Former marathon world champion Esther Suss and British teammate Catherine Williamson came storming back to win stage four of the women’s race at the Cape Pioneer Trek mountain bike race on the summit of the Swartberg Pass on Thursday.
After losing their overall lead due to mechanicals the previous day, the SasolRacing duo snatched back the pink jerseys from Ascendis Health’s Robyn de Groot and Jennie Stenerhag on the 66km stage from De Rust.
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Suss and Williamson came home in 3:15:59, more than 10 minutes faster than their rivals, to regain the top spot on the general classification by a narrow two-and-a-half minute margin.
“We had nothing to lose. But we were quite motivated when we realised on the last climb that we had a decent gap on Robyn and Jennie, so we just gave all we had to the top and it really paid off,” said Williamson.
“Esther is so strong on the climbs, which gives us an advantage. Hopefully, we’ll be able to defend this lead tomorrow,” she added.
Matthys Beukes and Gert Heyns tightened their grip on the men’s title when they won their third stage in 2:50:32 to cement their overall lead.
Starting the day with an almost 19-minute lead over Italian brothers Emanuele and Roberto Crisi (Celeste Kento Avvenia), the Scott Factory Racing LCB riders were content to sit on and let their rivals to do the work.
Beukes and Heyns used their local knowledge to surge past the Celeste Kento Avvenia riders on a steep climb in the final kilometre for the win.
The Italians followed them across the line 25 seconds later, with Team Jeep’s Dylan Rebello and Thinus Redlinghuys rounding out the podium in 2:52:03.
“I think tomorrow’s stage will be the hardest, partly because everyone is tired and also because of the technical sections later on in the stage, which need a lot of power and focus,” said Beukes.
“Gert and I have a decent lead, but we will take no risks and just try to maintain that lead now.”
The 108km fifth stage rolls from Prince Albert to Calitzdorp on Friday.