Woolcock, Luus win inaugural Tankwa Trek stage race

    First-year professional, Lourens Luus, continued to impress by being the first over the summit of the massive Merino Monster climb on Stage 2. Here he leads RE:CM teammate, Waylon Woolcock (obscured) and eventual Solo Male category winner, Nico Pfitzenmaier of Germany. Photo: oakpics

    Waylon Woolcock and Lourens Luus of Team RE:CM produced a perfectly balanced display of racing to win the inaugural Tankwa Trek, a three-day international mountain bike stage race that ended on Sunday in the Ceres region of South Africa’s Western Cape province.

    It was a hard-fought win for the pair as they had to battle against some of the country’s strongest two-man teams and challenging terrain in what turned into an ideal build-up race for next month’s ABSA Cape Epic, the world’s most prestigious mountain bike stage in the same region.

    Luus (21) and Woolcock (30) gained the overall lead late on Saturday’s Stage 2, which they then successfully defended on Sunday’s final stage. Second overall was the Cannondale Blend Properties pair of Darren Lill and Charles Keey with Oliver Munnik and Timo Cooper (GT Bridge Momsen) rounding out the podium places.

    “We were half a minute off Lill and Keey after Stage 1 and on Stage 2 we knew they’d be giving it everything on the big climb that the race organisers dubbed the Merino Monster. We were right and we managed to stay with them to the summit. They’re strong climbers so it was pretty tough,” recalled Woolcock.

    Race Director, Henco Rademeyer leads the riders to the official start of Stage 3 of the Tankwa Trek. Photo: oakpics

    The Merino Monster incorporates 25km of ascent, but not all constant. The toughest part is an eight-kilometre section with a 12% gradient, which is where the race split properly, effectively turning it a two-team contest.

    On the rough nine-kilometre descent that followed, Woolcock and Luus took some risks to open up a lead, which turned out to be the race-deciding move.

    “Lill pretty much stayed with us, but Keey wasn’t as confident on the descent. At the bottom, with about 15km to the finish on district gravel roads, Lourens and I turned ourselves inside out and managed to win the stage and take the overall lead, which we then defended with some cautious riding today,” said Woolcock.

    The scenic Ceres region gave the riders unparalleled beauty during the three days of racing at the 2013 Tankwa Trek. Photo: oakpics

    Hanlie Booyens and Ischen Stopforth, both experienced stage racers, teamed up to win the Women’s title, while Billy Stelling and his British teammate, Jane Neussli (BMC/Market on the Wharf) claimed the Mixed title. In the Solo division, Nico Pfitzenmaier (Bridge Momsen) secured the men’s crown, while Yolande de Villiers (Toyota Supercycling) claimed the women’s title.

    “What an amazing event!” said Woolcock. “Besides spectacular race routes, the accommodation and catering were superb. Actually, that’s the best catering I’ve experienced at any bicycle race. I think this is going to become a really sought after race.” 

    “The Tankwa Trek is a fantastic event. I loved the singletrack on Stage 3 especially. It’s a very good preparation race for the Cape Epic from a conditions perspective and the timing is spot-on,” said Nussli, who will tackle the 2013 edition of the Cape Epic with Esther Suss to challenge for the women’s category title.  

    “With just under 100 riders, we had a relatively small field, but that suited us for the first event,” said Carel Herholdt of Dryland Events, the organisers.“It was still a high quality field that experienced a new, challenging, late-summer stage race through amazing scenery, just over two hours drive from Cape Town.”