By Ian Sadler

Morne Bester rode the race of his life and at the same time gambled with his life in winning Sunday's Cape Argus/Pick 'n Pay Cycle Tour.

The 24-year-old rider from Pretoria flew down Ou Kaapse Weg touching 100km/h with a loose back wheel.

"At the summit I noticed my quick-release was not secure and tried to kick the skewer back with my heel ... the service vehicle was at hand, but we were on the way down so I decided to take a chance and fix it at the bottom," said Bester after the race.

Racing up the Blue Route mechanic George Smit leant over the side of the service bakkie and tightened the Cycle Mania Team rider's wheel properly. "We were doing about 75km/h at the time," said a proud Chris Naude, driver of the bakkie.

Bester's bold move was one of many that saw Germans Alexander Kastenhuber (Nurnberger) and Robert Foster (Leipzig) relegated to second and third.

Anriette Schoeman from Port Elizabeth took the women's race by the scruff of the neck and hit the finish in 2hr 57min 01sec to take the R10 000 purse. Bester's 2:39:47 earned him R25 000.

For the first time in the Tour's 23 years prize money was at stake. The Cape Argus and Pick 'n Pay jointly put up the R20 000 that was spread among the first six women across the line.

Tandem winners were Moolman Welgemoed and Scott Richardson in 2:51:46, with the Dutch pair of Heerko Gorter and Jan Mulder a fraction of a second back (they won the blind tandem section - Gorter is Mulder's pilot).

After a 15-minute delayed start, about 150 elite riders attacked the 109km revised route. It didn't take long for the daring, or foolish, to make breaks.

Going down Wynberg Hill a lone ranger charged out in front, but the peleton had caught him by the Ladies Mile turn-off. At the 28km mark in St James there was another failed attempt to split the bunch, then another at Jubilee Square in Simon's Town.

At Boulders (44km) eight cyclists left the pack and opened a 22-second gap. The breakaways included Austrian Heinz Marchel, Vojtech Dlouhy of the Czech Army Team, Neil MacDonald (HSBC), Kastenhuber and Bester.

Soon after the half-way mark Kastenhuber jumped and Bester was the only one to take up the challenge. "The guys had been horsing around; some were trying to slow the pack down so their teammates could catch up," said Bester.

The rest of the field never saw the pair until the prize-giving. "I was surprised the peleton never caught us, but I knew I was in good company riding with a Nurnberger man," said the winner.

The 9km slog up Ou Kaapse Weg didn't bother the pair as they kept a healthy 20-second gap on the following six and 2min 15sec on the main peleton.

The 3km decent was over in a flash and Bester admitted to being "a bit worried" about his wheel, but as soon as the running repairs were complete, he and the German got serious.

"We talked and decided to work together. It went well, but I got a cramp 10km from the end. It gave me a little problem, though Bester was better than me today," said the runner-up.

While the front two sped past Newlands Forest, Foster had broken from the main peleton with a couple of HSBC cyclists, dropped them a couple of minutes later then tried to catch Bester and Kastenhuber. "I could see them with five kilometres to go but I couldn't make it - that mountain took it out of me," said Foster, vowing to be back for his second "Argus" next year.

Women's winner Schoeman had no idea of the new route and it came as a shock. "It was so, so tough - a killer, one of my worst races."

The Port Elizabeth cyclist made her break on the second hill of Ou Kaapse Weg, eased up at the top before shooting down and dicing with A and B group men on the Blue Route. Schoeman still hopes to make the SA Olympic team for Sydney.

Annelize Stander and Liefie Day were second and third in the same time of 2:57:59, picking up cheques of R5 000 and R2 500.