Over the last four days it has been a case of different day, different province, different mountain bike tour and even different teammate.
The only constant seems to be Max Knox of DCM’s desire to “kill off” his rivals one by one with his cool and calculating hard riding.
Within 24 hours of having won all three stages of the Three Towers Mountain bike tour in the Lowveld with Brandon Stewart as his teammate Knox also managed to win the first stage of the DCM Cape Pioneer which started at the Chandelier Nature Reserve just outside Oudtshoorn and finished at Milkwood Primary in Mosselbaai. His teammate this time round is Thomas Zahnd from Switzerland.
Knox and Zahnd’s winning time for the stage over 135km was 5 hours 43 minutes. Kevin Evans and Adrien Niyonshuti (MTN-Energade) finished second, 3 minutes and 09 seconds behind.
Stewart (DCM) riding with Jacques Janse van Rensburg was yesterday equally impressive finishing third (4 minutes 23 seconds behind).
What is remarkable about Knox and Stewart’s performance is the fact that they only arrived on Sunday night at nine o’clock in Oudtshoorn. That was a mere 10 and half hours before the tour was due to start.
Despite their exhausting race against time from Nelspruit to Oudtshoorn the two DCM riders were not scared to immediately make the racing the moment the starter’s gun went off.
Within the first 30 kilometers of racing they manage to split the field leaving only five teams to battle it out. As predicted beforehand the stage was won and lost on the legendary rough climb going through the Attakwas.
By the time they were through the Attakwas only Knox/Zahnd, Evans/Niyonshuti and Stewart/Janse van Rensburg were away on their own.
The deciding moment came about 10 kilometers from the finish when Knox put the proverbial hammer down.
“I just wanted to test the other riders to see how strong they were. Suddenly Thomas and I were out in front all by ourselves. From then on we just ensured that we kept riding at a nice consistent tempo.”
Despite of their convincing stage-victory Knox is very realistic about their overall chances.
“No tour is ever won or lost on the first day. There is still a lot of hard riding left and with mountain biking being so unpredictable it would be really unwise to already start talking about an overall victory.”
A completely honest Zahnd admitted afterwards that he had to learn to spell the word suffer backwards during the first stage of the DCM Cape Pioneer.
“I really battled to keep up with Max. Coming from Europe I am not used to ride in such hot conditions, but I am confident that my body will adapt to the African weather.
“I got a big scare about halfway into the race when a stick got stuck in my front wheel. The moment it happened I flew over the handlebars of my bike and hit the ground at a high speed. Luckily I did not break any bones but certainly was not a good racing experience.
“I must admit the scenery along the whole route was to say the least impressive, it made all my suffering worthwhile.”
Unfortunately for Janse van Rensburg he had to stop about five kilometers from the finish due to vomiting and severe stomach cramps.
“It was so frustrating because I was feeling really good up until then. I thought by drinking the right medication that my problem would be something of the past, but obviously it is not. What was positive for me is the fact that I could manage to ride with the leaders through Attakwas. It proved to me that my technical skills have certainly approved,” Janse van Rensburg said.
1. Max Knox and Thomas Zahnd (DCM)
2. Kevin Evans and Adrien Niyonshuti (MTN Energade)
3. Brandon Stewart and Jacques Janse van Rensburg (DCM)