Beers, Botha take dramatic W2W stage - TeamSA

Beers, Botha take dramatic W2W stage

Beers, Botha

South African duo Matt Beers and Wessel Botha of Team NAD overcame two punctures to finish stage one of the FNB Wines2Whales Shiraz with a lead of nearly three minutes after an incident-filled race day.

Beers and his 19-year-old partner had to chase back and catch U23 cross-country world champion Alan Hatherly and his Danish teammate, former Junior World Champion Simon Andreassen for Spur Specialized, over the last quarter of the 67km mountain bike course.

Beers said afterwards that he had flatted on a section of gravel road about halfway through the ride, before the compulsory portage of more than a kilometre up the Gantouw Pass. ‘We plugged it and got back to Alan and Simon on the portage, but just before the tech zone at water point three on 50km, the plug came out again.’

At the tech zone, they swapped Beers’ wheel and began chasing after Hatherly and Andreassen, who had left the water point nearly a minute and a half ahead.

‘We saw them in the distance and I could see that Alan’s lights were going out,’ said Beers. ‘Alan never ever rides second; as he was following Andreassen through the trails and falling back, it was a sure sign that he was in trouble.’

Although Hatherly was struggling with low sugar, Andreassen was very patient when the lights went out.

‘I felt good on the portage up Gantouw Pass. I trained for it so the run was not that bad, but I think the headwind on the A2Z trails immediately after the pass got the best of me,’ Hatherly said.

Beers and Botha pushed hard for the finish, the youngster commented afterwards: ‘When Matt said we had to go, I had to dig deep; fortunately, we got away.’

They swept across the line in 2hr 56min with Hatherly and Andreassen 2min 56sec behind them.

‘We just had to work through the bad patch to minimise damage. I came back a couple of kilometres from the end,’ said Hatherly.

Andreassen said he had struggled a bit with the pace early on after a long season but then got into his rhythm. ‘The trails were really cool, I like loose corners and sandy stuff,’ said the Dane.

Riders had to overcome a strong headwind and some dusty conditions, but all were complimentary about the course and the trails.

It was a good day for NAD, with their second team of Nico Bell and Gawie Combrinck coming home third, 6min 24secs behind the leaders.

‘I struggled up the first climb but from there, it was better,’ said Combrinck. ‘I’m really happy that Matt and Wessel took the win today.’

Arno du Toit and Tim Hammond for SPOT Africa finished fourth, 8min behind the leaders and Belgian mountain biker Frans Claes and road rider Jasper Stuyven – who finished fifth at the Paris-Roubaix this year– another 16sec back in fifth.

‘I was quite ill two weeks ago,’ said Claes. ‘Today I still felt it and in the second half, I was near dying.’

He added that Stuyven struggled a bit on the trails, not being a mountain biker, ‘On the single tracks we lost a few seconds and had to fight back, which also made it tough.’

With the relatively short and fast stages on the FNB Wines2Whales, it is unlikely the leading two teams will be caught. However, Saturday’s stage two around Grabouw and Elgin should suit the cross-country skills of Hatherly and Andreassen and give them an opportunity to close the gap on the leaders before Sunday’s final stage to Hermanus.

Hatherly said at the finish, ‘There’s still two days of racing, it’s not over until it is over.’

FNB Wines2Whales, Shiraz Stage 1 results:

1. Team NAD (Matthew Beers, Wessel Botha) 2:56:01.2
2. Spur Specialized (Alan Hatherly, Simon Andreassen) 2:58:56.9
3. Team NAD 2 (Nico Bell, Gawie Combrinck) 3:02:25.6
4. SPOT Africa (Arrno du Toit, Timothy Hammond) 3:03:59.3
5. Waypoint Leuven (Frans Claes, Jasper Stuyven) 3:04:17.6

Photo: Team NAD win the opening stage. Supplied by Greg Beadle, Nick Muzik/FNB Wines2Whales

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