Defending champions, Kevin Evans and David George (Nedbank 360Life) got their 2012 Bridge Cape Pioneer Trek mountain bike stage race off to the perfect start on Sunday when they won the 15km prologue time trial stage in Oudtshoorn, Western Cape Province, South Africa.
Starting last as defending champions George and Evans blitzed their way around the 15km course through the Buffelspoort Game Reserve to clock a time of 37 minutes 08 seconds. It was 24 seconds faster than the 37:32 set earlier by Matthys Beukes and Melt Swanepoel of Team Cango MTB.com. Third place went to Louis Knipe and Craig Boys (Contego 28E) with a time of 38:43.
In the women’s race, 2011 winners, South African Ischen Stopforth and her British teammate, Catherine Williamson (Bridge bizhub Ladies), secured first place by just three seconds over the Klein Karoo Chicks pairing of Yolande de Villiers and Yolande Speedy.
The German team of Max Fridrich and Nadine Rieder (Ergon 24H Racing Team) claimed the opening stage win in the Mixed category; Robert Sim and Nico Pfitzenmaier (Robert Daniel Momsen) claimed fifth overall and first place in the Veteran division; and Swiss teammates, Barti Bucher and Ernst Engeli (Bixs-Sherpa Tensing Pedelarie) took the early lead in the Master category.
The solo men’s division was won by Petrus Malherbe in 40:09 with 1 Diana Carolin (50:03) taking the solo women’s race lead into Stage 1 on Monday.
“It was a challenging, but fun route. Rocky and loose with off-camber stuff, but a well thought out lap that wasn’t too hard. Well done to Matthys for his handy work,” said George, referring to stage runner-up Matthys Beukes who designed the prologue route, which runs through his family’s property.
Starting last, most racers would ask for time splits on their rivals to give them an idea of how they’re doing and whether they need to push harder, but George and Evans opted for the alternative.
“We just wanted to ride without taking too many chances, choosing smooth lines and being careful on the tricky stuff and then using as much power as possible to make up the difference where we could. Turns out it was a good tactic,” smiled George.
George and Evans secured a maximum 10 points for the stage win. Points will be accumulated during the event by the top daily finishers. These will be used to award the R100 000 ($US 12 000) prize up for grabs on the event’s signature Stage 2. This is to discourage teams from only focussing on Stage 2 success.
“It’s great that the race was so close in the women’s category today. Three seconds is a very slim lead and we’re not going to get too caught up in defending it tomorrow. Stage racing is best taken one day at a time. Catherine and I will give it our best shot though and we look forward to an interesting race this week,” said Stopforth.
Stage 1 on Monday takes the riders from Buffelspoort Game Lodge, Oudtshoorn over a distance of 103km with an elevation gain of 1 720 metres to the Calitzdorp High School in Calitzdorp. It promises to be a challenging route to set the tone for the remainder of the week.