Day 3 of the Old Mutual joBerg2c is the dromedary camel day of the event. The stage comes with lots of flat district roads (and lots of pedalling on even ground) with the hump of Mount Paul appearing just before the finish at Sterkfontein Dam.
Overall winners on the 125km stage from Reitz to Sterkfontein Dam were Philip Buys and Matthys Beukes for PYGA Euro Steel (4:29:28). Just half-a-minute behind were flying Dutchmen Gerben Mos and Bram Rood (KMC Fruit to Go, 4:30:06). NAD Pro MTB’s Nico Bell and Gawie Combrinck fell behind on the stage and finished third (4:30:43).
In the Lanham-Love Mixed Category, Darren and Candice Lill (dormakaba) were first home again in a time of 4:45:27. Johan Labuschagne and Catherine Williamson (The Bicycle Company Mitas) followed shortly thereafter (4:46:47) with the Team Garmin riders of Yolandie du Toit and Ben Melt Swanepoel riders filling the final spot on the mixed category podium with a time of 5:09:14.
The mixing bowl
Darren Lill says he owes the stage win to Reitz’s famous mielie brood, “It must have been that! The aim was actually to take today fairly conservatively – it was a long day with a long way to race still. Because we had a bit of a gap from yesterday we didn’t have as much pressure today.
“At about the 80km Amy (Beth McDougall – Lanham-Love Valencia) had a problem with her saddle so we just kept the same speed and didn’t want to over commit with there being a lot of racing still to come.”
Candice Lill reflected on the day as being long and challenging, but with positives. She described the route as flat and endless, “There is lot of open road with lots of hard sections of single track in between spots where you had to fight, so it was a good balance.”
She added that now is not the time to get complacent as things can change quickly at the joBerg2c. At this point last year, the Lills were sitting in the race doldrums, yet they clawed their way back to win the event.
Although Williamson and Labuschagne finished in second spot for the mixed category on day 3, she felt a little worse for wear at the finish line – again, the non stop pedalling taking its toll on the riders.
“I’m absolutely broken and I’m really glad that this is the end of the flatter terrain with all the pedalling. To be honest though, I don’t think there is an opportunity to make up for lost time because I’m not climbing as well as the other two girls, and that’s where I’m dropping off a bit,” said Williamson. However, tomorrow she will enjoy a wonderful descent as the race heads off the escarpment and into KwaZulu-Natal.
If there is any consolation for a tough day at the office, Williamson has been revelling in the mixed category’s healthy competition, “You can be competitive on the bike, but we actually all get on so well in the mixed category.”
The men have a mixup of their own
On the approach to Mount Paul, KMC Fruit to Go held a four minute lead over PYGA Euro Steel. Come the dam wall and Buys and Beukes were in front of the early stage runaways.
“It was a long open day and I think everybody waited for the last climb with about 20km to go, and from there we just split it to get a gap and we just rode steady on to the finish,” said Beukes.
Buys added, “The win makes up for the terrible luck yesterday. Today was a lot of open flat roads, but we studied the race profile and found a little kink here towards the end.”
He continued that KMC Fruit to Go have been a welcome surprise and is great for the men’s category, “We weren’t expecting KMC to be a hassle. We saw that they didn’t stop at the second water point and that’s where they capitalised. We didn’t really chase them until the last 20km when we put the hammer down.”
Bram Rood commented that it was a fun stage, and showed the team’s ace up their sleeve; a camel pack.
“We didn’t stop at water point two, because we have these! But I must admit, after about 60km we were alone, so it was hard riding.
“At the top of the climb we received word that we had a four minute lead over Philip and Matthys. But on the final climb and descent they were just too fast.”
Tomorrow the racing will test the leaders’ technical skills as day 4 takes the joBerg2c off the escarpment and into KwaZulu-Natal. Highlights include Great Wall My China, the descent down Bezuidenhout’s Pass, and the final 20km of single track heaven into the finish at Emseni.
Generic caption: Riders made their way from a chilly start in Reitz to Sterkfontein Dam. The day was challenging with lots of pedaling along the flat 125km long stretch. The route also came with a sting in the tail where riders faced off with Mount Paul – a tough climb with a welcomed descent. Winners of the day were PYGA Euro Steel with a time of 4:29:28.