Cape Town - Defending champion Chris Wolhuter and new team-mate Craig Boyes made an
early break to race to a comfortable victory on the opening stage of the
Liberty Winelands MTB Encounter on Friday.
Despite the relatively short ride of 54km between Coetzenburg in Stellenbosch
and Le Franschhoek Hotel on the outskirts of Franschhoek, Wolhuter said there
was plenty of climbing and it had not been an easy day in the saddle.
The 27-year-old Imbuko-Freewheel Cycology pro, who won alongside Jarred
Haley last year, said he received excellent
support from Boyes as they romped home in 2:26:34.
The Altech-AutoPage pairing of Colin Noel and Hanco Kachelhoffer
followed them home in 2:36:39 with the Momsen duo of Dylan Rebello and CP van
Wyk completing the podium in 2:41:38.
“You almost tend to underestimate the leg but it is certainly a tough
day, with single-track, steep climbs and some places similar to hiking trails,”
said Wolhuter, who now lives in Cape Town after growing up in Pietermaritzburg.
He said they managed to slip the field on the first proper climb out of
“After splitting the group we had a short mechanical stop, but were able
to maintain the lead.
“There was a stage with about 10 to 15km to go where we saw Dylan and CP
about 45 seconds behind us and we really had to put the hammer down.”
He said they had a “minor crash” after the final waterpoint, but were
able to maintain their advantage due to a similar mishap by their pursuers,
which saw Van Wyk quite badly scuffed up.
“In the end, we were able to build a seven to eight-minute buffer.”
Even though they dominated the opening day, Wolhuter said it was
important to stay focused on Saturday’s leg.
“With that lead, we are in the perfect position, but we also need to be
He said the second stage was similar to last year’s route and described
it as quite fast at the start and fairly tough at the end.
“We will be a bit conservative but also know we need to take our chances
when they are there.”
Reflecting on the day, Wolhuter said they were totally satisfied with
“With our sponsors, crew and family and friends all here to support us,
it’s always fantastic to be in front.”
Team Spur’s Stephan Senekal and Ariane Kleinhans won the mixed section
Stage two will take riders from Le Franschhoek to Kleine Valleij, a
distance of 57km with 1 300m of vertical ascent.