Urs Huber and Karl Platt won the Tankwa Trek queen stage and extended their overall lead yesterday.
The Team Bulls pair used the infamous Merino Monster, a 20km climb that ascends 1 000m, to make their race-winning move.
They timed their attack perfectly, initially increasing the pace on the lower slopes and then surging hard at the base of the main climb to ride off the front and make their way over the summit first, securing the R10 000 King of the Mountain prize.
Both skilled riders, Platt and Huber plunged rapidly, but without any real pressure down the 10km descent before opening up their lead even more on the mostly gravel roads at the end of the 87km leg to finish in 3:46:36.
“The early kilometres were a bit hectic. You want to be in front – you don’t want to queue when you get to Du Toit Drop. But the speed wasn’t as high as stage one. We had some rain early on, which was good for the trail surface,” said Platt.
Second place went to the Telkom BCX pair of Waylon Woolcock and HB Kruger, 4:15 behind the Bulls.
Woolcock and Kruger finished off a well-calculated stage by outsprinting compatriots Nico Bell and Gawie Combrinck (Team NAD Pro).
At the start of the stage it was confirmed that Christoph Sauser‘s Investec-Songo-Specialized teammate Sam Gaze had withdrawn, leaving the five-time Cape Epic champion to ride on alone and finish unofficially, using the race for training.
The women’s race was also decided on the Merino Monster.
The top three teams – Meerendal/CBC’s Esther Süss and Jennie Stenerhag, OMX Pro’s Mariske Strauss and Yolande de Villiers and dormakaba’s Candice Lill and Vera Adrian, spent the first 45km close together, but as they approached the water point near the base of the behemoth ascent, Lill and Adrian dropped off.
At the water point, at 56km, Stenerhag and Süss broke clear. Süss is an exceptional climber and Stenerhag did well to hold onto her teammate as they steadily increased their lead, snapping up the R10 000 Queen of the Mountain prize and then going on to win the stage in 4:31:37.
Strauss and De Villiers were second, almost eight minutes later with Lill and Adrian just over three minutes further back in third.
“The start was quite tactical. Not so fast. I had a little tumble on the way down the Du Toit drop, but nothing serious. The top ladies teams were together for longer today, which was quite nice,” said Stenerhag.