Defending champions Johann Rabie and Gawie Combrinck delivered another workmanlike performance to all but seal their victory on day six of the Old Mutual joBerg2c near Underberg in KwaZulu-Natal on Wednesday.
The EAI Cycling pair took their fourth consecutive stage win on the 97km route from Nottingham Road to Glencairn Farm in the shadow of Sani Pass to extend their overall lead to more than 18 minutes.
Rabie and Combrinck cruised into the finish in a time of 4:17:47, just 38 seconds clear of The Gear Change’s David George and Justin Tuck, with Hanco Kachelhoffer and Pieter Seyffert of Altech Autopage Karan Beef third in 4:20:57.
After the mountainous stage, which saw riders ascend Snow Top Mountain – the highest point on the nine-day route – the leaders retained their similarly lofty spot in the standings with an aggregate time of 24:47:34.
Despite crashing heavily, Avis Van Rental’s Tyronne White and partner Andrew Hill still managed to place fourth on the stage in 4:22:37 to remain second in the general classification in 25:05:47.
Kachelhoffer and Seyffert rounded out the overall podium in 25:06:53.
Heavy mist dampened the start of the day’s racing from Clifton Preparatory School but after an enforced 10km neutral zone the four teams quickly broke away.
They stayed together as they headed for the foothills of the southern Drakensberg until White crashed with 20km to go on the aptly named Face Plantation stretch.
“We were coming down off the top of Winterhoek after the second waterpoint and as we reached the tribal land area Tyronne got on the wrong side of David when he swerved to avoid a rutted section and landed rather heavily,” said Hill.
Their three rival teams initially sat up but then decided to make the most of White and Hill’s misfortunes as they headed up the last technical climb on the Red Bull Run.
Rabie lifted the pace on the ascent to shake Kachelhoffer and Seyffert before the final two-team chase towards the finish.
In the mixed category, overnight leaders Samantha Sanders and Justin Victor rode hard all day to catch yesterday’s stage winners Billy Stelling and Carmen Buchacher of Seattle Coffee with two kilometres to go.
“We caught them in this last section but we worked pretty hard for it,” said Sanders.
“They were way ahead of us but we closed the gap, rode their wheel, recovered, and then just put the hammer down.”
The Valencia Cycling duo took the stage win in 5:01:06 for an overall time of 28:06:40, which translates into a lead of more than five minutes.
Women’s race leaders Catherine Williamson and Yolande de Villiers of SasolRacing lost valuable time after the first waterpoint when Williamson suffered a sidewall puncture.
But they recovered well to claim the stage win in 5:04:24 to remain safely ahead on 27:39:02.
Men’s solo category leader Timothy Hammond also asserted his authority with another stage win in 4:25:32 (25:31:05).
Paula Hardy finished second on the day in 5:51:13 to remain at the front of the women’s solo race (30:34:51).
In the City Lodge masters and vets categories, the leading teams also remain unchanged after stage six.
USN-Cycle Lab’s Chris Brand and Paul Furbank (4:46:25; 26:54:07) and HiddenHunger’s David de Lima and Sean Henderson (5:03:59; 27:55:01) were the respective winners on the day.
The 79km seventh stage takes riders to Mackenzie Club near Ixopo.
Men: 1. Johann Rabie & Gawie Combrinck (EAI Cycling) 4:17:47; 2. David George & Justin Tuck (The Gear Change) 4:18:25; 3. Pieter Seyffert & Hanco Kachelhoffer (Altech Autopage Karan Beef) 4:20:57
Women: 1. Catherine Williamson & Yolande de Villiers (SasolRacing) 5:04:24; 2. Sarah van Heerden & Cindy Theunissen (Old Mutual) 5:39:54; 3. Susan Zorzetto & Alice Leao (BRA Alegria) 6:03:48
Mixed: 1. Samantha Sanders & Justin Victor (Valencia Mixed) 5:01:06; 2. Carmen Buchacher & Billy Stelling (Seattle Coffee) 5:01:22; 3. Hayley Smith & Darryn Purtell (Bell Equipment) 5:14:40
Men: 1. Johann Rabie & Gawie Combrinck (EAI Cycling) 24:47:34; 2. Andrew Hill & Tyronne White (Avis Van Rental) 25:05:47; 3. Pieter Seyffert & Hanco Kachelhoffer (Altech Autopage Karan Beef) 25:06:53
Women: 1. Catherine Williamson & Yolande de Villiers (SasolRacing) 27:39:02; 2. Sarah van Heerden & Cindy Theunissen (Old Mutual) 30:42:26; 3. Carla Plens & Graziela Takay (Mazi Capital) 34:31:50
Mixed: 1. Samantha Sanders & Justin Victor (Valencia Mixed) 28:06:40; 2. Carmen Buchacher & Billy Stelling (Seattle Coffee) 28:11:54; 3. Hayley Smith & Darryn Purtell (Bell Equipment) 29:25:31