Off the bike, Nico Bell and Gawie Combrinck are soft-spoken and humble. But on Monday, on the bike, there was no place for diplomacy as they ripped the field apart with an aggressive Stage 1 victory that gave them the overall lead on Day 2 of the 2016 Cape Pioneer Trek international mountain bike stage race in Mossel Bay, South Africa.
Racing in the colours of New Africa Developments (NAD), Bell and Combrinck, were responsible for increasing the pace through the rugged terrain of the Gondwana Nature Reserve when they sensed fellow South African and overall race leader, Erik Kleinhans, was vulnerable.
With just over half the stage distance covered, Bell and Combrinck managed to splinter the relatively large front pack and cross the finish line alone in a time of 03 hours 42 minutes 48 seconds. The Estonian pair of Peeter Pruus and Peeter Tarvis (KOMO/RWV) finished second just over a minute later, with Konny Looser and Daniel Gathof (Cape Brewing Co Elite) claiming third in 3:48:11.
Overnight race leaders, Kleinhans and Matt Beers (Full Sus/Topeak Ergon/Red-E), slowed significantly by a struggling Kleinhans, limped across the finish line in 10th place in 4:01:03.
“Just before 50km, we saw Erik (Kleinhans) was taking a bit of strain in the singletrack. Along with Konny (Looser) and his teammate, we upped the pace on the climb and we managed to get a gap. The Estonian guys went with us but the terrain was rough and they struggled to stay with us on their hardtails. We kept on pushing from there,” explained Bell.
“We came here a bit fatigued after racing the Rooiberg Ultra on Saturday and we really wanted to get a stage win. We weren’t expecting a stage win so early on, but we are really stoked. Having the Yellow Jersey is going make the rest of the week more of a challenge,” smiled Bell.
For Pruus and Tarvis, the terrain proved a challenge on their hardtail frames. At 67km, they were over a minute behind Bell and Combrinck, then on the gravel roads that followed, they were able to claw back to within 22 seconds. But the terrain changed again and they lost time towards the end of the stage.
“On the bumpy stuff, they had so much advantage with their full suspension bikes. When it became smoother gravel we were able to close the gap to very close, but then there was more rough and it was impossible to keep up,” said Tarvis.
“Halfway through the stage, the last month of racing just caught up with me. I couldn’t hear much, I saw double. I was in a bad way. I’m just glad I got to the finish,” said a disappointed Kleinhans.
Cherie Redeker and Mariske Strauss of the OMX Pro team extended their lead in the women’s race when they rolled across the finish line to take the stage win in 4:26:35. Second place went to the Garmin duo of Yolandi du Toit and Aurelie Halbwachs in 4:29:36 with Leana de Jager and Catherine Williamson (Klein Karoo Ladies) a distant third in 4:47:36
In the Mixed race, Yolande de Villiers and Neill Ungerer (Ultimate Cycling) secured the victory to extend their overnight lead over stage runners-up, Kobus and Fienie Barnard, who led for most of the stage.
The Veteran men’s division saw the lead change when Fanie Venter and Igna de Villiers (LGE Midas/Business Print) claimed the stage win ahead of the Belgian duo of Wim Tollenaere and Hans Planckaert (De Fietser Rotwild Zaes). Overnight leaders, Iniel Hattingh and Vickus Boschoff (Klein Karoo Ko OP) finished third on the stage and slipped to third overall too.
The Masters race saw prologue winners, Linus van Onselen and Izak Visagie storm to a dominant stage win, beating the Italian Pitstop duo of Niccolo Violati and Roberto Gallo by 23 minutes to take a commanding lead into Stage 2.
Jiri Krivanek of the Czech Republic claimed a dominant stage win the Solo men’s race to move into the overall lead, while South African Nicky Giliomee extended her overnight lead with a powerful performance, finishing over 16 minutes ahead of runner-up Sabine Stampf in the Solo women’s category.
Tuesday’s Stage 2, dubbed #DiazDash, is expected to be tough. The 99km leg from Mossel Bay to George includes a 7km section along the beach before the riders head inland thorough the foothills of the Outeniqua Mountains. The total ascent is 2 200 metres, much of that being covered between 30-45km in.
The first riders will start at 07h30 Central African Time/06h30 Central European Time. To stay up to date with the action:
For more indepth route descriptions and other information on the 2016 race, visit www.capepioneer.co.za