The young Plettenberg Bay team of Aidan Connelly and Rogan Smart took charge in the closing stages to claim the honours on the second day of the PwC Great Zuurberg Trek mountain-bike race today.
The Bikeshop-Scott-Strocam pair were delighted to finish ahead of the bunch in the 88km queen stage at Addo, some 70km outside Port Elizabeth, crossing the line in 3:40:49.
They were followed by Jason Peach and Jason Reed (Saddle and Cleats), and Renay Groustra and Stuart Marais (RSA Web).
Overnight leaders Andrew Hill and Shaun-Nick Bester suffered a serious mechanical at the first water point and later a puncture to cross the line in fourth place.
Hill and Bester, riding for TIB-Silverback-Best4Sport, maintained their overall lead, but saw their nine-minute cushion slashed to two seconds over the Plett riders.
Peach and Reed are third overall, just under three minutes off the pace.
Connelly, 19, said he and his 20-year-old teammate were thrilled with the outcome.
“It was really amazing to come home first and this is our first ever stage win in a major race,” he said.
“At the start we decided we would try to stick with the guys in front and just sort of go until we blow.”
After Hill and Bester suffered the mechanical, he said three teams broke away, being later joined by the Saddle and Cleats outfit.
“The four teams rode together for the majority of the stage but on one of the climbs, with about 25km to go, we and the two Jasons managed to get ahead.”
Reed and Peach were able to create a gap going down Gower’s Gauntlet before the young Plett team closed them down with 14km left.
“Once we managed to overtake them we put our heads down to the finish,” said Connelly.
The pair are riding the GZT for the first time and Connelly said they didn’t really know what to expect.
“We weren’t really thinking of a stage win and we are just tackling each challenge as it presents itself,” he added.
“But when we saw our chance today we decided to give it a go and everything worked out perfectly.”
The leading women’s team of Swiss ace Ariane Luthi and South African Robyn de Groot, of Ascendis Health Spur, consolidated their lead in a stage-winning time of 3:53:36.
This puts them well ahead in the general classification in 6:57:47, 25 minutes clear of Theresa Ralph and Sarah Hill (Galileo Risk), who were second on today’s stage.
In the mixed category, Neill Ungerer and Yolande de Villiers, riding for Silverback Bikes, won their second stage in a row in 3:48:11. They were followed home by Ben Melt Swanepoel and Yolandi du Toit (Garmin).
Ungerer and De Villiers head the overall standings in 6:49:00, nearly 26 minutes ahead of Swanepoel and Du Toit.
The PwC Great Zuurberg Trek draws to a conclusion tomorrow with the final stage over 50km.