Mountain bikers Andrew Hill and Adriaan Louw turned in a workmanlike performance to claim the opening stage of the three-day PwC Great Zuurberg Trek at Addo just outside Port Elizabeth on Friday.
The TIB-Fairview riders set a tempo that few could match to finish the 74km route, which started at the Zuurberg Mountain Village and finished on the national cross-country course at Hayterdale in the Sundays River Valley, in 2:57:25.
PE-based duo Grant Mcgeoghan and Jason Reed, riding in the colours of Cyclo Pro-Car Spares, were second in 3:00:56.
Cycle Lab-PwC veterans Andrew Mclean and Bruce Diesel showed their class to finish third in 3:04:52.
Port Elizabeth’s Andrea von Holdt and SanMari Woithe, riding for Merrell, won the women’s race in 3:34:25 while fellow Port Elizabethans, Siska van der Bijl and Lester Tait, took the mixed category in 3:44:48.
Racing together for the first time, Hill said he and Louw had decided to set a hard pace on the first 10km of dirt road to gauge their opposition and the lay of the land.
“Mcgeoghan and Reed sat with us quite nicely.”
Then, on the first climb around 6km into the stage, Hill and Louw went on the attack and pulled clear of their rivals.
“From there it was just unbelievable; really, really spectacular,” said Hill.
By waterpoint one at Slagboom Dam, around the 18km mark, they had opened up a lead of more than a minute over Mcgeoghan and Reed.
By the second waterpoint, 35km into the stage, they had extended that lead to more than two minutes, with Mclean and Diesel a further three minutes adrift.
“We basically just set a solid tempo, making sure we consolidated a good lead but not taking any stupid risks. There are still two days of racing ahead.”
Hill, who finished fourth at the Nedbank sani2c earlier this month alongside Darren Lill, said he was still nursing a sore leg after a bad crash at the KwaZulu-Natal race.
The Hillcrest resident said Saturday’s 81km queen stage, which featured almost 2 000m of climbing, would be the tough and decisive one.
“Andrew and Bruce are always ones to watch. They might have played their cards close to their chests today,” said Hill.
“Tomorrow’s going to be a hard stage. The idea is to see if we can put a bit of pressure on them and the other guys in second place and see what happens.”
Climber Louw, who is based in Paarl, said he was looking forward to the ascents and that it provided the ideal prep ahead of a busy block of racing that included the national and world marathon championships.
“It’s just great to be out here; it’s beautiful and the trails are really cool. I’ve always wanted to ride here and this is just the perfect event to do that.”
His partner echoed his sentiments regarding the route.
“There were stages today where we were riding and we thought, ‘Wow this is awesome!’ This is what riding’s about and it’s definitely an event that more people must come and do.”
Overnight leaders Andrew Hill and Adriaan Louw stamped their authority on the PwC Great Trek to take a commanding victory on day two of the three-stage race at Addo on the outskirts of Port Elizabeth on Saturday.
The TIB-Fairview duo powered across the southern and northern ridges of the Zuurberg mountain range to claim the gruelling 81km queen stage in 4:02:12.
Eastern Cape duo Grant Mac Geoghan and Jason Reed, riding in the colours of Cyclo Pro-Car Spares, followed a distant second in 4:16:52, with Andrew Mclean and Bruce Diesel of Cycle Lab-PwC rounding out the day’s podium in 4:25:59.
Hill and Louw’s combined time of 6:59:32 puts them 18 minutes clear of their closest challengers. Mac Geoghan and Reed (7:17:44) and Mclean and Diesel (7:30:47) occupy the lower steps of the podium going into the final day.
The top three teams got off to a flying start as they entered the remote northern section of the Addo Elephant National Park, which is not open to the public.
Less than five kilometres into the stage, Port Elizabeth’s Mac Geoghan and Reed upped the pace down the White Knuckle horsetrail descent, which took riders into the White River Valley via numerous tight switchbacks.
“They seemed to know that single-track and what to expect, so they really pushed the envelope going down the hill,” said Hill.
“Adriaan was actually first going in and then we had one of their riders get in between us. We didn’t want to do anything stressful or take any risks, so we just sat on their wheels.”
With Louw forced to stop and make an adjustment to his bicycle, the pair dropped off on the Monty’s Python climb out of the valley leading up to the first waterpoint at the 15km mark.
“It didn’t take long and then we climbed back on. As we got back to them, I accelerated and we were able to ride away from the guys.”
Hill and Louw slogged on at a solid pace to extend their lead over the ensuing kilometres that included the infamous Stepsisters, three tough climbs that took riders to the highest point of the day.
By the third waterpoint at the 46km mark, the pair had opened up a seven-minute gap on Mac Geoghan and Reed, with Mclean and Diesel a further minute adrift.
“We knew we could try and put a bit of pressure on the guys on the bumpy stuff along the top of the northern ridge.”
Behind them the Reed/Mac Geoghan and Mclean/Diesel combinations were duking it out for second place.
The Cycle Lab-PwC veterans had caught the Cyclo Pro-Car Spares riders after 30km and tried to break them along the ridgeline but the youngsters pulled a small gap on the technical climbs, which they managed to hold until the finish.
Although Hill and Louw take a comfortable margin into the third and final stage, the former said nothing would be certain until they crossed the finish line at the Zuurberg Mountain Village.
The stage traverses the national cross-country course at Hayterdale before climbing the Zuurberg Pass to the finish.
“We’ll enjoy Sunday’s cross-country stage and go for the stage win but if the guys with local knowledge are around us, we might take it easy and just try and hold the lead.”
In the women’s race, the Merrell Ladies team of Andrea von Holdt and SanMari Woithe took a second uncontested stage win in 5:33:36 (9:07:56).
The Scott 2 team of Siska van der Bijl and Lester Tait cemented their lead in the mixed category with another stage win in 3:44:44 (9:09:24).
Andrew Hill and Adriaan Louw were in confident form ahead of next week’s national marathon championships as they cruised to victory in the three-day PwC Great Zuurberg Trek in the Addo area near Port Elizabeth on Sunday.
Hill and Louw, riding in the colours of Fairview-TIB, crossed the finish line at the Zuurberg Mountain Village in a time of 3:01:56 to take their third consecutive stage win and the overall title in 10:01:28.
Former roadies Andrew Mclean and Bruce Diesel of Cycle Lab-PwC powered up the Zuurberg Pass to finish second on the day in 3:06:43 and in the same position on the general classification in 10:37:30.
There was disappointment for Eastern Cape duo Grant Mac Geoghan and Jason Reed, who had held the runner-up spot overnight. Reed slashed his tyre on a rocky section within the first 5km, effectively ending the race for the Cyclo Pro-Car Spares team.
Siyaya teammates Jade Muller and Francois De Villiers rounded out the stage and overall podium in 3:19:08 for an aggregate time of 11:10:12.
According to Louw, the three solid days of racing had bolstered his and Hill’s preparations ahead of the national and world champs in Pietermaritzburg later this month.
“I think the confidence comes from a good block of training, not so much winning the race. It’s a big block that sets you up for what lies ahead.”
Hill said the 215km route had presented three diversely challenging days on the bike.
“This is different riding – just exciting. You’re constantly on an adventure, waiting to see what’s around the next corner.
“The organisers have got it right with the diversity of riding. It’s just such a great event and one I’d definitely encourage people to come and race.”
Veteran cyclist Mclean congratulated the winners and said he and Diesel had raced hard to claim the runner-up spot.
“Every time you line up for a race you dream of coming first, but Adriaan and Andrew are just in another league.”
After battling with punctures and accidents over the first two days, Mclean said he was delighted with the final result.
“Everything came together and we’re very happy. Today there was so much single-track I was hoping it would end – that’s how good it was.”
In the women’s race, the Port Elizabeth-based Merrell Ladies team of Andrea von Holdt and SanMari Woithe took the final stage in 3:42:48 for an uncontested overall victory in 12:50:44.
“We are very happy, we really rode our hearts out today,” said Von Holdt.
The Scott 2 pairing of Siska van der Bijl and Lester Tait triumphed in the mixed category in 12:58:46, completing a trio of stage wins in 3:49:22.
“It was a good day,” said Tait. “No flats, no mechanicals, just good hard riding.”
Visit www.greatzuurbergtrek.co.za or follow the race on @zuurbergtrekker and Facebook.
Source: Full Stop Communications