Ruddock and Cooper dominate in Eastern Cape

Geddan Ruddock and Timo Cooper of Team Geru-Tico were victorious in the annual Trans Baviaans Ultra Marathon mountain bike event in Jeffrey’s Bay on Saturday.

The Western Cape duo finished almost 20 minutes clear of their closest competitors, Team Loutrans from the Freestate.

It was a welcome return to form for the Franschoek cycle shop owner Ruddock,  who continues his impressive comeback to the national mountain biking circuit in 2011.

Starting in a near freezing Willowmore, conditions were exacerbated by a persistent wind-chill factor forcing the near 1000 participants to don several more layers of clothing than normal. The wind direction did play into the cyclists favour however, providing a slight tailwind for the majority of the event.

Due to recent heavy rains, the organisers were forced to stage the 2011 event on a revised route skirting the Baviaanskloof before reverting to the normal passage from the town of Patensie onwards.

Early leaders Trevor Seinen and Andrew Payne (Team Virgin Active/New Market Hotels) forged an early lead, which at one stage was up to ten minutes before suffering a puncture costing them half an hour.

By the fourth checkpoint at Mimosa, Ruddock and Cooper had built a healthy lead of eight minutes over the veteran Freestate duo of Dirk Maarsingh (44) and David Walsh (43). Roger Pheiffer and Nick Cape of Port Elizabeth were next through the checkpoint while the hapless duo of Payne and Seinen had climbed back up to tenth place at this point.

A unique feature of this event is that all competitors spend at least a couple of hours riding in total darkness. Suitable bicycle lighting is essential as is the rider’s support crew.

The top three positions remained unchanged through the final seconding point at Zuurbron farm while there was a significant shakeup going on in the minor placings. Payne and Seinen had now moved back up into fifth closely followed by fellow Capetonians Patrick Van Schoor and Warren Robertson as well as the experienced team from Hermanus.

By the finish, Ruddock and Cooper had consolidated their lead finishing in a time of 8hr58min. Teams Loutrans and Wayne Pheiffer Cycles maintained their podium postions respectively ahead of KZN duo of Mark Doffay and Dirk Barnard who held on to their fourth position.

Early leaders Payne and Seinen kept up their relentless chase to finish an inspiring fifth.

“We are very happy with this victory,” explained a shivering Ruddock after the race. “The length and severity of the route coupled with freezing conditions makes this event the toughest in the country.”

“After a short break, my race schedule includes the Oude Molen MTB race as well the remaining events in the MTN National Marathon Series.”

The GT-sponsored Ruddock indicated that participation in the 2012 ABSA Cape Epic is a possibilty but hinges upon sufficient sponsorship.

The women’s division was dominated by the experienced duo of Ischen Stopforth and Hanlie Booyens. The Bizhub-sponsored duo finished almost 1 hour ahead of their nearest competitors, Andrea von Holdt and Hilana Marais. Former South African triathlon and mountain biking champion Hannele Steyn finished third with teammate Leanne Brown-Waterson.