The third and final stage of the 2017 Gravel & Grape Extreme was a treat for riders as they got to experience an expertly crafted cross-country course early in the stage, and then later rode through two cellars. Not many events throw so many unique aspects into a race, let alone a single stage.
With a large lead going into the final day, the racing was a formality for Erik Kleinhans and Matt Beers (Topeak Ergon/RED-E). They simply had to get from start to finish without any hiccups – perhaps easier said than done consider the number of issues they pair had in the first two days of racing. In the end, they were able to ride comfortably and hassle-free through the short 50km day, taking second place on the day and claiming the overall win at their first attempt.
First over the line on stage 3 was Jurgens Uys and Nicols Carstens (02:01:13), but as they had withdrawn on stage 2, they were out of contenting in the racing. The stage winners for the day were Charl-Pierre Esterhuyse & Robert Hobson (BREEDENET) in a time of 02:03:54, with Kleinhans and Beers home in second (02:03:58). Third on the stage went to Alexander Rohrer & Martin Freyer (Alex & Martin).
“Overall, this was an excellent even with a great route,” said Erik Kleinhans. “There was a little bit of sand at the start in the finish on some days, but that is a minor point. It was all about the single track at Gravel & Grape, and it was fantastic.”
Kleinhans and Beers kept it mellow on the final day. “Today we rode with Charl-Pierre (Esterhuyse) and Robert (Hobson); it was bit of an easier day for us and we had no mechanical issues, crashes or punctures today for the first time in the race,” said Kleinhans.
“We had no need to ride hard today because of our comfortable lead, so we just rode with Charl-Pierre and Robert for the whole day, and let them take the stage win at the end. Our aim was simply to have a good time and get to the finish without any hassles. Matt and I both had a lot of fun.”
In the Gravel & Grape Adventure, the two-day event that covers approximately half the distance of the Extreme’s final two days on the same route and terrain, Heine Kriegler Beukes and De Wet Steyn (Mohein) walked away as stage 1 and stage 2 winners, claiming the overall title comfortably ahead of second-placed Daniel Jacobus Van Tonder and Pieter Zirki du Toit (Rough and Ready). Third on the stage and overall were Francois de Wet and Andre Venter (Team Kallahariferarrie).
“This was just a very enjoyable two days of racing,” said Beukes. “Even in the Adventure the route was quite challenging – with some decent climbs to keep the ego in check. For us, it was an amazing race. Today we attacked on the first climb and rode away from the field there – I dropped my bottle but luckily De Wet saw it; that was our only major issue! We will definitely be back to ride in this area again. It was a brilliant route.”
The winners of the women’s category were Nicky Giliomee and British rider Catherine Williamson (Junto Ladies). Giliomee soldiered through the race with a broken foot, while Williamson was using the Gravel & Grape as a short farewell tour of South Africa. After arriving in the country for the Cape Epic, Williamson is heading home for the British summer.
“This was quite a special three days of riding,” said Williamson. “I am heading back to England now, and this was a fantastic way to end my stay in South Africa. Today was a good day of riding, nice and short but with some great trails; just a fun day on the bike in a beautiful setting.”
To further highlight the unique nature of the Gravel & Grape, the last team to cross the line on the Adventure was the Oddwheelers pair of Donna Kisogloo & Piotr Wolski. They did the two-day ride on unicycles. “I’ve been riding a unicycle for 10 years,” said Kisogloo. “They are not many stage races that we can enter, so it was cool to ride at the Gravel & Grape. We did come in last; so clearly it’s quite tough on a unicycle! But we came here to enjoy the trails and scenery, and that’s exactly what we did.”
Gravel & Grape Extreme stage 3
1 Charl-Pierre Esterhuyse & Robert Hobson (BREEDENET) 02:03:54
2 Erik Kleinhans & Matt Beers (Topeak Ergon/RED-E) 02:03:58
3 Alexander Rohrer & Martin Freyer (Alex & Martin) 02:08:01
Gravel & Grape Extreme final GC
1 Erik Kleinhans & Matt Beers (Topeak Ergon/RED-E) 07:59:31
2 Charl-Pierre Esterhuyse & Robert Hobson (BREEDENET) 08:08:39
3 Alexander Rohrer & Martin Freyer (Alex & Martin) 08:22:23
Gravel & Grape Adventure stage 2
1 Heine Kriegler Beukes & De Wet Steyn (Mohein) 01:19:56
2 Daniel Jacobus Van Tonder & Pieter Zirki du Toit (Rough and Ready) 01:23:12
3 Francois de Wet & Andre Venter (Team Kallahariferarrie) 01:30:00
Gravel & Grape Adventure final GC
1 Heine Kriegler Beukes & De Wet Steyn (Mohein) 02:59:37
2 Daniel Jacobus Van Tonder & Pieter Zirki du Toit (Rough and Ready) 03:04:04
3 Francois de Wet & Andre Venter (Team Kallahariferarrie) 03:19:28