Stage1: George, Evans call the shots at sani2c
David George and Kevin Evans came out all guns blazing on the opening stage of the three-day sani2c, presented by BoE Private Clients, in KwaZulu-Natal on Thursday.
The Nedbank 360Life riders drove the pace from the start to take the 86km first stage from Underberg to McKenzie Club near Ixopo in a record-shattering time of 2:35:44.
In what was essentially a one-two for the professional outfit, they were followed home in 2:37:49 by James Reid and Charles Keey, who rode as Nedbank 360Life-Blend.
Brandon Stewart and Darren Lill of FedGroup-Itec Connect-Bonitas, who were thwarted by technical problems at the base of the final climb, recovered well to take third in 2:40:33.
Four-time winner Evans said he and George had intended to make the racing hard from the outset with the aim of forcing an early break. “We were hoping to build a comfortable margin going into day two and it seems to have paid off for us.”
Fresh from their victory in the Old Mutual joBerg2c, the on-form pair attacked on the opening climb after 7km.
This effectively splintered the lead group, leaving Stewart and Lill, Reid and Keey and Bell Cycling-Columbia’s Gawie Combrinck and Nico Bell in the chasing bunch.
“We hit it hard and then it was pretty much flat box all the way,” said Evans. “I’m glad we both had the legs to keep that tempo up.”
The leaders opened up a minute-and-a-half gap on the chasers as they entered the Oak Lane single track at the 15km mark.
By the time they reached the floating bridge at around 28km, the time-split was two minutes. The duo maintained this margin coming out of the forest at the first waterpoint 9km later.
With Bell and Combrinck having dropped off due to mechanical issues, Stewart and Lill were left to push the pace as Reid and Keey sat on.
By the second waterpoint after 63km, the chasers had narrowed the gap by 30 seconds but then disaster struck as Lill’s chain snapped coming out of the final section of single track.
“That’s mountain biking,” said a disappointed Lill. “We’re going to go on the attack tomorrow and just see what we can do.”
In the women’s race, Theresa Ralph and Karien van Jaarsveld of DisChem- Britehouse-MTN crossed the line in 3:07:33, closely followed by the two bizhub-FCF pairings of Catherine Williamson and Ischen Stopforth (3:09:40) and Leana de Jager and Nicci Grobler (3:16:55).
“It’s nice to have some strong riders to look out for,” said Ralph, who is on top form following back-to-back race victories in the MTN National Marathon Series.
“I’m a bit stronger than Karien at the moment. Although she starts off slowly, she warms up and then just machines and powers all the way through, so I think on day two and three we’re just going to turn it on.”
Contego 28E’s reigning champions Erik and Ariane Kleinhans once again laid down the gauntlet by taking the lead in the mixed category in 2:59:22.
Cherise Taylor and Dwane Stander were second in 3:09:49 with Carel Bosman and Yolandi du Toit of bizhub-FCF rounding out the podium in 3:17:53.
Friday’s second stage features a spectacular descent into the Umkomaas Valley as part of the challenging 99km route from McKenzie Club to Jolivet Farm in the Highflats region.
Stage2: George, Evans in command at sani2c
David George and Kevin Evans turned in another commanding performance in near-perfect mountain biking conditions to claim the second stage of the sani2c, presented by BoE Private Clients, in southern KwaZulu-Natal on Friday.
The Nedbank 360Life pair, from Cape Town and Plettenberg Bay respectively, powered through the 99km queen stage from McKenzie Club near Ixopo to Jolivet Farm in the Highflats region in a time of 3:34:41.
They were followed home by James Reid and Charles Keey of Nedbank 360Life-Blend Properties, who clocked 3:37:33. Darren Lill and Brandon Stewart of FedGroup-Itec Connect-Bonitas recovered from a puncture to place third in 3:39:59.
Evans and George now head the overall standings with a total time of 6:10:25. They are followed by Reid and Keey in 6:15:22 and Lill and Stewart in 6:20:32.
The top five teams, which included Bell Cycling-Columbia’s Nico Bell and Gawie Combrinck as well as Louis Bresler-Knipe and Andrew Hill of ITB, made an early break from the main bunch to lead the way into the Umkomaas River Valley.
“We didn’t have too much pressure to make any big gaps on the descent,” said George. “So we just rode down on the wheel.”
The leaders were still together when they crossed the floating bridge after 30km.
George and Evans started to come to the fore in the rough technical sections leading up to the first waterpoint, which came after 40km.
They gapped their breakaway companions on the single track known as Steve’s Spruit and put their heads down on the 5km district road ascent that followed to open up a minute and a half on Reid and Keey by the second waterpoint at 65km.
Stewart and Lill were a further 45 seconds back, while Bresler-Knipe and Hill had fallen off the pace along with Bell and Combrinck.
The leaders extended the gap on the next big climb, baptised Push of a Climb, to build a two-minute advantage over Reid and Keey by the final waterpoint at 83km. Stewart and Lill were a minute further adrift.
“From there it’s fairly fast to the finish,” said Evans. “So if you’ve got the gap and you can keep the legs turning, it’s pretty much over bar any mishaps.”
Evans said their plan had been to ride hard for the first two days and take it easier on the final stage.
“We wanted some time in the bag in case something goes wrong tomorrow,” the four-time winner said, referring to last year’s race when they missed a turn on the final day that cost them the title.
The leading ladies, Theresa Ralph and Karien van Jaarsveld of DisChem-Britehouse-MTN, were not so lucky after the latter suffered a broken derailleur early on.
Ischen Stopforth and Catherine Williamson of bizhub-FCF capitalised to ride to an easy stage victory in 4:20:23. Leana de Jager and Nicci Grobler, also riding under the bizhub-FCF banner, followed them in 4:38:33.
Ralph and Van Jaarsveld limped home third in 5:13:16 to slip to third in the overall standings behind new leaders Stopforth and Williamson and second-placed De Jager and Grobler.
In the mixed category, Erik and Ariane Kleinhans of Contego-28E took their second stage win in 4:18:36 to increase their lead atop the overall standings.
Next to finish, in 4:28:05, was the privateer pairing of Cherise Taylor and Dwane Stander. Ivor Jones and Bridgette Stewart of Crusader Logistics were third in 4:35:12.
Men: 1. Kevin Evans & David George (Nedbank 360Life) 3:34:41; 2. Charles Keey & James Reid (Nedbank 360Life-Blend Properties) 3:37:33; 3. Darren Lill & Brandon Stewart (FedGroup-Itec Connect-Bonitas) 3:39:59
Women: 1. Catherine Williamson & Ischen Stopforth (bizhub-FCF 1) 4:20:23; 2. Leana de Jager & Nicci Grobler (bizhub-FCF 2) 4:38:33; 3. Karien van Jaarsveld & Theresa Ralph (DisChem-Britehouse-MTN) 5:13:16
Mixed: 1. Ariane Kleinhans & Erik Kleinhans (Contego 28E) 4:18:36; 2. Cherise Taylor & Dwane Stander (Taylor-Stander) 4:28:05; 3. Ivor Jones & Bridgette Stewart (Crusader Logistics) 4:35:12
Men: 1. Kevin Evans & David George (Nedbank 360Life) 6:10:25; 2. Charles Keey & James Reid (Nedbank 360Life-Blend Properties) 6:15:22; 3. Darren Lill & Brandon Stewart (FedGroup-Itec Connect-Bonitas) 6:20:32
Women: 1. Catherine Williamson & Ischen Stopforth (bizhub-FCF 1) 7:30:03; 2. Leana de Jager & Nicci Grobler (bizhub-FCF 2) 7:55:28; 3. Karien van Jaarsveld & Theresa Ralph (DisChem-Britehouse-MTN) 8:20:49
Mixed: 1. Ariane Kleinhans & Erik Kleinhans (Contego 28E) 7:17:58; 2. Cherise Taylor & Dwane Stander (Taylor-Stander) 7:37:54; 3. Ivor Jones & Bridgette Stewart (Crusader Logistics) 7:55:06
Stage3: George, Evans reclaim sani2c
After last year’s heartbreak, Kevin Evans and David George smashed the course record to reclaim their rightful place as winners of the 2012 sani2c, presented by BoE Private Clients, in Scottburgh on Saturday morning.
The Nedbank 360Life riders took the overall lead after winning the opening stage between Underberg and McKenzie Club near Ixopo, KwaZulu-Natal, on Thursday and did not relinquish it again.
On the third and final day, Evans and George rolled in in 2:21:08, five seconds behind stage winners and team-mates James Reid and Charles Keey, who rode in the colours of Nedbank 360Life-Blend Properties.
Defending champion Max Knox and new partner Mannie Heymans of Ormin crossed the line in 2:23:59 to take third on the day.
Evans, from Plettenberg Bay, and George, from Cape Town, topped the general classification with an overall time of 8:31:33.
Stage victory saw Reid and Keey cement their runner-up spot overall in 8:36:25, with Darren Lill and Brandon Stewart of FedGroup-Itec Connect-Bonitas rounding out the podium in 8:45:18.
“For us it wasn’t important to win every stage; the overall was,” said Evans, who notched up his fifth victory in six outings, two of which were with George.
“I love this race and I’ll keep coming back. The course gets better and better every year.”
His near-perfect record was marred last year when they overshot a turn on the final day to lose the overall lead.
This year, they made no mistakes on the fast 72km final stage from Jolivet Farm near Highflats to Scottburgh High School.
By the first waterpoint after 21km Evans and George, riding with Reid and Keey, had opened up a minute lead on their pursuers, which included Knox and Heymans, Stewart and Lill as well as Nico Bell and Gawie Combrinck of Bell Cycling-Columbia.
Evans said he expected more of a fight from their competition as they went up the first climb. “So we took a chance pacing with our junior team, basically consolidating our lead and making sure we had no hassles coming up to the finish.
“It’s great that James and Charles could win today, they’ve been riding really well and deserve it.”
Evans and George have shown devastating stage racing form this season, claiming both the African jersey at the Absa Cape Epic in April and the Old Mutual joBerg2c two weeks ago.
The two will also be likely contenders at next month’s Trans Germany stage race, which is a solo event.
In the women’s race, early overall leaders Karien van Jaarsveld and Theresa Ralph of DisChem-Britehouse-MTN took their second stage win in 2:46:47, but it was not enough to secure the title after losing almost an hour the previous day with mechanical problems. They slumped to third on GC in 11:07:36.
Overall honours belonged to stage two winners Ischen Stopforth and Catherine Williamson of bizhub-FCF, who came home in 2:54:08 for a combined time of 10:24:11.
Next in were the second bizhub-FCF pairing of Leana de Jager and Nicci Grobler in 3:02:24. They also claimed the runner-up spot in the overall standings in 10:57:52.
“It would have been nice to have beaten them fair and square,” said Williamson, who hails from Britain. “We put so much effort into yesterday going for the stage win because we didn’t know what the time gap was – and paid for it today.”
Mixed category overall leaders Erik and Ariane Kleinhans of Contego-28E crashed 10km from the finish to gift bride-to-be Cherise Taylor and her future brother-in-law Dwane Stander stage honours in 2:45:06.
The Kleinhans couple, who finished second on the day in 2:50:42, had enough of a margin to retain their title in 10:08:40. Taylor and Stander were second in 10:23:00.
Ivor Jones and Bridgitte Stewart of Crusader Logistics crossed the line third in 2:52:30 to claim the same position overall in 10:47:36.
Men: 1. Charles Keey & James Reid (Nedbank 360Life-Blend Properties) 2:21:03; 2. Kevin Evans & David George (Nedbank 360Life) 2:21:03; 3. Max Knox & Mannie Heymans (Ormin) 2:23:59
Women: 1. Karien van Jaarsveld & Theresa Ralph (DisChem-Britehouse-MTN) 2:46:47; 2. Catherine Williamson & Ischen Stopforth (bizhub-FCF 1) 2:54:08; 3. Leana de Jager & Nicci Grobler (bizhub-FCF 2) 3:02:24
Mixed: 1. Cherise Taylor & Dwane Stander (Taylor-Stander) 2:45:06; 2. Ariane Kleinhans & Erik Kleinhans (Contego 28E) 2:50:42; 3. Ivor Jones & Bridgette Stewart (Crusader Logistics) 2:52:30
Men: 1. Kevin Evans & David George (Nedbank 360Life) 8:31:33; 2. Charles Keey & James Reid (Nedbank 360Life-Blend Properties) 8:36:25; 3. Darren Lill & Brandon Stewart (FedGroup-Itec Connect-Bonitas) 8:45:18
Women: 1. Catherine Williamson & Ischen Stopforth (bizhub-FCF 1) 10:24:11; 2. Leana de Jager & Nicci Grobler (bizhub-FCF 2) 10:57:52; 3. Karien van Jaarsveld & Theresa Ralph (DisChem-Britehouse-MTN) 11:07:36
Mixed: 1. Ariane Kleinhans & Erik Kleinhans (Contego 28E) 10:08:40; 2. Cherise Taylor & Dwane Stander (Taylor-Stander) 10:23:00; 3. Ivor Jones & Bridgette Stewart (Crusader Logistics) 10:47:36