South African Erik Kleinhans and his Czech teammate, Frantisek Rabon (RE:CM Specialized) won the final stage of the three-day DUTOIT Tankwa Trek mountain bike stage race on Sunday, but it was the young South African pair of James Reid and Brendon Davids (Trek Racing) that claimed an impressive overall victory on a dramatic final day.
Overnight leaders, Tim Bohme and Simon Stiebjahn (Team Bulls) failed to make the start line after Stiebjahn was felled by gastro bug and was too ill to ride. That effectively handed the lead to second-placed Trek Racing’s Reid and Davids, but the young pair of cross-country specialists still had to complete the 63km final leg against a strong international field.
And they completed it convincingly, making Kleinhans and Rabon fight hard for the stage win, which they secured in a sprint finish against Reid and Davids in a time of 02 hours 09 minutes 05 seconds. It was the third consecutive stage runners-up placing for Reid and Davids. They were disappointed to lose the stage in a sprint but elated with the overall title.
“We’re not stage race specialists, but the standard of the racing at the Tankwa Trek was so high so the racing was really intense, which is what Brendon and I are used to from our cross-country racing,” said Reid, who is the current Elite men’s South African marathon champion.
“We were aiming for the stage win, but it wasn’t to be. We had a really clean, hard duel with them today, including some tactical elbows-out riding in the final section of single track. Brendon and I tried to put them under pressure on the single track because we know that Rabon is still new to mountain biking and struggles a bit in the technical stuff. But they responded really well and worked hard for that win. It was a satisfying way to finish of the event,” added Reid.
Rabon and Kleinhans surged on a steady drag after 12 kilometres of racing, escaping from the main group. They were later joined by Davids, Reid and the top two riders in the Solo men’s category, Karl Platt (GER) and Urs Huber (SUI) of the Team Bulls stable.
“Karl and Urs pretty much ‘stepped aside’ to allow us to fight it out with Rabon and Kleinhans when we eventually caught them on a section of singletrack. It’s not often the Solo category riders are at the front of a stage race, so it was an unusual situation, which they handled really professionally,” explained Reid.
Huber and Platt finished with the top two teams to secure first and second places respectively in the men’s Solo division. As teammates, they finished second at last year’s ABSA Cape Epic will team up again as Team Bulls’ No. 1 team for next month’s edition of the Cape Epic, using the Tankwa Trek as a key final preparation race.
Second in the General Classification was the Fairview Elite pair of Adriaan Louw (RSA) and Konny Looser (BEL) with Cannondale Blend’s Darren Lill (RSA) and Charles Keey (RSA) rounding out the final podium places.
Team RE:CM’s Ariane Kleinhans (SUI) and Cherise Stander (RSA) completed their domination of the Tankwa Trek by claiming a third consecutive stage win and the overall women’s team title. They were always under pressure from the Sasol Racing pair of Ischen Stopforth (RSA) and Yolande de Villiers (RSA), who finished second on each stage and second overall. The final stage saw just a 17-second gap between RE:CM and Sasol Racing. The Pragma Orange Monkey’s pair of Hanlie Booyens (RSA) and Mariske Strauss (RSA) was third overall.
“I didn’t feel too well today so struggled a bit more than on the other two days,” said a weary Stander, widow of the late Burry Stander. “With about a kilometre to go, Ariane, who was behind me, said she could see Sasol Racing catching us and we need to pick up the pace, so we pushed the last bit quite hard.
“Ariane is so incredibly strong. She was an amazing teammate and motivator. I would never have ridden that hard without her support, both physically and emotionally. I couldn’t have asked for a better partner and one day my goal is to race a Cape Epic with her,” added Stander.
“It was good to win. I haven’t won a mountain bike race in ages. After struggling emotionally for the whole of last year after losing Burry, I’m now regaining my physical form and a hunger to race hard again. And this weekend’s success wouldn’t have been possible without the really professional support of our Team RE:CM staff. It was a truly great event with some amazing trails and food!” remarked Stander.
England’s Leona Kadir won the final stage and the overall women’s Solo category title, while the John O’Connor Cycles pair of Andrew Payne (RSA) and Bianca Cartoulis (RSA) rounded out their Mixed Category domination of the event with a third stage win and the overall crown.