SA-Belgian duo win MTB’s richest stage

23 October 2013

South African James Reid and Belgian teammate Jen Schuermans of the Asrin Cycling team claimed the richest stage prize in mountain bike racing when they won stage two of the Bridge Cape Pioneer Trek in the Western Cape on Tuesday.

The 85-kilometre stage (shortened from the original 92km due to a flooded river) started in Calitzdorp and finished on the summit of the Swartberg Pass, a 12km gravel road ascent that relentlessly winds upwards, with a vertical climb of 1 100 metres to a mountain-top finish.

The cash prize for the stage for the overall winners was R112 000 ($12 000), while the women’s prize was R20 000 ($2 000).

Podium places

Overall leaders, Brandon Stewart (SA) and Konny Looser (Sui) of Team FedGroup Itec finished second and extended their overall lead, with defending champions, Westvaal Bells Cycling’s Nico Bell (SA) and Gawie Combrinck (SA) rounding out the podium places.

Team RE:CM’s Waylon Woolcock and Erik Kleinhans finished fourth on the stage and held onto their second place overall, five minutes and 22 seconds down on FedGroup Itec, while Reid and Schuermans moved up to third overall after their good day out, 13 minutes 51 seconds off of the race lead.

Team RE:CM Davinci’s Annika Langvad (DEN) and Ariane Kleinhans (SUI) continued their dominance of the women’s category by claiming their third successive stage win in an impressive 12th place overall.

Extended overall lead

They extended their overall race lead to almost 30 minutes over stage runners- up, Wheeler BMC’s Esther Suss (SUI) and Jane Nuessli (GBR). The all-South African Biogen team of Robyn de Groot and Ischen Stopforth were third on the stage and maintain third place overall.

Put out of podium contention by the mud on Monday’s stage, Reid and Schuermans were motivated from the start on Tuesday, slightly fresher than their rivals and eager to capture the race’s queen stage, their primary goal for the event.

At 40km into the dry, sunny stage, on a steep, technical climb, Stewart and Looser put in an attack that only Schuermans and Reid were able to respond to. It was a long way out from the finish but the quartet decided to commit to the breakaway.

Chase group

The size of the chase group dwindled steadily to five, comprising RE:CM, Westvaal Bells Cycling and Solo male racer, Darren Lill (Cannondale Blend), and a pursuit ensued to the base of the final climb with the gap down to as little as 25 seconds between the two groups at one point.

Once on the Swartberg Pass, FedGroup Itec and Asrin Cycling began to trade subtle surges. But with four kilometres remaining where the gradient steepened, Reid, the current South African marathon champion, powered ahead and first Looser, then Stewart cracked. Schuermans, a cross-country specialist, was fighting a personal battle against cramps but managed to pull himself up to Reid and the pair charged ahead towards the finish line.

“When James asked me to be his teammate for this race two months ago, he said our main goal was to win stage two. So I trained specifically with this stage in mind. It feels so good to achieve our goal,” Schuermans smiled afterwards.

“We weren’t keen to let any teams get away from us before the final climb today, which is why we went with FedGroup’s early move,” explained Reid.

‘Targeted’

“Jens and I are both young and both cross-country specialists, so the overall win in a long stage race would be unrealistic. That’s why we targeted this particular stage. We may be in with a chance of another stage win still.”

In the women’s race, Kleinhans and Langvad went on the attack early on and then just built on that as the stage progressed.

“We wanted to start fast and get a gap because we didn’t want to ride up the last climb under too much pressure,” said Langvad.

“My teammate is from another planet,” said Kleinhans. “Annika is so strong on the flats and downhills and she just pulled me along for the first part of the race. We got quite a decent gap on the other women early on and just kept it steady to the finish.”

Stage winners

The stage winners of the other team categories were – Mixed: Cube Nutswerk MTB’s Birgit Lavrijssen (Ned) and Marco Minnaard (Ned); Veteran: Cube Nutswerk 2’s Micha de Vries (Ned) and Rik van den Hanenberg (Ned); Master: Wilde 3’s Lieb Loots (SA) and Izak Visagie (SA); Solo men: Darren Lill (Cannondale Blend) and Solo women: Bettina Uhlig.

SAinfo reporter