There was high drama on day four of joBerg2c mountain bike race as Louis-Bresler Knipe and Kevin van Hoovels took advantage of a wrong turn by the lead group to snatch victory on the first of the climbing stages on Monday.
The Contego riders were eventually chased down but held their nerve in a dramatic four-team sprint to the finish on the 122km stage from Sterkfontein Dam in the Free State to Winterton in KwaZulu-Natal.
Knipe and Van Hoovels took the win in 4:46:32, a second ahead of race leaders Waylon Woolcock and Lourens Luus of RE:CM, with Brandon Stewart and Neil MacDonald of FedGroup-Itec a further four seconds back.
Woolcock and Luus retain their overnight lead with their aggregate time of 17:09:55 putting them 26 seconds ahead of second-placed Stewart and MacDonald. Keey and Lill remain third with a combined time of 17:10:45.
After struggling with a nagging knee problem, which saw him hanging off the back of the lead bunch for most of the stage, Knipe said he was thrilled with his team’s reversal of fortune.
“The racing started really hard and I was just struggling at the back the whole time. My partner’s super-strong, so he was helping me.”
After an early breakaway high in the mountains, the top five teams – with Bridge riders Nico Pfitzenmaier and Timo Cooper also in the mix – rode together all the way down the escarpment into KZN.
Just after the second waterpoint at the 77km mark, the top four teams missed a left-hand deviation into a section of track and went straight down a cattle path instead.
“We shouted to them,” said Knipe, who was 20 seconds off at the time. “But they were in racing mode and didn’t hear.
“So going up Spioenkop, we just gassed it and rode as hard as we could.”
By the third waterpoint at 90km, Knipe and Van Hoovels had opened up a two-minute gap, which the chasing teams worked hard to close down.
They finally caught them on Puffadder Pass, 16 kilometres later.
“They got us going over the last hill and we just stayed together till the finish.”
The stage win puts the 23-year-old Knipe and his 27-year-old Belgian partner in fourth position in the overall standings – just over six minutes behind Woolcock and Luus.
“We’re quite far off on the general classification, so unless something like this happens again, we’d need a lot of luck.”
Last year, Knipe and then-partner Dave Morison were gifted the bottom step on the winners’ podium following the withdrawal of Westvaal-Columbia’s Gawie Combrinck and Nico Bell due to illness.
In the mixed category, there was another epic battle on historical Spioenkop as RE:CM’s Erik and Ariane Kleinhans fought to maintain their lead over Catherine Williamson and Jarryd Haley of bizhub-Rocky Mountain.
The RE:CM duo managed to open up a lead on the technical descent, which they extended on Puffadder Pass en route to the finish for a time of 5:08:45 (17:59:16).
Williamson and Haley finished in the runner-up spot in 5:10:36 (18:03:30), with the Fischer-BMC pairing of Jane Nüessli and Yves Corminboeuf taking a distant third in 5:21:20 (18:23:19).
The joBerg2c women’s team of Ischen Stopforth and Yolande de Villiers came home in 5:35:18 (19:00:00) to take back a stage from overnight leaders Yolandi du Toit and Nicci Grobler of USN-bizhub, who finished in 5:36:08 (18:53:38).
Cherise Stander and Lise Olivier, riding in the colours of the Burry Stander Foundation, finished third on the day in 5:49:13 (19:11:59) to round out the overall podium.
The 102km fifth stage takes place from Winterton Country Club to the Glengarry Resort in Kamberg on Tuesday. The 910km race finishes at Scottburgh on May 4.
Please click here for the full TV broadcast schedule of the 2013 joBerg2c.