Avis Van Rental mountain bikers Andrew Hill and Tyronne White kicked into high gear as they outsprinted a small lead bunch to claim the second stage of the nine-day Old Mutual joBerg2c through the eastern Free State on Saturday.
Hill and White took the 93km stage from Frankfort to Reitz in a time of 3:26:48, with defending champions Gawie Combrinck and Johann Rabie of EAI Cycling hot on their heels in 3:26:52.
The Altech Autopage Karan Beef pairing of Hanco Kachelhoffer and Pieter Seyffert rounded out the podium in 3:26:57.
The teams occupy the same positions in the general classification after yesterday’s neutral stage from Heidelberg in Gauteng.
Hill said he and White were happy to take the stage win but that the major contenders in the 900km test of endurance would not be showing their hand too early.
“A lot of the guys are playing the long game and I think that will set the tone for the rest of the race.”
After a meandering neutral zone through Frankfort, a large lead bunch of around 40 riders rolled together on the dirt roads and trails along the Wilge River.
The elites drove the pace on a few of the gradual climbs and had whittled the group down to 14 riders by the first waterpoint on Glen Walton farm at the 35km mark.
They stayed together over the remainder of the route, including the final 10km stretch of singletrack after the Boerbull Descent and on the short uphill drag leading into the Reitz showgrounds.
Hill said his teammate’s performance on the technical sections had been particularly encouraging.
“We pushed on a couple of those sections and created a bit of a gap, which bodes well going forward into technical sections like the Umkomaas and Spioenkop later in the race.”
Hillcrest-based Hill said he and White, who hails from Ballito, were looking forward to racing their home trails in KwaZulu-Natal in the coming days.
SasolRacing’s Yolande de Villiers and British partner Catherine Williamson rode consistently to take the stage win in the women’s category in 3:38:28.
However, said De Villiers, it was still a long way to the end at Scottburgh next Saturday.
“We’re aiming for the highest possible finish overall, so we’ll keep on pushing for that.”
Their teammates Leana de Jager and former mixed category winner Johan Labuschagne finished a second behind them for the mixed stage win.
Former elite champion David George and partner Justin Tuck of The Gear Change won the City Lodge-sponsored veteran section in 3:27:02, while USN-Cycle Lab masters Chris Brand and Paul Furbank took their category, with prizes also sponsored by the hotel group, in 3:36:02.
On Sunday, the 800 riders take on the longest stage of the event – a 122km route to Sterkfontein Dam near the KZN border.
To see more results and highlights from the stage, visit www.joberg2c.co.za. For updates, follow @joberg2c_journo or find the race on Facebook.