After winning stages one and two, fate struck Süss and Stenerhag (Meerendal/CBC) after 18km of the 89km stage when they had to stop to repair a puncture sustained by Süss.
This opened up the racing for the final-stage podium and Strauss and de Villiers (OMX Pro) and Candice Lill and Vera Adrian (dormakaba) were ready to oblige, tackling the stage’s signature singletrack sections with renewed intent.
For de Villiers and Strauss, the general classification was also a consideration. Even though they started the day with a 13-minute deficit to the Meerendal/CBC pair, they’re experienced enough to know that mountain bike mechanicals can rob riders of huge chunks of time.
With generous prize money and International Cycling Union rankings points up for grabs, there was a lot at stake.
Süss and Stenerhag repaired the tyre with a plug and then found themselves in pursuit mode for the rest of the stage. Strauss is the current national XCO champion and she led de Villiers smoothly and swiftly through the long sections of singletrack that wove its way through the rocky landscape.
Although Süss and Stenerhag managed to catch and pass, the dormakaba duo, they fell short of closing down the OMX Pro pair, who crossed the finish line in 3:30:23.
Süss and Stenerhag were second, almost two minutes later with Lill and Adrian rounding out the podium places another four minutes later.
“It all came together for us on the final day. I dropped my chain about 15km in. We paced back hard to the leading women and just as we reached them, Esther got a flat,” said Stenerhag.
“But it was a good test for us as a team to see how we cope with this kind of thing and it prepares us well for the Cape Epic. Staying calm and chasing back became our priorities.”
Strauss and De Villiers finished second overall with Lill and Adrian completing the final overall podium.
The win was the third successive Tankwa Trek for Stenerhag, who won the previous two editions with Robyn de Groot, who won the 2017 mixed category with her Ascendis Health teammate, Gert Heyns.
Runners-up in the mixed division were Team Valencia’s Grant Usher and Amy Beth McDougall with Charles Mcfall and Carmen Buchacher (Velocity Sports Lab) rounding out the podium places.
In the solo women’s division, Jeannie Dreyer was dominant, winning all three stages and the overall title ahead of Dalene van der Leek and Reinette Geldenhuis respectively.