A thirsty Buys said he and Beukes found their race pace relatively easy, but maintaining strength throughout the day became a challenge.
“It was fine for the first half until we got to that major climb at Haarkappersroete, and that’s when we started taking some strain. Once we got to the other side the heat also started to be a major factor.
“I lost one of my bottles and had to stop once to fill up the other, and from there it was just survival along the flat section. We have the Absa African jersey so that’s good for now. We are looking to keep it steady for the next few days,” said Buys.
Ten seconds adrift of PYGA Euro Steel in the overall standings, BCX’s Woolcock says they owe their good fortune to pre-race preparation and staying out of trouble.
“With a lot of these routes you are able ride here any time of the year, so we came and did some of the climbs, like a lot of other riders did, but I think it gave us the edge in knowing where the climbs were. It helped manage the pressure points and technical descents,” said Woodcock.
Woolcock enjoyed the course but, like Buys, maintains the first stage is one of the toughest of this year’s Epic.
“There is no easy riding apart from the tar road in the beginning, but even that is uphill, so it’s just one of those relentless stages where you don't get any rhythm. There isn’t much district road so it’s all just jeep track and rough farm roads.”
Riding with Kruger as his new partner, Woolcock felt he and his teammate learned valuable lessons about each other after the 101km Stage 1.
“I’ve got a slightly different riding style. I rather force my way into the front and do a little more hard work in the beginning, because that’ll stop that concertina effect through corners and single track. After today I think HB will have seen that trying to boss your way in there helps for the fight in the beginning.”
Woolcock added that they “… are happy, but there is still a long way to go and anything can happen. We will just tick off the days and take it day by day. It’s good to have Stage 1 under the belt because it’s usually the toughest in terms of finding your feet and your form.”
In the race for the Exxaro Special Jersey, Velokhaya/Thesele lost their five-minute stage one lead at the third water point after one of the team had difficulties with dehydration and was unable to continue, giving the lead to Diepsloot MTB Academy.
William Mokgopo and Phillimon Sebona of Diepsloot MTB Academy now lead that race after a Stage 1 time of (5:39.48). They finished the first stage with a 13-minute lead over second-placed Luyanda Thobigunya and Baphelele Mbobo (BMT Academy Fairtree).