During a day where mountain bikers learned the hard way that sheep are certainly no pushover when it comes to sharing a dirt road it was Brandon Stewart and Jacques Janse van Rensburg (DCM) who had the strongest legs that enabled them to win the fifth stage of the DCM Cape Pioneer Trek in the Klein Karoo.
What makes their stage victory special is the fact that both teammates were involved in their own little adventure.
Mountain bikers are always warned to be on the lookout for animals when they are racing.
So it is no surprise that the organizers of the DCM Cape Pioneer Trek in the Klein Karoo made it clear to the riders that ostriches are very highly strung and therefore should be avoided at all cost during the race.
Ironically after five days of racing during which the mountain bikers have raced past thousands of ostriches, a few eland’s, kudu’s, black wildebeest and even one white rhino it was a flock of sheep that brought the pro-elite riders to a complete halt during today’s stage of the DCM Cape Pioneer Trek.
The standoff between man and “beast” happened about halfway into the stage.
Unknown to the riders a herdsman was driving a flock of sheep on to the road to another feeding camp.
Stewart who was driving the breakaway consisting of eight riders – Janse van Rensburg; Max Knox and Thomas Zahnd (DCM); Kevin Evans and Adrien Niyonshuti (MTN-Energade); Matthys and Gerrie Beukes (Mtbdestination.com) – definitely got a rude awakening just as they raced at full speed around a sharp bend.
It is unclear who got the biggest fright: the riders or the sheep? It certainly took all Stewart’s mountain biking skills not crash headlong into the flock of the sheep. He stopped his bike a mere millimeter in front of mesmerised sheep. Actually he was totally surrounded by tomorrow’s “chops”.
After the riders recovered from their initial shock it led to quite a few good humoured jokes amongst them.
“Trust Brandon to try and take advantage of one of the “girls”,”’ Evans said jokingly.
According to Stewart the sheep incident was quite funny.
“I just knew if I rode straight towards them and slid a bit that the sound of the bike’s skidding tyres and dust would scare them off a bit so we could pass.”
None of the riders can remember when last, and if it all, they ever rode straight into a herd of animals during a race.
Janse van Rensburg’s little adventure happened as he started his descend of the legendary Swartberg-pass. He was so focused on taking the right lines at high speed that he did not become aware of television motorbike that was following him.
When he did take notice Janse van Rensburg thought he had to make way for the motorbike so it could pass him. In doing so he gave the spectators on route quite a scare because to them it looked like he was going to go off the road and disappear from sight, easily dropping 20 to 30 meters. Luckily he hit a stone wall just before the drop-off and managed to regain control his bike in time.
Janse van Rensburg afterwards was surprised when he was asked about his little adventure.
“It is funny I can’t really remember what happened. I definitely did not feel like I was in any danger. I think the incident might have looked worse than it actually was.”
Stewart and Janse van Rensburg’s winning time for the stage from Prince Albert to Calitzdorp (110km) was 4 hours and 45 seconds.
Evans and Niyonshuti just lost out in the sprint with Knox and Zahnd finishing third.
According to Evans he feels a little bit guilty about what happened in the final sprint.
“I am little bit concerned about Adrien’s hectic racing schedule. The DCM Cape Pioneer Trek is the last race of the season for most of us while Adrien still has to compete in a two day race in Rwanda as well as the African Road Championship also in Rwanda and then in addition to that six day Tour of Rwanda.
“Therefore I thought there was no need for us to contest the sprint to the line, but as we raced around the last corner Adrien accelerated hard and in doing so he caught me completely off guard so I could not follow his wheel.
“I now realize that it is important to Adrien to win a stage, so I owe it to him to come up with a really big effort in the last stage tomorrow.”
There seems to be no end to the Beukes-brothers comeback “revenge”. During the first stage they lost nearly 60 minutes due to mechanical problems. However they refused to give up. From stage two they won back a few minutes each day and now they are third overall.
Max Knox and Thomas Zahnd will go into the last stage with an 18 minute lead on Evans and Niyonshuti.