In an exciting Berg River Marathon end-sprint, Joep van Bakel and Keith Moule outsprinted race leaders Graeme Solomon and Adrian Boros to take the tough third stage win at Zoutkloof on Friday, but it still leaves Solomon and Boros holding all the cards overall.
In a massed start, the batch started together at Bridgetown staring down 76 gruelling kilometres and following the portage over the Misverstand Dam wall, the first and second teams stayed ahead through to the end sprint.
It was another cat-and-mouse stage with the chasers knowing that nothing short of a miracle would get them back into contention with over 10 minutes the difference at the start of the day.
Despite that, Moule and Van Bakel fought hard and tried to shrug off the leaders, but the experience of Solomon and the power of Boros kept the quartet together throughout.
‘We knew that 10 minutes was going to be close to impossible to overturn so we just focused on winning the stage and we are happy that we managed to do that,’ the smiling Van Bakel said.
‘It was important that we still stayed with them today because we knew that if we made an error and let Adrian pull Graeme away, then it was definitely over for us!
‘We did have one issue at a tree block when I lost my hat and had to get it back! I didn’t want to lose it! But we managed to get back after that.’
The tactics of Team Bamboo Warehouse were straightforward and they knew that the pressure was completely on the shoulders of the chasing pair so if they could maintain a steady pace throughout, they’d hold all the cards going into the final stage.
‘Yesterday was a hard stage for us and we really pushed ourselves to the limit and so today we decided that we didn’t want to do anything more than we had to,’ said Solomon.
‘We just tried to stay with the bunch and let them try and make all of the breaks and take all the chances. We didn’t want to extend ourselves too much today; we just wanted to get to the end feeling good.’
A first win in 17 years is on the horizon for Solomon (above) following a record tally of second- and third-place finishes. The thought of being a two-time Berg champion, as well as the first team champion, put a small smile on the face of the 45-year-old.
‘It’s exciting to be this close! It’s been a long time coming.
‘I just feel really privileged to be able to still be doing this at my age and it’s really cool that I can still race with these young guys and still enjoy it,’ Solomon added.
Boros showed his steel in 2017 when he won the overall Berg title and knows that the third stage packs a considerable punch.
‘This final 10km into the finish was tough but I still felt strong at the end for the sprint but we are happy that we still have such a good lead,’ Boros said.
The exciting race was the tussle for third where Jermaine Pietersen and Anders Hart went out hard to cancel the six-second advantage that Gavin White and Bartho Visser had gained over the first two days.
Pietersen and Hart put the hammer down but late issues for the pair saw White and Visser claw back three minutes to set up an enthralling end sprint.
With 100m to go, Hart turned to partner Pietersen to instruct him to put in a hard pull, however, he missed a paddle stroke and capsized, which handed third to White and Visser and gave them valuable time to bank going into the final stage.
The new mixed team event was turned on its head when Bianca Beavitt was left to continue solo after her partner Crispin Thompson had to withdraw from the race due to illness at the portage around Misverstand Dam wall, 15km into the third stage.
That vaulted Lisa Scott and Kevin Bouwer into the top position in the mixed team event.
The age group contests were similar to the first two days with the Change a Life Capensis team of Mthobisi Cele and Mpilo Zondi retaining their lead in the U23 showdown while the impressive U18 pair of Melvino Klaase and Angelo Smith are 12th overall and first in the juniors.
Stage three results and overall times
1 Graeme Solomon/Adrian Boros (Team Bamboo Warehouse) 5hr 38min 34sec, 12:36:47
2 Keith Moule/Joep van Bakel 5:38:33 12:47:02
3 Gavin White/Bartho Visser 5:49:46 13:11:42
4 Anders Hart/Jermaine Pietersen 5:51:23 13:13:24
5 Daan du Toit/Gert van Deventer 5:51:54 13:26:11
6 Greg van Heerden/Anthony Wostenholm 5:51:53 13:27:32
7 John de Villiers/Heinrich Schloms 5:54:56 13:29:12
8 Mthobisi Cele/Mpilo Zondi (U23) (Capensis) 6:08:42 13:42:31
9 Chris de Waal/Roy Clegg 5:54:55 13:42:52
10 Loveday Zondi/Richard Cele 6:13:40 13:56:58
1 Mthobisi Cele/Mpilo Zondi (Capensis) 6:08:42 13:42:31
1 Melvino Klaase/Angelo Smith 6:18:18 14:13:04
Photos: Boros (left) and Moule fight it out (main picture) as Solomon targets a first Berg win in 17 years, by John Hishin/Gameplan Media