Philip Buys and Matthys Beukes became the first team to complete the Wines2Whales race in less than eight hours after winning the third and final stage at Onrus near Hermanus yesterday.
The pair faced some stiff competition – the toughest ever seen according to Beukes – from the likes of defending champion Konny Looser, Cape Pioneer Trek winners Alan Hatherly and Matt Beers and NAD Pro’s Gawie Combrinck and Nico Bell.
After a less than stellar start to the campaign, the PYGA EuroSteel pair bounced back with two stage wins en route to overall victory.
Day one saw them finish roughly a minute behind Investec-Songo.info’s Looser and Christoph Sauser after the duo’s smart attack up the portage section, a move Beukes said they could learn from going forward.
“I think they were very clever there,” said Beukes, who won the National MTB Series recently.
“They planned their attack when no one else was thinking about how important that section could be. They definitely taught us a lesson there.”
Although a wake-up call, their opening-day loss was by no means the end for Buys and Beukes and they responded strongly on the second day, a stage that could have ended very differently after a navigational error.
“We set about trying to put them (Looser and Sauser) under pressure on the second stage and it seemed to work out but we took a wrong turn. We had about two minutes on them at that point, but we went wrong somewhere around the halfway mark.”
Despite the error, the pair secured their first stage victory when they narrowly beat Combrinck and Bell.
This, said Beukes, was a crucial confidence booster as it proved they were in with a strong chance of closing the gap to Looser and Sauser, who were still hanging onto the overall lead.
With just six seconds separating the top two teams at the start of the final day, the South Africans put the hammer down and stormed to victory on the stage and in the overall standings.
“The goal was definitely to try and win. With the season we’ve had, we felt it would feel wrong not to win the final event,” said Beukes, who secured his third Wines2Whales title.
“That did put some pressure on us but we always respond quite well to pressure. It’s a good feeling to win, we’re always happy to come out on top.
“It’s the third time I’ve won it, so it’s something special to me. To break the record is a nice little bonus but it’s not something we were thinking about while riding.”
A hat-trick of stage victories saw Martin and Jeannie Dreyer take the honours in the mixed category.