The 24-year-old from Colorado in the USA had arrived in South Africa less than three days before, but showed no ill effects of the travel. “I just got here and haven’t felt the jet lag too bad,” he commented afterward. “It’s always good to start on a good note.”
The 55-kilometre route with some 1250 metres of climbing featured some of the finest trails in the Greater Simonsberg Conservancy including purpose-built trails by Meurant Botha through the farms of Knorhoek, Delvera, Warwick, Quin Rock, Delheim, Muratie and Uitkyk. Conditions on the day were cool, with scattered cloud cover and a light breeze, making for perfect racing conditions.
The pace was hot right from the start with all the main protagonists represented in the front bunch of about eight riders. Beukes set the pace early, making his intentions clear, with the likes of Lourens Luus and David George, in the bunch with Grotts and Sauser.
“Matthys threw in a really strong effort on probably the longest climb on the course,” Grotts said. “After that it was just him, Christoph and myself.”
According to Grotts the trails rode dusty, but not overly loose. “These are the dustiest trails I’ve ridden all year,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of rain in the States so the trails have been super tacky over there, and it was nice to slide around a bit today.”
Grotts, Sauser and Beukes rode together through the spectacular singletrack trails of Knorhoek, and it was after the last spectator point – with less than 20 kilometres to go – that Beukes tried to break up the final big climb of the day. “I went with him, counter-attacked and managed to get away,” Grotts said. “From there it was just a full on effort to the finish.”
Grotts stayed away with Sauser and Beukes finishing just over a minute back.
If Grotts rode alone for the last part of the race, women’s winner, Jennie Stenerhag (CBC/Åbro), spent all morning alone. Stenerhag led from start to finish to successfully defend her title ahead of the South African duo of Mariske Strauss and Cherie Redecker.
“I got a good start and was ahead of Mariske,” commented a dusty Stenerhag after the finish. “But then at the second water point I heard I had only 30 seconds, so I realised I had to pace it a little bit,” she said.
“After that I heard I had stretched the lead to two minutes and it stayed like that from there,” Stenerhag said.
According to the Swede who now resides in South Africa, conditions were ideal for racing. “It was not too hot and not too dusty - a perfect day to make it two in a row.”
1st: Howard Grotts (Specialized) 02:08:09
2nd: Christoph Sauser (Specialized) 02:09:20
3rd: Matthys Beukes (PYGA / Euro Steel) 02:09:21
1st: Jennie Stenerhag (CBC/Åbro) 02:26:20
2nd: Mariske Strauss (OMX) 02:29:37
3rd: Cherie Redecker 02:32:41
1st: Johann Trotzky 01:39:53
2nd: Joshua de Freitas 01:40:11
3rd: Thomas Hudson 01:43:33
1st: Allison Morton 02:00:41
2nd: Mia de Villiers 02:01:32
3rd: Julia Marx 02:10:42