Evans, George extend lead at Bridge Cape Pioneer Trek

    The leading pack tackles stoney jeep track during Stage 1 on the 2012 Bridge Cape Pioneer Trek international mountain bike stage race. Photo: Karin Schermbrucker/Slingshot Media

    The Nedbank 360Life team of Kevin Evans and David George extended their overall lead after winning Stage 1 of the Bridge Cape Pioneer Trek mountain bike stage race over a distance of 103km from Oudtshoorn to Calitzdorp in South Africa’s Western Cape province on Monday.

    Wearing their Bridge Yellow Jerseys after their victory in Sunday’s opening prologue time trial stage, George and Evans were content to let their rivals set the pace for the first 80km before increasing the pressure towards the end, riding the final 15km out front to clock a winning time of 03 hours 52 minutes 27 seconds.

    Nico Bell and Gawie Combrinck (Westvaal Columbia) finished in second place, 36 seconds later with Melt Swanepoel and Matthys Beukes (Cango MTB.com) taking third spot in 03:54:40. In the General Classification, Evans and George hold a 02min 07sec lead over Swanepoel and Beukes.

    Overnight women’s category leaders, Ischen Stopforth and Catherine Williamson (Bridge bizhub Ladies) overcame early mechanical problems to win the stage and extend their lead substantially over Yolande Speedy and Yolande de Villiers (Klein Karoo Chicks).

    David George (front) and Kevin Evans of Nedbank 360Life push the pace up a climb as they break clear of their rivals on their way to winning Stage 1 of the 2012 Bridge Cape Pioneer Trek international mountain bike stage race. Photo: Karin Schermbrucker/Slingshot Media

    The German team of Max Friedrich and Nadine Rieder (Ergon 24H Racing Team) secured victory in the Mixed category and extended their overnight lead, while the Dutch Cube Nutswerk 1 pairing of Micha de Vries and Willem van Heerdt secured the Veteran men’s stage win and took the category lead.

    The Master’s division saw a dominant win by the Swiss team of Barti Bucher and Ernst Engeli (Bix-Sherpa Tensing Pedalerie), while Timo Cooper and Deisree Loubser secured stage wins in the Solo men and women’s categories respectively, all assuming leadership of their respective categories in the process.

    “We rode within ourselves until the steep climb at 80 kilometres in and then pushed the pace hard up there. From there, with a fairly good lead, we kept it steady for the final 15km to the finish. The others must have ridden those last 15 keys hard because the gaps definitely closed to us by the finish,” said Evans.

    “The route for today’s stage was really enjoyable, but Catherine experienced problems with her rear derailleur from early on, which put us under pressure. We were lying well down the field in the first 30km, but recovered and caught Yolande and Yolande at 50km. We rode with them for a while before making a break and getting a decent lead to take the win,” explained Stopforth.

    Despite mechanical difficulties early on, Ischen Stopforth (front) and Catherine Williamson (Bridge biz hub Ladies) won the stage and extended their lead in the women's race. Photo: Karin Schermbrucker/Slingshot Media

    Tuesday’s Stage 2 has become the most talked about stage in mountain bike stage racing. The relatively short 85km leg from Calitzdorp to the summit of the Swartberg Pass climbs a formidable 2 760 vertical metres, with 1 100 of those metres coming in the final 12km ascent to the finish line. Sure to ensure an extraordinary battle for the stage win is the R100 000 (US$ 12000) prize for the first team to cross the finish line.

    “Apparently the first three climbs are really hard – rough and rocky – which means a long day despite the short distance. The 12km mountain climb at the end though is made for us, so we’ll be riding with some caution to avoid any mishaps before the last climb,” said Evans.

    Evans and George are both noted climbers and only bad luck is likely to foil their ability to win the dramatic stage. For Stopforth and Williamson, the event’s Queen stage is key in their strategy for overall victory.
    “After being hampered by a mechanical today, we really want to build up a solid lead if we can tomorrow. We’ll be starting hard and trying to get a lead early on. We really want to be the first women to the top of the Swartberg,” said Stopforth.