In the AmaBokkeBokkie Global Mixed Champs category, after they rode over the line at Highflats the smiling assassins Amy McDougall and Arno du Toit from the dormakaba mixed team were beaming as they hugged each other in celebration of winning their class and the R100 000 first prize.
The Highflats finish line represented the end of the racing, although there is still one stage to ride on Saturday. That journey from Highflats to the finish at Scottburgh is a neutral, untimed stage and gives riders a chance to chatter about the experiences of the previous eight days, and for the racing snakes to interact with the weekend warriors. Riders must complete the final stage to qualify as finishers.
McDougall and Du Toit were clearly the strongest mixed team in the event, but it was never a one-sided contest with the Team Summit husband-and-wife combination of Darren and Candice Lill making sure the eventual winners were never too comfortable.
It looked like the AmaBokkeBokkie class was going to provide some thrills on Thursday when Du Toit’s chain slipped into his wheel and broke a slew of spokes. With his wheel buckling treacherously from the torque applied from his pedal stroke, there was a danger the wheel could collapse completely, but it held to the finish to leave the eventual winner’s lead dented, but intact for the final dash for the line.
On Friday it was the turn of the Lills to suffer some back luck. When Darren punctured on the Umkomaas descent, the married couple realised any hope of snatching a last-gasp victory was gone. They simply cruised home third on the stage behind Johan Labuschagne and Catherine Williamson (Sugeons for Little Lives / Mitas). Despite their lowest position of the week, the Lills were safely in second overall with Labuschagne and Williamson third on GC.
“We are very stoked to have taken the overall win,” said McDougall as she basked in the glow of victory and finishing sixth overall in the event. “Today we had the luxury of just enjoying the day. We got a gap on the descent of the Umko and then we heard Darren and Candice had punctured, so there was no point in killing ourselves.
“I was really strong today, so we did not need to do anything more than ride at my pace today. There was no need for me to grab a pocket and Arno took the lead on the descents. There was no point to take any risks.
“I have been second a few times in a row here so it was nice to get the win for a change. And the competition was tight so it was a very tactical game we had to play. There was hard racing so we feel we deserved it,” added McDougall.
“Now I just have to survive Stage Eight and a Half tonight and be OK to ride Stage 9 tomorrow – imagine not being able to start tomorrow!”
The other big winners on Friday were the NAD Pro pairing of Nico Bell and Gawie Combrinck who completed a clean sweep of seven wins from the seven racing stages and were the clear winners in the men’s class.
The men’s category saw the relatively unheralded Tim Hammond and Alan Gordon (Insect Science) beat off a determined challenge from the Silverback Best4Sports team of Declan Sidey and Shaun-Nick Bester. The dice for the second step of the podium was close until the final three days when The Insect Science pair were able to power away on the long climbs and claim the runner up spot.
Other winners who can also boast a seven-from-seven record after this year’s event are Matthys Beukes (PYGA Eurosteel), who was an easy winner in the solo category as well as recording the fastest time for the overall event; and the top women’s team of Theresa Ralph and Sarah Haill who were never challenged.
Beukes’ teammate, Phillimon Sebona, was second in the solo category for six of the seven racing stages and that enabled him to claim a solid runner-up spot despite getting temporarily lost after a navigation error on Stage 7. The final place on the podium belonged to David Cooke who edged ahead of Tobias Flath on the final two days after they were separated by just a couple of minutes throughout the event.
Saturday’s final ceremonial stage takes riders through the sugarcane belt and gives riders a chance to relax and enjoy a group ride rather than race. The finish is at Scottburgh Primary School.
AMABOKKEBOKKIE GLOBAL MIXED CHAMPS:1 Amy Mcdougall, Arno Du Toit (Dormakaba Mixed) 3:59:17, 2 Johan Labuschagne, Catherine Williamson (Sugeons for Little Lives / Mitas) 4:11:18, 3 Darren Lill, Candice Lill (Team Summit) 4:15:34, 4 Yolandi Du Toit, Ben Melt Swanepoel (Team Garmin) 4:24:20, 5 Sophie Giovane, Frederic Gombert (Chiru Magura) 4:57:35.
MEN'S TEAMS: 1 Nico Bell, Gawie Combrinck (NAD PRO MTB) 3:39:10, 2 Alan Gordon, Timothy Hammond (Insect Science) 3:42:45, 3 Shaun-nick Bester, Declan Sidey (Silverback Best4Sports Mad Macs) 3:48:50, 4 Andrejus Dolgovas, Elijus Civilis (Top Team) 4:03:22, 5 Paris Basson, Nico Pfitzenmaier (Dormakaba Mens) 4:08:48.
INDIVIDUAL: 1 Matthys Beukes (PYGA EUROSTEEL) 3:33:15, 2 Phillimon Sebona (PYGA EUROSTEEL 2) 3:39:11, 3 David Cooke 3:59:26, 4 Neill Clark 4:04:39, 5 Tobias Flath 4:04:39.
WOMEN'S TEAMS: 1 Theresa Ralph, Sarah Hill (Galileo Risk) 4:36:15, 2 Adele Ambrose, Lauren Walker (Nix and Del) 5:03:23, 3 Christine Van Der Walt, Tania Rossouw (Ts and Cs Apply) 5:19:14, 4 Wilmien Chamberlain, Johanita De Waal (2 nam bred Moms) 5:26:30, 5 Vivienne Turvey, Jeannette Treherne (Team T and T) 5:56:36.
AMABOKKEBOKKIE GLOBAL MIXED CHAMPS: 1 Amy Mcdougall, Arno Du Toit (Dormakaba Mixed) 31:11:42, 2 Darren Lill, Candice Lill (Team Summit) 31:43:23, 3 Johan Labuschagne, Catherine Williamson (Sugeons for Little Lives / Mitas) 32:14:59.
MEN'S TEAMS: 1 Nico Bell, Gawie Combrinck (NAD Pro MTB) 29:03:11, 2 Alan Gordon, Timothy Hammond (Insect Science) 29:37:20; 3 Shaun-Nick Bester, Declan Sidey (Silverback Best4Sports Mad Macs) 30:08:34.
INDIVIDUAL: 1 Matthys Beukes (PYGA Eurosteel) 28:52:47, 2 Phillimon Sebona (PYGA Eurosteel 2) 30:00:51, 3 David Cooke 31:29:35.
WOMEN'S TEAMS: 1 Sarah Hill, Theresa Ralph (Galileo Risk) 34:46:40, 2 Adele Ambrose, Lauren Walker (Nix and Del) 38:47:39, 3 Johanita De Waal, Wilmien Chamberlain (2 nam bred Moms) 40:47:38.