelsgjerd (Team Happysalmon) 2:27:11
3 Hanco Kachelhoffer, Pieter Seyffert (ASG-Ellsworth) 2:29:28
4 Antonin Marecaille, Julian Biefang (Chiru-Magura-Canyon) 2:29:29
5 Grant Usher, Yuki Ikeda (Topeak Ergon-Sprocket-Jack) 2:36:05
UCI elite women
1 Janine Muller and Mari du Toit (Oakley Group Ladies) 3:08:19
1 Arthur Wayne McDuling, Fanie Venter (Business Print Oldies) 2:34:58
2 Louis Fourie, Francois Ebersohn (Linde-Viljoen Melkmanne) 2:37:58
3 Bruce Poole, Eben Espach (PEG) 2:37:59
4 Will Aymes, Waz Squires (NUK Orthodontic) 2:38:05
5 Richard de Villiers, Marshall Holden (Team STF) 2:52:51
1 Jeanette Treherne, Vivienne Turvey (Team T and T) 3:20:57
2 Rosa Nunes, Luisana Andrade (Brasil IBS Team) 4:35:20
1 Catherine Williamson, Kristof de Neys (LawPack) 2:38:05
2 Reinette Geldenhuis, Wolf Stinnes (Woolies Trance) 3:03:03
3 Donald Weir, Nicolle Weir (Weirdo’s)
4 Victor Terblanche, Hildegarde Cronje (VictoryHill) 3:20:24
5 Wayne Albertyn, Catherine Albertyn (BigD-The Hammer) 3:35:45
1 Udo Mueller 2:34:38
2 Massimo Mancini 2:37:57
3 Roland Mueller 2:37:59
4 Conway Oliver 2:38:00
5 Stefan Hackl 2:40:48
1 Jeanie de Villiers 3:06:05
2 Charmaine Werdmuller von Elgg 3:09:35
3 Wilna Marais 3:21:38
4 Aryna Edwards 2:24:46
5 Jessica Knight 3:35:39