South Africa’s Renay Groustra and German team-mate Daniel Gathof claimed the 115km second stage and overall lead of the Rocky Mountain Garden Route 300 mountain bike race in Knysna on Saturday.
In a reversal of fortune, the Rocky Mountain-RSA Web duo came good on a stage that included 2 400m of climbing to comfortably overhaul Bridge’s overnight leaders Timo Cooper and Adriaan Louw.
Groustra and Gathof crossed the line in 4:39:56, followed by Cooper and Louw (4:48:45) and V&A Market on the Wharf’s Billy Stelling and Rob Dormehl (4:55:15).
The new leaders, who twice veered off course the previous day, took full advantage of a Cooper puncture to establish a lead of almost nine minutes going into the 78km final stage on Sunday.
Passing through the local Rastafarian village, the racing started at an easy tempo on what is traditionally regarded as the tour’s queen stage.
Gathof, twice a TransAlp winner, forced the first breakaway through the Petrus se Brand forest trails, which came after the first feeding station at 30km.
With only his partner and the Bridge riders able to follow, it was left to Stelling and Dormehl and masters’ category leaders Neil Bradford and Tim Osrin, riding in the colours of the Harvest Foundation, to do the chasing.
Disaster struck the yellow jersey pairing when Cooper punctured on a descent 50km into the race.
“We plugged it and then the plug popped out, so we plugged it again,” said Cooper.
After running out of CO2 bombs, a pump borrowed from solo rider Dominic Calitz got them on their way again.
“We couldn’t see Renay and Daniel anymore and then the two chasing teams caught us but we rode away from them again before the second waterpoint.”
By the 60km mark, Gathof and Groustra had pulled six minutes clear of Cooper and Louw. They continued to extend the gap on the remaining hills to ride alone to the finish.
Gathof said the big gravel road climbs had suited him perfectly, as they were very similar to those found on the European circuit.
However, the new leaders did not have it all their own way. “We had quite a tough time coming into the wind on the way home, especially near Phantom Pass,” said Groustra.
“On the profile, we saw a lot of downhills and flats but it was actually quite tough. Daniel still had some power left, so he was making me bite my handlebars.”
Going into the last stage, Groustra said the onus would be on the other teams to do the work.
“When you have the lead, you just have to defend. Our job is to concentrate on staying safe.
“But if we have the opportunity to extend it, we will.”
Privateers Ischen Stopforth and Yolande de Villiers, who finished in 5:22:42, were the first women home to retain a comfortable overall lead.
They were followed by the bizhub pairings of Catherine Williamson and Nicci Grobler (5:33:50) and Yolandi du Toit and Leana de Jager (6:02:55).
Howard & Chamberlain’s mixed category leaders Hannele Steyn and Charl du Plessis clocked 5:50:24 to extend their overnight lead.
Merrell’s Lindi Dorfling and Graeme van der Nest took the runner-up spot (6:04:24) with Tanja and Jon Oosthuyse rounding out the podium (6:12:17).