DURBAN – There is no such thing as a sure thing in sport.
Ahead of the opening day of the KAP sani2c Race, the favourites in the men’s race were the PYGA/Euro Steel pair of Matthys Beukes and Julian Jessop, given their form and their pedigree in the race. But, a series of mechanical issues put paid to their plans, as they eventually came home in third place, behind a powerful Team NAD 1 team of Nico Bell and Matthew Beers.
“I don’t know why teams don’t go hard on the opening stage of the race,” Bell said after their stage triumph, which was built on a powerful charge midway through the stage.
Bell even had time to recover from a dip into the river when he tumbled in at the Floating Bridge, with their dominance confirmed by a lead of over four minutes.
“We wanted to put the other guys under pressure and at the train track and managed to open up a gap there. I was riding a bit too close to Matt on the floating bridge and took a swim, but luckily we didn’t lose too much time as I managed to hop back quickly and we were back up and running.”
Beers was equally chuffed, especially as he had to deal with a sudden splash coming from behind him on the bridge.
“Today worked out well for us considering I turned around and there was no one! When we got that gap, we decided to just drive it from there. Nico and I are really fast, so we knew it would suit us,” Beers explained.
“But then Nico fell off into the water which was a bit scary because your body goes into shock from the water!”
Behind them, there were bigger challenges, as Team DSV duo of Gert Heyns and Arno du Toit ended in second, after a few mechanical issues of their own.
“It was a lot of fun and we pushed hard on the downhills,” Heyns beamed. “Tomorrow is going to be tough with the time that we have to make up, but we are excited to give it a go!”
The pre-race favourites, Jessop and Beukes, had a chain event of issues that undid much of their efforts. Despite their setbacks, two-time defending champion Beukes’ remained positive with two days to go.
“Matt and Nico were just too strong on that first climb for us and they got a good gap there. “The DSV guys and us rode together for a bit and worked well together and unfortunately Julian dropped his chain a few times, which cost us some time. But we are quite happy with third.”
In the ladies’ race, Sanders and McDougall lived up to their billing as overwhelming favourites, cruising to an overall position of 15th.
“You don’t want to slack off at any stage, but we had a lot of fun and I love racing with Amy because we have a good chemistry,” Sanders said, after a business-like first stage of the race for the pair.
Complacency could be their only challenge, but they were handed a strong reminder on the road.
“We don’t want to ride beyond our limits, because we saw a guy today whose race was over after a fall and we don’t want that to happen to us. Going into the rest of the race, we will ride as hard as we can but keep it safe,” Sanders warned.
The race suffered a tragedy on the first day of the Adventure event, as 39 year-old Christo Pieterse died due to a heart attack on the first stage. He was taken by paramedics to the Hilton Life Hospital, but was declared dead on arrival.
The Adventure race continued onto a second stage, with the course beginning with each rider saluting Pieterse, and committing to ride in his honour.
Results - Men:
1. Team NAD 1 (Nico Bell/Matt Beers) 02:46:25
2. Team DSV (Gert Heyns/Arno du Toit) 02:50:34
3. PYGA/Euro Steel 1 (Matthys Beukes/Julian Jessop) 02:52:11
4. PYGA/Euro Steel 2 (Pieter du Toit/Phillimon Sebona) 02:53:34
5. TIB/Volvo-Silverback (Shaun-nick Bester/Andrew Hill) 02:54:27
Results - Women:
1. dormakaba (Samantha Sanders/Amy McDougall) 03:05:53
2. Team (Andrea de Boer/Hayley Smith) 03:27:55
3. Team Bestmed (Danielle Strydom/Kristen Louw) 03:35:39