Shirley, who came home in 2:31:05, admitted afterwards that the conditions of the 90km out-and-back race had probably favoured him in a strong field.
“Dealing with the wind is my strength,” said the 48-year-old, who won the Trans Elands MTB Marathon in June. “I was happy to hear the wind when I woke up.
“I train in wind almost every day, so it suited me,” he explained.
“I had an idea the wind would affect the other guys, but I knew I had my work cut out for me. I had to take it to my opponents.”
Shirley said they had faced a strong headwind in the first half of the race until the turnaround point at Van Stadens River Mouth.
“From the start, we rode against a gale-force westerly. But we were all bunched up, so that helped.”
A group of about 10 riders went clear shortly after the first climb.
“We then turned up Kragga Kamma Road, where we hit the westerly again. I could see some guys were taking strain,” he recounted.
“I spent quite a lot of time at the front, trying to put the other guys in the gutter. I wanted them to be tired by the time we got to the hills.”
His strategy paid off when he, Barrow and Ceajay Bosman went clear on “The Wall” – one of the day’s steepest climbs in the race – shortly afterwards.
Shirley said they stayed together on the next two major climbs leading to the turn.
“With the wind at our tail on the way back, the pace was hot. Coming back out of Van Stadens, we lost Ceajay.
Barrow started to assert himself on the two long climbs that followed.
“That’s when Clinton really started to show himself. He got the slight upper hand on Three Sisters.
“I was hanging on and found my rhythm again at the top of the climb.
“I could see, as we went down into the cross winds, that he was the stronger of the two of us,” he admitted.
“It was on the last stretch, when Clinton pulled away.”
Shirley said he was grateful that he had been able to finish ahead of so many younger riders.
“I often surprise myself. My experience helps a lot. I’ve been training and competing like this for 20 years.
“I race a lot with youngsters; they keep me sharp. I also train as a part of my business; up to 20 hours a week,” he said.