Swanepoel said the rainstorm that hit them halfway through the 36km first stage added to the drama, especially as they were trying to keep themselves in the game following the puncture.
“When we reached the bottom of the long downhill the rain subsided just as we traversed a horse paddock. Seeing the horses run with joy and excitement as riders crossed their home was quite a sight though.
“The stage was a real mixture of smooth flowing trails and rocky terrain where you had to tread lightly. It featured the most sustained climbing, which also meant the longest downhill.”
He said the 46km second stage, which was the longest, featured a lot of singletrack with constant changes in gradient that kept them engaged.
“Regular changes in surface also required focus and nerve, but if you wanted to have a rest you could always stop at ‘The Beach’ where sand, umbrellas and sun loungers awaited tired bodies.
“Along with that, the ride through the ‘Spookhuis’ was a highlight. It’s not often you get to ride your bike through an abandoned colonial dwelling,” said Swanepoel.
The Garmin rider said the 41km third stage featured a fast start on open roads followed by genuine A-grade cattle tracks, rocky technical riding through King’s Kloof and a final descent.
“The big water point as we entered and exited King’s Kloof left a lasting impression as the enthusiastic staff cheered us through.”
He added that the weather played a big role, with dark skies looming for most of the weekend.
“With the exception of stage one we dodged the rain while out riding and the trails handled the water very well, draining fast and leaving plenty of grip with only a few slippery sections to keep us on our toes.”
Swanepoel added that even though the weather was challenging, somehow suffering in a group was easier than suffering alone.
“I suppose misery really does love company. The trails did however handle the water really well.”
He said he and Withaar barely discussed race tactics throughout the weekend, which spoke volumes for how well they raced together.
“We respect each other and share a philosophy when it comes to team racing, so there isn’t much to be said on the bike really.
“We get on well off the bike too, so racing with a friend makes everything a lot easier as you are willing to go the extra mile for each other.”
Swanepoel said short distances and tight, technical riding were not his strengths, but he enjoyed every minute of it.
“Riding with Jan, who has become a master at it, was a privilege and it was amazing to see what was possible.
“I was on my full-suspension bike while Jan was on his hardtail, often going through technical sections faster than me. That was humbling and inspiring at the same time.”