The BCX rider said the victory in his debut appearance at the event was sweet reward after he broke his collarbone at the Knysna Cycle Tour two months ago.
“The past two months have been quite a rough time for me. There has been lots of ups and downs, sitting on a trainer for 15 hours a week and not being able to ride outside,” said the 26-year-old.
Kruger also lined up for the start of the Cederberg Experience earlier this month, but a mechanical 40km in put him out of the running.
“My goal for this weekend was more to see where my legs were at, having not raced for the past two months,” said the Paarl local. “I wanted to get a feel of my legs, body and overall condition.”
The hours on the indoor trainer evidently paid off and Kruger was able to take an early lead in the 60km marathon race.
Once through the neutral zone, he and Jurgens Uys left the field behind and, when Uys dropped off the pace 3km later, Kruger was joined up front by teammate Waylon Woolcock.
“We had a small gap over the guys so we just kept it quite conservative and steady through the single-track sections. We didn’t want to make any mistakes and just focused on keeping our gap,” said Kruger.
The Winelands Encounter champions continued steadily without testing each other and at the finish it was Kruger who crossed the line first in 2:51:00. Uys finished three minutes back to complete the podium.
“It was quite a tough route so it was great feeling like I’m back in top shape,” said Kruger. “I’m very happy I was able to pull it off.”
Kate Lennard topped the women’s podium after she cruised across the line in 3:24:55 with a lead of more than 10 minutes.
It was a battle for the last two steps of the podium between Louise Ferreira and Courteney Webb, with the former taking second by two seconds.