Waterpoints were manned and womanned by volunteers from Jan Kriel School and BMT bike shop who provided technical support. En route riders did not have this luxury and had to fend for themselves when the going got tough and their bikes had a technical.
In the end it was Frans Claes and Esther Suss who took overall honors for the 56km route. Belgium’s Claes took victory in 2:15:58, beating Switzerland’s Konny Looser by exactly three minutes with Sebastian Stark following them home in third with a time of 2:21:51.
Switzerland’s Ester Suss won the women’s race in 2:33:46, beating compatriot Ariane Luthi by less than a minute. Luthi suffered from a crash out on route, but conceded that Suss was the better climber on the day and that the time she lost would not have made a significant difference to the end result. Sweden’s Jennie Stenerhag rounded out the podium.
To stamp their authority on day 1, Claes and Suss also took the King of the Hill and Queen of the Hill honours with times of 1:46 and 2:22 respectively. Alconray Botha (2:00:14) and Karin van Niekerk (2:10:22) were the respective winners in the 41km race, both coming in with solid gaps to the second-place finishers.
Day 2 saw the much-reported cold front and rain rolling in. Early morning drizzle made way for a good downpour just as riders set off for the long route. Route director, Meurant Botha radioed in that some trees had fallen and that they had to make a plan to reroute riders in some sections to avoid the hazards.
While the rain stopped at the start / finish line, conditions worsened in the mountains and the call was made for the Never Say Neverending Again section to be cut from the long route, resulting in all riders completing the 40km route.
This did not distract from the racing and the first three men home all finished within 2 seconds of each other in a sprint to the finish line. CP van Wyk took the honours from Sebastian Stark and Frans Claes.
Riders from the BMT Fairtree Academy participated on both days with Siyabulela Tutu coming home first in the long distance and Musa Mtiki on the shorter route. Started in 2015, the goal of the Academy has been to encourage Kayamandi residents to participate in sport, get outdoors and challenge themselves and has proved itself successful with several up and coming stars coming through its ranks.
In the ladies category, it was Jennie Stenerhag who dominated the field with a strong ride to lead Ester Suss home by 1 minute and 14 seconds, who in turn was 1 minute and 40 seconds ahead of South Africa’s Katie Lennard. Jennie’s strong showing on Day 2 was not enough to close the gap enough to Ester Suss to snatch overall
Behind them, the riding was as fierce as it was fun with riders enjoying some great single track through the Stellenbosch vineyards. Alconray Botha (2:15:08) and Karin van Niekerk (2:32:15) both continued their strong short route form from day one with comprehensive stage victories on day 2.
Long route winners
Short route winners
With the rain making for muddy conditions riders were all too happy to make use of the free bike wash and grab a warm cup of coffee in the chill area.