Photo: Steve Hoban (Pick n Pay), Lourens Luus (4th), Michiel Van Der Heijden (2nd), James Reid (1st), Matthew Beers (3rd) and Adriaan Louw (5th)
James Reid (Team Spur) and Jennie Stenerhag (Ascendis Health) dominated the men’s and women’s races respectively to claim the top spots at the 2016 Cape Town Cycle Tour MTB Challenge at Le Bonheur in Stellenbosch.
Reid – who raced the SA Cup Cross Country series event in the Helderberg the day before – out-sprinted Michiel Van Der Heijden (Scott-ODLO) and Matthew Beers (Cannondale Red-E) to cross the finish line of the 15th annual MTB Challenge first, in a time of 02:14:33.
“I’m very happy with the win,” commented a dusty Reid after the finish. “Especially considering yesterday (he finished an uncharacteristic fifth) – I’ve been putting in a lot more work in than what that race showed, so to take the win here is great,” he said.
According to Reid, the route was exactly what you’d expect from this iconic event and that despite the recent devastating fires in the region. “Hats off to the organisers, there was so much singletrack – 60% was like, on-the-edge, dusty and loose…that is what this race is famous for,” he said.
Reid, Dutch cross-country expert Van Der Heide (out in South Africa on a training camp), Matt Beers, Adriaan Louw (Contego) and Lourens Luus (PSG) rode clear early on in the 55-kilometre route and stuck together for most of the race. “There wasn’t much sustained climbing,” commented Reid of the 1250-metres of climbing, “more short, sharp, punchy stuff, which actually helps if you are a bit under the gun – which both Michiel and I were after yesterday’s race – but we rode ourselves into it,” he said.
“Matt (Beers) was by far the strongest today – he was riding so well and I think he has a massive future. I pretty much watched him most of the day. Up a couple of the climbs I tried a few things, but nothing stuck,” he said. A crash saw Luus and Louw fall off the pace and with some 15km to go it was a three horse race.
“I knew it would be a sprint finish,” said Reid. “So I lead it from the front from a couple of kilometres out and into the final singletrack. I took a few risks and could’ve been left exposed, but fortunately it worked out,” he said.
In the women’s race Jennie Stenerhag was in a class of her own and took the win in a time of 02:35:17, ahead of Carmen Buchacher and Nadia Visser. “I’ve never won this race before, so I’m very happy,” she said. “It was very dusty and soft out there after the fire and in some places it was quite challenging to ride,” she said. “They’ve done a great job to restore the singletracks after the fire though, they must’ve worked very very hard,” said Stenerhag.
According to route designer Meurant Botha the fire didn’t have too much of a detrimental effect on the route. “We had to reroute a couple of sections because of it, but it didn’t affect water point placement so we were fortunate that we didn’t have to redesign the course – we’re probably on 85% of the original route,” he said.
“We also made a change or two and that meant cutting out a couple of climbs, so I think it rode a little bit easier,” Botha added, joking how that might just have been something of a blessing in disguise due to the heat (the thermometer read up to 41 degrees Celsius on some riders’ bike computers).
“The fire was very concerning, but we are very pleased with the way it turned out,” agreed David Bellairs, Marketing, Sponsorship and Communications Director of the Cape Town Cycle Tour Trust. “The route offered some fantastic riding through some really beautiful wine farms. This is a family event and the main aim is getting folks out on mountain bikes and enjoying what we have to offer,” he said.
55km Men 1st: James Reid (Team Spur) – 02:14:33
55km Men 2nd: Michiel Van Der Heijden (Scott-ODLO) – 02:14:34
55km Men 3rd: Matthew Beers (Cannondale Red-E) – 02:14:35
55km Women 1st: Jennie Stenerhag (Team Ascendis) – 02:35:17
55km Women 2nd: Carmen Buchacher – 02:43:24
55km Women 3rd: Nadie Visser – 02:52:54
40km Men 1st: Robert Hobson – 01:43:53
40km Men 2nd: Johann Trotzky – 01:44:20
40km Men 3rd: Danie le Roux – 01:48:36
40km Women 1st: Allison Morton – 02:06:26
40km Women 2nd: Amy Burton – 02:08:16
40km Women 3rd: Courteney – 02:20:45