HB Kruger and Stuart Marais consolidated their overall lead after breaking away on Outeniqua Pass and racing to their second consecutive stage win in the Liberty TransCape MTB Encounter today.
The 86km second stage took riders from Wilderness to Mossel Bay and also included two other mountain passes at Silver River and Kaaimansgat.
Riding together for the first time, Kruger and Marais came home in a time of 3:15:01, three minutes ahead of the French-German pairing of Antonin Marecaille and Julian Biefang (Chiru-Magura-Canyon).
Third on the day were Norwegian professionals Eirik Fiskvik and Thomas Engelsgjerd (Happysalmon), seven minutes behind the leaders.
After two days, Kruger and Marais (5:38:48) have built a buffer of nearly nine minutes over Marecaille and Biefang in the general classification, with Fiskvik and Engelsgjerd a further two minutes back.
With five days remaining, the Durban-based Marais said their objective had been to ride as conservatively as possible and to assess the strength of their rivals in the early part of the stage.
“There was quite a big group for about 15km, but once we started the dirt road sections, we broke away with Marecaille and Biefang,” he said.
“We rode quite comfortably together and then up Outeniqua Pass we could see one of them was struggling a bit.
“We did not go too hard, but maintained a steady tempo and managed to break away. From then we were on our own.”
He added that their strategy was to maintain a decent tempo, while “keeping something in the bank for tomorrow”.
Marais said he and Kruger, who is from Paarl, were working well as a team despite it being a new partnership.
“We know each other well and are similarly matched, even though we concentrate on different disciplines. I’m cross country and he’s marathon, but we are communicating nicely and it’s all going well.”
He said it would be more of the same tomorrow when the riders tackled the 102km third stage from Hartenbos to Riversdale.
“We have a really good cushion over the second team, so it is going to be a case of riding within ourselves and playing it by ear, taking the opportunities when they are there.”
Belgian Kristof de Neys and British partner Catherine Williamson (LawPack) remained the pace-setters in the mixed category after winning the stage in 3:50:48.
Williamson, last year’s mixed champion, said they felt “nice and strong” at this stage of the race.
“The day went really well and there were no mishaps. We know each other quite well, so riding-wise it’s working out nicely.
“There was a good mixture of climbs and open roads on the route and it was a really good day on the bike.”
The 614km race, supported by STANLIB and Volvo Cars, takes riders through many of the Western Cape’s iconic trails before ending at La Couronne Wine Estate in Franschhoek on Saturday.