Team RE:CM’s Waylon Woolcock and Neil MacDonald claimed a narrow victory on Stage 1 of the Contego Wines2Whales mountain bike stage race in South Africa’s Western Cape Province on Friday.
The pair clocked a time of 03 hours 35 minutes 51 seconds for the tough 70km stage, which started at Lourensford Wine Estate, Somerset West and ended at Oak Valley, Elgin. Second place went to Charles Keey and Ruan du Toit (Blend Property) with Matthys Beukes and Renay Goustra (RSA Web/CangoMTB) rounding out the top three overall.
“It was a pretty tough stage today. I normally find the first stage of a tour the hardest, but today I took more strain than I’d have liked,” grimaced Woolcock, who has just recovered from a serious stomach bug. “Neil was strong today thank goodness and we seemed to be among the stronger climbers, but not the strongest technically on the singletrack.”
Friday’s stage started with an eight-kilometre climb, which saw MacDonald and Woolcock and Beukes and Goustra move clear of the field.
“Neil and I decided to push it up there to see who was strong and to try and break the pack up a bit so we’d have less guys to worry about in the singletrack later,” said Woolcock.
But once on the descent, Keey and Du Toit and Louis Bresler Knipe and Adriaan Louw (Contego 28E) rejoined the leaders.
“There were lots of ruts on the descent and we didn’t want to risk anything so early in the race so we took it a little cautiously. But on the next couple of climbs we managed to move clear again. Neil and Renay were both strong and Matthys and I were just hanging on! I cramped a lot today, but it seems so did many others.”
Going into the final five kilometres, it was still only Team RE:CM and RSA Web/CangoMTB at the front with MacDonald and Goustra charginginto the final section of singletrack toward the finish line, opening a gap on their teammates.
“I got into the singletrack ahead of Matthys but as I came out of it, I looked back and noticed the Blend Property guys had caught him, so I just pushed as hard as I could to the finish. Neil had slowed to wait for me but we managed to win the stage by just a few seconds. Nice close racing!” added Woolcock.
Saturday’s second stage follows a circular 65km route that starts and finishes at Oak Valley and climbs vertically a total of 1 175 metres. It hugs the base of Groenlandberg for much of the second half and includes a high percentage of singletrack.
“With less climbing and more singletrack tomorrow, we’ll have to be vigilant. There are some very skilled riders that are quick on the singletrack sections but we’re motivated to retain our lead and will do our best to work to our strengths too,” added Woolcock.
Stage 1 Leading results:
Waylon Woolcock/Neil MacDonald – Team RE:CM 03hr25min51sec
Charles Keey/Ruan du Toit – Blend Property Group 03:25:57
Matthys Beukes/Renay Goustra 03:26:04
Yolande Speedy/Hanlie Booyens – Momentum Specialised Insurance Ladies 03:57:23
Catherine Williamson/Ischen Stopforth – Team bizhub Ladies 04:06:47
Cherise Taylor/Mariske Strauss – Contego Ladies 04:20:38
Philip Buys/Carla van Huysteen – USN Inov-8 04:00:43
Johan Labaschange/Yolande de Villiers – J&Y 04:02:32
Phillip Lamprecht/Jane Seggie – Gogo & Gramps 04:06:00