Philip Fourie and Francois Ebersohn completed a memorable debut in the Liberty Waterberg Encounter mountain-bike race by taking the overall honours today.
The three-day race finished at Sondela Nature Reserve near Bela-Bela in Limpopo after covering trails which also traversed sections of the Elements Private Golf Reserve over the weekend.
Fourie and Ebersohn, both from Pretoria, finished today’s stage in 2:05:20 for an overall time of 6:59:30.
They beat Andre Gibhard and Lionel Scholtz (2:09:54) to the line, with Mark Prince and Michael Minnaar (2:10:05) third on the day. The latter team were second overall, with Gibhard and Scholtz completing the general classification podium.
Ebersohn said they were able to build a gap on the first day which they maintained throughout the event.
“In the first stage on Friday [over 57km] we were able to get away about halfway through. There were some testing sections because there was some ‘horizontal climbing’ through sections of sand as well as some rocky areas.
“But it was a good start and also included some memorable single-track sections.”
He felt the second stage of 46km stood out the most for them during the weekend, combining as it did great trails with excellent views of wildlife in the bushveld.
Although the 56km third stage had been billed as largely downhill, Ebersohn said a headwind coming back into Sondela had made it “hard, hard, hard”.
“But we did finish with a 15km stretch of wonderful single-track, so that made it a great experience.”
Having had a taste of the Waterberg, Fourie said they would definitely be back for more.
“It was very well organised, with excellent food and entertainment and a really nice vibe during the two nights at Elements,” he said. “It’s definitely a ride which you’ll want to do again.”
A special feature of the race, he added, was that it was manageable for riders at all levels.
“For example, it’s something you could do with your wife or a mate who might not be at the same level because although the stages can test you, they are short enough that you don’t spend your whole day on the bike.”
Timo Cooper and Michaele Cooper won the mixed overall title in 7:51:14, ahead of Justin and Lizette Cave (8:34:45).
Yolandi Kotze and Alta Gosling were the women’s winners in 11:03:13, while Jacques Wentzel (7:43:27) took the solo men’s category, 10 minutes ahead of Francois Smith.
Killy Bacela, divisional executive of Group Brand & Integrated Marketing at Liberty, congratulated all the competitors on their efforts.
“It is inspiring to see the physical and mental preparation cyclists go through in order to participate in a gruelling event like the Liberty Waterberg Encounter Series,” she said.
“That’s why we are honoured to sponsor this event, because at Liberty we understand the importance of preparation and advice in helping you live life to the fullest.”