Burry Stander and Yolande Speedy confirmed their superb form for the forthcoming 2007 World Mountain Bike Championships when they secured dominant victories in the men and women's categories respectively at the Illovo Eston Classic in KwaZulu-Natal on Sunday.
The pair claimed African championship titles in the cross-country (lap racing) discipline in Namibia less than 10 days ago, but on Sunday showed they're equally accomplished marathon racers, winning the 75km race with more than two minute-margins over their nearest rivals.
Stander (Mr Price GT) was simply untouchable in the men's race. He set off at a fast pace from the start in an effort to secure maximum points in the Velotex King of the Mountains competition.
His rivals, which included all of the country's leading riders, let him go thinking it would impossible for him to maintain that pace and that they'd catch him later for sure.
But the 19-year-old sensation proved them wrong.
Instead of easing up after claiming the KOM prize, he simply powered on to finish alone in a fast two hours, 40 minutes and 44 seconds.
Melt Swanepoel (Raleigh MTN Energade) was the best of the rest, crossing the line second in 2:42:55 with Stander's Mr Price GT teammate Johan van Zyl rounding out the podium in 2:43:09.
Kevin Evans (Raleigh MTN Energade) saw his hopes of defending his Eston Classic title vanish when he punctured. He was unable to rejoin the leaders, finishing 15th in 2:56:01. Despite his low-placed finish, he did however maintain his lead in the Mazda Series.
Speedy (IMC Mongoose) was a little more conservative with her start than Stander, preferring to adopt a come-from-behind strategy which has become somewhat customary in her recent marathon races.
Amy Jane Mundy (Jeep Specialized) continued her domination of the Velotex Queen of the Mountains competition by claiming the prime which was just 7km into the race. But once Speedy got her momentum, her rivals had little hope of challenging her and she charged to a comfortable victory in 3:11:06. Yolande de Villiers (Mazda Merida) was second in 3:13:59.
Tania Raats (Maverick Momentum), leader of the Mazda Series women's category since Event 1 in January, finished third in 3:20:46, securing enough points to ensure she retains her Series lead after six races.
In the 40km Juicy Lucy Classic, which doubled as the seventh leg of the Fritz Pienaar Cycles Half-marathon Series, 17-year-old Bryce Munro claimed the men's race honours in 1:36:32, narrowly outgalloping Timothy Stark (1:36:34).
In the women's category, Candice Neethling (1:50:30) was a dominant winner over Caitlin de Wet (1:55:55).
The seventh leg of the 10-race Mazda Series is the Koranna Two Mountains in Marquard, Free State on 25 August. This event will be the eighth event in the Fritz Pienaar Cycles Half-marathon Series. - Sapa