Kevin Evans and David George debuted in spectacular fashion at the third annual Old Mutual joBerg2c, taking five stage wins en route to overall victory at Scottburgh main beach at the weekend.
The Nedbank 360Life duo, who won the African leader jersey at the recent Absa Cape Epic, conquered both their rivals and the nine-day, 910-kilometre journey from Heidelberg in Gauteng to the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast.
Their overall time of 32hr 27min 39sec put them 17 minutes clear of defending champions Neil MacDonald and Waylon Woolcock of RE:CM, who recorded a total time of 32:44:43.
The final day’s racing over 71km ended in a dramatic sprint across the beach, with RE:CM cementing their runner-up spot in the overall standings with a second stage win in 2:27:59. Nedbank 360Life trailed in seven seconds later.
Itec Connect-Vodacom’s David Morison and Louis Bresler Knipe finished two minutes off the pace in 2:30:06 to take third on the day and the final step on the podium overall in 33:27:09.
The shortest of the nine stages commenced at a furious pace as the teams left Jolivet Farm in the Highflats region. MacDonald and Woolcock rode hard upfront to force an early break on the single track, which the riders hit after 5km.
Only Evans and George, Morison and Knipe, and the Transact pair of Paul Cordes and Arno du Toit, were able to join them. ÔÇ£Once the break was there, it was just a matter of consolidating to the end,ÔÇØ said Evans.
The hills towards the first waterpoint, after 33km, split the front group and the two top teams in this year’s race, RE:CM and Nedbank 360Life, were able to open up a gap of 1:20 on Itec-Connect Vodacom and Transact.
MacDonald and Woolcock continued to drive the pace up Heart Rate Hill, with Evans and George sitting on comfortably. At the top, just 15km from Scottburgh, the fate of Knipe and Morison and Cordes and Du Toit was effectively sealed.
ÔÇ£It played out pretty much as we thought,ÔÇØ said Evans. ÔÇ£RE:CM wanted to win one more stage, so we had a free ride and just got to sit on. It was actually nice because it’s an easier way to end the tour.ÔÇØ
Evans said the event had exceeded his every expectation and that they had thoroughly enjoyed interacting with the 550-odd riders in the community-run race villages. ÔÇ£They said it’s all about the riders and certainly the trails are testament to that. It’s one of the top races I’ve done; definitely in this country.
He said the two standout stages had been day four, when the riders dropped down the escarpment from Sterkfontein Dam into KwaZulu-Natal, and the penultimate stage through the Umkomaas River Valley. ÔÇ£I’m sure it will become an important race for our team from now on.ÔÇØ
The Nedbank 360Life rider said he and George had gotten a lot out of the event but had also been proud to give something back. They donated a wheelchair per stage win to the Cycling for Mobility initiative and an additional 14 from the proceeds of the auction of their African leader jersey.
Evans said they were now looking forward to their next big goal, the BOE sani2c, which traces the last three days of the Old Mutual joBerg2c. ÔÇ£We’re spoilt to be able to come back and do this twice in the space of two weeks. We’ve checked out the tracks and I think we know where we’re going to make the racing.ÔÇØ
Ischen Stopforth and Catherine Williamson of bizhub-FCF took line honours in 2:57:17 to seal an almost uncontested victory in the women’s race in 38:33:27.
Contego 28E’s powerhouse couple, Erik and Ariane Kleinhans, also added the mixed category medal to their recent Epic title, completing the nine days of riding in 36:08:58.