The treacherous Kammanassie Reserve derailed the race leaders on stage three of the Cape Pioneer Trek mountain bike race from Oudtshoorn to Rust on Wednesday.
Wet conditions made the already steep and harsh mountainous terrain more challenging – even for the elite field, with most of the contenders sustaining punctures.
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A sliced tyre put an end to women’s race leaders Esther Suss and Catherine Williamson’s (SasolRacing) quest for another stage win and robbed them of their overall lead.
They relinquished their leader jerseys to Robyn de Groot and Jennie Stenerhag (Ascendis Health), who finished in 4:36:00 to establish an almost eight-minute overall lead.
“It’s never nice to lose the race lead because of a puncture. We know, we lost our lead in the Cape Pioneer Trek last year in the Kammanassie,” said De Groot.
In the men’s race, overnight leaders Matthys Beukes and Gert Heyns secured their second stage win in 3:58:42 despite puncturing on a smooth road 40km into the 94km route.
Their Scott Factory Racing LCB teammates Philip Buys and Arno du Toit finished almost 15 minutes behind in the runner-up spot after stopping to give Beukes a wheel and attempting a repair.
Dutch duo Bram Rood and Mos Gerben (KMC-Mitsubishi-Koga-Stauwdam Assen) came in third on the day.
Rood and Gerben, Robert and Emanuele Crisi (Celeste Kento Avvenia), and Thinus Redlinghuys and Dylan Rebello (Team Jeep) all had mechanicals, which led to lost time and changed positions on the general classification.
Beukes and Heyns remain top of the standings, with the Crisi brothers static in second and Rood and Gerben moving up into third overall.
“We were fortunate to get Phil’s wheel and then caught the two teams that were leading by the second water point,” said Heyns.
“Through the Kammanassie we were able to ride about three-quarters of the big climb, which I think was further than most and certainly helped us build our lead.”
The 66km fourth stage ascends over 2 150m before finishing on the summit of the Swartberg Pass on Thursday.