Heading into Saturday’s final 82 fast kilometres to the coast, the men's contest had the potential to be a cracker with the chasing Team DSV pair of Arno du Toit and Gert Heyns needing to make up the four minutes that separated them from Team NAD.
The stage was neck and neck with three teams vying for a prestigious final stage title until Beers and Bell stretched the elastic band and snapped off the chasing DSV boys as well as the PYGA/Euro Steel pair of Matthys Beukes and Julian Jessop – who were expected to fight it out for second.
As the Team NAD men cruised across the finish line for a perfect score over the three days, PYGA/Euro Steel took advantage of an ailing Heyns which gave them slight consolation as they came across the line in second but still settled for third overall.
“Today we weren’t really expecting to win the stage and expected the other guys to do the racing but we ended up setting the pace through most of the day,” Bell mentioned.
“Towards the end we saw the guys bleeding a little bit and Matt whacked it on one of the big open roads and the other guys were struggling so we got ahead.
“From there we just kept a good, solid speed to the finish and managed to win the stage and the overall title.”
Having won in 2013, Bell was back for a spot on the top step of the podium. For Beers, a first win at the prestigious event bettered his second in 2017. The youngster was full of praise for his team mate after their win.
“After my second last year I really wanted a win here,” a relieved Beers said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better partner and it all went so smoothly for us.
“The bikes were great, we didn’t have any mechanical issues and it’s a great feeling to be a sani2c winner!”
Despite a tough day in the saddle on Saturday, Team DSV did enough to prevent too much damage to their overall time as PYGA/Euro Steel put the hurt in on the final stage.
“We knew that the PYGA guys would also want the stage win today but the NAD guys were just too strong.
“We managed to actually hang on to the NAD guys for longer and then I blew completely, but luckily we didn’t lose too much time in the end,” Heyns commented.
It was a strong three days from Heyns and Du Toit who might have come into the race with less hype surrounding them, however they put in three solid shifts that took them to a strong second place finish.
“We really enjoyed the last three days and it’s such a pleasure to be able to race on this route against such a strong bunch of riders,” Du Toit added.
“Getting on the podium with Gert is great! We have been racing against each other since we were sprogs so to do it with him is the cherry on the top!”
As mountain biking has proven in the past, the race for the podium spots was still on the line on the final stage. A flowing, confident performance was what PYGA/Euro Steel needed and they did all they could on the final stage, but it wasn’t enough to cancel the four minutes that separated them and DSV.
“We didn’t really expect too much with Julian focusing on his exams at the moment,” Matthys Beukes said.
“I think he did quite well considering the circumstances and the fact he hasn’t been riding as much.
“To get a second place on the stage close to Julian’s home town is great and it means a lot to him.”
As the dormakaba pair of Samantha Sanders and Amy McDougall got further on in the race, they got stronger and pushed incredibly hard for a top ten spot. Their third stage was another blitz but they had to settle for 13th overall on general classification but they did go home with a first sani2c title.
With an advantage of over 52 minutes over the Team Bell pair of Hayley Smith and Andrea de Boer going into Saturday, dormakaba were racing themselves through the final 82km.
“Our sponsor Shaun (Frayne) put the challenge to us when we realised that competition might not be as strong this year,” Sanders said. “He likes to challenge us and we took him up on it and we might not have achieved that but we rode really well.”
For McDougall, getting that first win at the sani2c is a feat that she has been hoping to achieve for a while.
“We are really happy with the result and it’s great that I could get a win for dormakaba especially after I have just signed with the team.
“It’s a great feeling and I am really stoked!” McDougall added.
Team Bell were beaten to second in the final stage on Saturday but they managed to finish second overall in the ladies race ahead of Team Bestmed’s Danielle Strydom and Kristen Louw who were just under five minutes behind.
Line honours in the mixed category went the way of Cycle Nation – Bring it On’s Joanna van de Winkel and Marcel Rodrigues, but Team Garmin’s Yolandi du Toit and Ben Melt Swanepoel’s advantage was substantial enough to give them the overall title.
Unfortunately for the K&M team of Carel le Roux and Christie Hearder, the latter didn’t take part in the final stage which meant that Crypto 100’s Neville and Lizle Rosenstein took home the bronze in the mixed category.
1.Team NAD 1 (Nico Bell/Matt Beers) 02:40:45 08:53:33
2.Team DSV (Gert Heyns/Arno du Toit) 02:43:51 09:00:50
3.PYGA/Euro Steel 1 (Matthys Beukes/Julian Jessop) 02:42:56 09:04:55
4.PYGA/Euro Steel 2 (Pieter du Toit/Phillimon Sebona) 02:50:57 09:14:11
5.Team NAD 2 (Barend Burger/Gawie Combrink) 02:48:25 09:23:29
6.JAG Riders (Justin Tuck/David George) 02:52:05 09:40:21
7.William Simpson (Derrin Smith/Michael Posthumus) 02:51:33 09:40:26
8.Honey Badgers (Andrew Mark Johnson/Andrew Cairns) 02:52:03 09:41:04
9.Hickory 1 (Brennan Anderson/David Low) 02:53:16 09:41:22
10.First Ascent (Richard Simpson/Luke Evans) 02:57:32 09:50:09
1.dormakaba (Samantha Sanders/Amy McDougall) 02:59:46 09:57:49
2.Team Bell (Andrea de Boer/Hayley Smith) 03:17:43 11:08:15
3.Team Bestmed (Danielle Strydom/Kristen Louw) 03:17:37 11:13:27
1.Team Garmin (Ben Melt Swanepoel/Yolandi du Toit) 03:10:26 10:33:23
2.Cycle Nation - Bring it On (Joanna van de Winkel/Marcel Rodrigues) 03:10:23 10:36:08
3.Crypto 100 (Neville Rosenstein/Lizle Rosenstein) 03:19:27 11:24:06