In the men’s race, the pace was fierce from the start on a 67km course that was considered relatively flat and fast.
By 30km there was still a lead group of more than 20. But the distance began to take its toll at that high intensity and riders began to slip off the back in the second half.
As the finish drew closer, Botha dropped off, leaving four riders up front.
With 2km remaining, both Bell and Knox took an unexpected tumble when they hit a deep mud patch. They got up quickly and began to chase down Buys and Du Toit who had built up a small lead.
With 1km remaining, Knox and Bell caught Buys and Du Toit and a sprint finish was inevitable. All four were spent though, Buys and Du Toit from trying to hold their lead and Bell and Knox from chasing them down.
Bell managed to get into the final corner first, ahead of Knox. The Team NAD Pro rider then kept his lead to the finish line with Buys coming past Knox to take second place.
Knox rolled over the line in third with Du Toit taking fourth place. Bell’s winning time was 2:25:21.
“It’s always hard from the start at these TrailSeeker races. Everyone is watching each other and it’s a high intensity pace virtually throughout. All our form is quite good ahead of the Epic, so it was quite a close battle right to the end,” said Bell.
In the women’s race Ralph (Galileo Risk) and Vanessa Bell were the early leaders. Bell then suffered a mechanical, which saw her adopt chase mode for the remainder of the race.
Ralph kept her pace consistent and avoided any potential problems and held onto her lead to finish first in 2:42:39. Bell was second two minutes later with Adrienne Moolman a distant third.
“It was a very fast and flat route. In the beginning we were a group of four but on the grassy climb, where you needed a kidney belt because it was so bumpy, Vanessa and I got away from the others,” said Ralph.
“We stayed together until she had a mechanical and I then just kept a safe, steady pace to the finish,” said Ralph.
Round two of the TrailSeeker Gauteng Series takes place on May 20 at Buffelsdrift.