University of Cape Town shaded arch-rivals Stellenbosch University to snatch the Varsity MTB Challenge title with a strong performance on the second day near Paarl today.
The two-day mountain bike race, sponsored by First National Bank, saw the top varsities in the country compete in three-rider men’s and women’s teams for the honour of being crowned the top tertiary institution in South Africa.
After trailing by just over a minute following yesterday’s opening stage, UCT’s Luke Evans, who rode with Martin Freyer and Alex Rohrer, led the way as his team finished first overall by just under 30 seconds.
The Cape Town varsity completed the second stage, which started and finished at Nederburg wine farm, over 58km in 2:33:31 for a general classification time of 4:42:52.
Maties came home in 2:35:01 for an overall time of 4:43:18, followed by University of Pretoria who had a stage time of 2:49:05 for a combined time of 5:02:06.
Evans and Freyer took an early lead after the climb up Hawequa Pass when they headed into the first single-track ahead of Maties.
However, a mechanical for Freyer saw Maties make up the deficit before Evans attacked again to break away from the pack.
“I managed to open up a gap and I was able to set my own pace, keeping a lead of just over a minute,” said Evans.
Behind, Freyer stayed with the chasing Maties – Tristan de Lange and Rinus Maarsingh – before getting away with about 5km to go.
“I kept checking on Martin, and when I saw him break away, I sat up and waited and we were able to bring it home for UCT.”
The Maties women, led by Frances du Toit, won their second successive stage in 3:10:26 for an overall time of 5:49:05.
University of Pretoria finished runners-up in 6:00:49 after coming home in 3:18:09, with North-West University completing the podium in 6:16:27 after finishing the stage in 3:26:45.
Du Toit, the national U23 cross-country champion, said the vibe among the student teams had been one of the highlights of the weekend.
“It was great to interact with our fellow students and to race with like-minded people. It was special for Maties to win this in our backyard.”