Cape Town - The Summit pairing of Candice Lill
and Adelheid Morath tore the women’s field asunder on the opening day of the
FNB Wines2Whales Chardonnay event, on Friday.
African/German combination attacked from the gun, on the climb to Lourensford
Neck. They steadily extended the gap to 11 minutes and 39 seconds by the finish
line at Oak Valley Estate, where they were followed across the line by three
teams sprinting for second position.
The three-way tussle for second
included the Spur, Silverback CBC and Ascendis Health teams. Superior
positional awareness within the group saw Mariske Strauss and Jennie Stenerhag
pip their rivals in the race for the minor places. There was still drama to
unfold, however, as a protest was lodged against Ariane Lüthi and Babara Benko -
for exceeding the 2 minute separation rule at water point three.
For the first time in South African
mountain biking history the elite women started at the front of the field in a
major stage race, when the Chardonnay event got underway from Lourensford Wine
Estate. With no men ahead of them on the trails, to interfere with the women’s
competition, the opening day of the 2018 Wines2Whales was treated to
exceptional racing from Lill and Morath in particular.
“We said (to each other before the
stage) if we’re in good shape then we will make it from the beginning” Morath
said on the finish line at Oak Valley Estate.
“We know we are both good at
climbing so there was no need to wait, just go” the German cross-country star reflected.
Adding to Morath’s assessment Lill supplemented: “We just decided to put our
heads down and go. We didn’t look back.”
Behind the Summit pairing the Spur
and Silverback CBC teams jostled for position on the trails. After having held
second early on, Strauss and Stenerhag were overtaken by Lüthi and Benko before
the second water point at Idiom Wines. The Spur combination ascended the
Gantouw Pass looking to reduce the deficit to the leaders Lill and Morath, but a
wrong turn by Lüthi caused them to become separated. In the confusion Benko
reached the water point at the Grabouw Country Club two and a half minutes
ahead of her partner, exceeding the two minute gap which is allowed between
team-mates. As a result they received an hour time penalty as per event
“Babara (Benko) had slipped slightly
and was a corner behind me” Lüthi explained.
“Suddenly she didn’t realise I had
taken a wrong turn and she thought I was ahead, so she was chasing really hard.
It was only at the water point that she realised that I was actually behind
her. The rest is history,” the Swiss marathon champion concluded.
In the final kilometres leading into
Oak Valley Lüthi and Benko were caught by the Ascendis Health team of Robyn de
Groot and Michelle Vorster. Then the two teams, working together reeled in
Silverback CBC. This set up a chaotic sprint for second, which Stenerhag and
“That was quite hard” laughed second
placed Strauss as the dust settled. Looking back on how the stage unfolded she
added: “I was kind of expecting it. She (Lill) is going really well at the
moment. I just came off a break and Jennie (Stenerhag) is getting back into
training after her injury so I think our aim was just to do what we could and
see how our legs went.”
Wines2Whales is famous for its
spectacular trails and the leading women enjoyed them at their uncrowned best.
Though Stage 2 is the play day the addition of new singletracks, especially in
Lourensford for the tenth edition has improved the riding on the opening day.
“Basically most of the race was trails” stage winner Lill recounted. The
earlier start also played into the riders enjoyment by Lill’s reckoning: “It
was hot and windy heading up the Pass. But in Elgin it was great.”
The elite women were eager to praise
the separation of the women’s race from the men’s. The Chardonnay, the first of
the three Wines2Whales races, is designated for women’s racing and R100 000
will be paid to the winning team on Sunday afternoon in Hermanus.
awesome. To be able to dictate the race and play our own tactics, it changes
the race completely. It is more fair” Lill concluded.
Strauss agreed with
Lill’s assessment of the entirely separate women’s race, but was also keen to
highlight the benefits to the sponsors.
“With the women racing on their own we
get all the media attention which is great for our sponsors” the South African
cross-country champion enthused.
After Lill and Morath’s dominant
performance on Stage 1 the likes of Strauss, Stenerhag, De Groot and Vorster
have it all to do on Stage 2.
The second stage of the race features a 66km route with 1 350m of climbing.
To follow the action from home
mountain biking fans can visit www.wines2whales.com or follow @w2wmtb.
Wines2Whales Results |
Chardonnay Stage 1:
1. Summit: Adelheid Morath &
Candice Lill (03:24:27.8)
2. Silverback CBC: Mariske Strauss
& Jennie Stenerhag (03:36:06.9 | +11:39)
3. Ascendis Health: Robyn de Groot
& Michelle Vorster (03:36:07.3 | +11:40)
4. Galileo Risk: Theresa Ralf &
Sarah Hill (03:39:41.4 | +15:13)
5. Tiletoria Ladies: Fienie Barnard
& Hanlie Booyens (03:59:43.5 | +35:15)