“The route is spectacular and every section of tar and gravel had something special to it.
“It also suited me because I enjoy the tougher events where you have to go long, hard and consistent, even though I wouldn’t really call myself the fastest climber in the business for something like this.”
Kleinhans, who claimed a winning time of 5:47:37, said now that he was retired from professional racing he savoured the opportunity to ride for six hours.
“Keeping the motivation was no problem, especially in such an amazing area. I love the sport and for me gravel-racing is something very special and unique that gets me excited to stay fit during my working hours.”
The 36-year-old said it was always a nice feeling to win.
“Over the last year, with my focus being on working for Canyon Bicycles, my day-to-day life did not really offer the chance to win.
“But with some Cape Epic fitness in my legs and the big hitters in SA cycling playing on the road or mountain bikes, it was really special winning this tough gravel race.”
He said the goal leading up to the race was to help his protégé Robert Hobson to win.
“Our strategy worked very well and I could set Robert up for a good victory, but the long distance was not something he was used to and he maybe also lacked some nutrition during the race.
“He told me to go for it up the Swartberg Pass, while he needed some time to collect food and drink at the last aid station. It was great that we could get the top two places for our team.”
Kleinhans, who was participating in the race for the first time, said he knew the area well and loved riding through the Karoo. He had “suffered” numerous times up the pass before.
“The major obstacle is the pass and it’s probably one of the biggest in the country. What makes it extra tough is that you reach it after already racing for 140km.
“The key parts otherwise are the two gravel segments leading up to the pass, both with some climbing that stretches the bunch and takes energy from your legs to shape the race, and make it a total of 79km of gravel.”
He added that the toughest part for him was the final 4km of the pass.
“After such a long day in the saddle and already 2 000m of climbing behind you, that last steep ascent had me fighting hard with myself and trying to keep my eyes from seeing double.
“The gravel sections with our bikes were never an issue and I felt the 40mm tyre width was a great choice with pressure at 2.3bar.”
He said he and Hobson forced a gap with about 80km remaining and worked together to get a team win.
“All we had to do was survive.”
Kleinhans added that the field consisted of a few retired pros looking for some racing entertainment as well as the more dedicated gravel crowd.
“It did, however, miss the top-ranked road and mountain-bike riders and it would be great to see them combine to battle it out.
“It was great to race in front together with the young Robert, who works part-time for myself and our team, is a full-time student and trains hard.
“I believe he has some big talent, with the chance to grow into a great climbing marathon racer.”