Having been at school together from Grade 1 and accompanied each other over many kilometres on the bike, Nicol Carstens and Stefan de Bod have reunited at the last minute for the Wines2Whales Shiraz which starts in Somerset West today.
Carstens was meant to join forces with Imbuko Giant teammate Marco Joubert, but the latter unfortunately suffered an injury while training yesterday morning.
“I’m super excited to be riding with Stefan,” said the 23-year-old Carstens.
“I managed to phone him yesterday and asked if he would be willing to ride with me.”
Carstens said even though he was a mountain biker and the 22-year-old De Bod, who rides for Dimension Data, was a roadie, they had ridden together in both disciplines.
“In school we raced mountain bikes together, we competed on the road together and have also trained together.
“I have loads of good memories with Stefan. This will be a good reunion for us. Obviously most of the season he is overseas so I don’t get to ride with him too often, so this will be fun.”
Carstens added that with De Bod’s road background they could use him on the flats, open roads and big, long climbs.
“The way he tactically sees races is very different to all the other riders, so we can definitely use his tactics and maybe catch the others off-guard.”
Going into the 65km first stage their tactics will be to scope everything out, see how things stand and find out who the strong contenders are.
“Stage one has a long portage and that normally changes the race a lot.”
He added that the 64km stage two had a lot of singletrack, while the 69km third stage featured fast and open roads.
“Every day has something different, which makes it spectacular and fun.
“I think day three suits us the most though with its long open roads to begin with and the only singletrack really going towards the finish. Also, by then the GC will probably be secured, so everyone will be a bit tired.
“It could be the stage to keep an eye on us.”
Carstens, who has competed in the Wines2Whales mountain bike event twice before with Jurgens Uys, felt their toughest competition would come from defending champions Wessel Botha and Matt Beers.
“They won it last year and have a lot of experience. Matt had an incredible season riding a bit of road as well, so he is strong.
“Also Gert [Heyns] and Arno [du Toit]. I think they’re much underrated. They had an amazing season and won the Eselfontein race two weekends ago. If they don’t win, they’ll definitely be on the podium.
“We’ll aim to overpower them mostly with tactics. Stefan is an amazing rider when it comes to going uphill. I’ll just have to hang on to him.”
Carstens, who came third in this year’s Attakwas, fifth in the Tankwa Trek and 11th in the Cape Epic, felt satisfied with the season his team had had so far.
“It was the first season Marco and I rode together and the first season the team is running the way it is now.
“I think everyone is super happy with us and we can just build on this for next season. We can’t wait for next year.”