Despite wet conditions, Pieter Seyffert and Travis Walker kicked off their new partnership on a perfect note by winning the opening stage of the seven-day TransCape mountain bike race today.
The Ellsworth-ASG duo took control early on to cover the tough 80km ride between Knysna and Wilderness in the Western Cape in 3:19:46.
They were followed home by Belgians Eddy Feliers and Kristof de Neys (Cicero Baik) in 3:42:42, with David and William Wertheim Aymes (Bromance) crossing the line in third in 3:42:43.
Their commanding performance on a day that took in almost 1 600m of vertical climbing will see the South African pro outfit take a handy buffer into tomorrow’s queen stage.
Seyffert, who hails from Helderkruin on the West Rand, said their sizeable lead would allow them the luxury of not having to make the racing on tomorrow’s stage, which is the longest of this year’s event.
He said they were building towards next month’s Bestmed Tour of Good Hope in the Cape Winelands and were delighted with their debut outing.
“This is our first race together and it will be a good test to see what I have to do as Travis’s partner for upcoming stage races,” said the 30-year-old.
“I have a feeling we will be pretty good together. We have had a great start and will build on that as we learn from each other.”
After some heavy overnight showers, the riders faced a gentle drizzle through much of the stage, which took in sections of the well-known Seven Passes road – including Phantom Pass early on.
Walker, who had recently returned to SA after racing in Europe, said while the weather made the route more treacherous in places, there was a positive side as well.
“The rain can be good and bad,” said the 25-year-old, who has settled in Hilton in KwaZulu-Natal.
“The roads were quite gravelly and sandy, so the rain meant they were not that slippery and there was no dust from any vehicles going past.
“I don’t really mind the drizzle as I prefer it cooler than blazing hot.
“On the other hand, some of the parts were very muddy and if you are not too careful you can go around a corner and slide on rocks or roots.”
He added the conditions were also prone to causing mechanicals and said the bikes would be checked thoroughly afterwards to assess their condition.
Catherine Williamson and Hannele Steyn (Spar) finished in 3:42:44 to take the lead in the women’s section.
The 34-year-old Williamson from North Yorkshire in Britain said she was thrilled to be riding with a partner after competing in the solo category last year.
“When you ride solo, you have to go flat out and try to hang on to groups.
“Riding with a partner is a completely different dynamic and Hannele is such an awesome rider with so much experience,” said the former Cape Epic champion.
“We worked nicely together and she was always right on my wheel.”
Belgian Karl Dossche found himself leading the men’s solo section in 3:51:23 after initially entering in the team category.
“Unfortunately my friend had to withdraw because of family reasons so I went ahead to ride solo,” he explained.
“Of course, it would be nicer if he was here, but I had a very good ride on a wonderful course. The rainy conditions were not too bad because in Belgium we are used to that.”
Despite taking a wrong turn and adding several kilometres to her day, Alma Colyn completed the stage in 3:56:10 to take the lead in the women’s solo category.
“It was an awesome route, even if it was wet and muddy,” she said.
“Unfortunately, I took my glasses off at one stage to tuck them in my top and when I looked up I realised I was going straight instead of turning into the forest.”
Colyn said she refused to panic and merely turned around to find the correct route.
“All you can do is just pray and hope you see another cyclist or a sign board. I was very grateful to get back on track to enjoy an amazing event.”
The second stage will take riders over a distance of 135km between George and Van Wyksdorp with 2 450m of ascent.
The 690km event finishes in Franschhoek on Saturday.
1 Travis Walker, Pieter Seyffert (3:19:46)
2 Eddy Felliers, Kristof de Neys (3:42:42)
3 David Wertheim Aymes, William Wertheim Aymes (3:42:43)
4 Pierre Cloete, Graeme Cumming (3:53:01)
5 Reynard Tissink, Brandon Harcus (4:03:41)
1 Hannele Steyn, Catherine Williamson (3:42:44)
1 Ian Seggie, Jane Seggie (4:25:52)
2 Craig Chidrawi, Charmaine Werdmuller (4:32:33)
3 Matthias Kubli, Denise Kubli (4:44:24)
4 Michael de Coster, Yolanda Witteveen (4:58:13)
5 Simon Knutton, Sandra Johannessen (5:45:04)
1 Karl Dossche (3:51:23)
2 Alan Tilling (3:51:24)
3 Malcolm Dods (4:00:47)
4 Peter Hall (4:05:59)
5 James Whitehouse (4:05:59)
1 Alma Colyn (3:36:10)
2 Mandy Langebrink (4:18:35)
3 Nicola Geldenhuys (4:46:35)
4 Chandre Wertheim Aymes (4:52:18)
5 Susan Thornton-Smith (5:07:34)