The top professionals played their cards close to their chests on the 115-kilometre opening stage of the nine-day Fairbairn Capital/Old Mutual joBerg2c on Friday.
The relatively flat off-road trek between Heidelberg in Gauteng and Frankfort in the Free State is traditionally treated as “neutral” due to delays caused by the crossing of the Vaal River aboard Chinese dragon boats.
In the end, Toyota Supercycling’s Yannick Lincoln and Kallen Williams were the first team home in 4:55:23.
They were followed by Fedgroup Berg and Bush’s former national cross country titleholder Brandon Stewart and current road champ Darren Lill in 5:03:36.
The duo rolled in one second ahead of Team RECM’s Neil MacDonald and Waylon Woolcock.
Blend Properties’ David Morison and Stuart Marais finished fifth in 5:03:45, with team MTN-DoItNow’s Max Knox and Adrien Niyonshuti – the pre-race favourites – taking sixth in 5:04:26.
“You can definitely lose the race on day one but you can’t win it,” said Knox, who is eyeing the technical stages later in the 900km event to show his true form.
Team bizhub’s Ischen Stopforth and British team-mate Catherine Williamson put themselves in pole position in the women’s race when they finished among the leading group of riders.
Second were Team Develop’s Yolandi du Toit and Mauritian partner Aurélie Halbwachs, with Ballie and Daughter’s Anita and Robyn Curton third.
“It’s hard to pace yourself on a stage like today,” said Stopforth. The former MTN Series champion said their objective was to save their energy for the more taxing stages next week.
Visit www.joberg2c.co.za, follow joberg2c_journo on Twitter or join the official Facebook group.