DURBAN – There was more of the same on the second day of the KAP sani2c Race in Umkomaas on Friday, as Team NAD 1’s Matt Beers and Nico Bell and dormakaba’s Samantha Sanders and Amy McDougall maintained their healthy leads in the men’s and women’s events.
The second day, a bruising dip and then steep climb over 96km through the Umkomaas valley, took no prisoners, with unseasonal heat seeing temperatures rising to over 27 degrees before midday.
The second stage holds an ascent of over 1500 metres, traversing the famous ‘Umko Drop’. The challenging terrain was removed from the itinerary last year, after torrential rain had made the route unsafe. But, with drier conditions, the best riders again had the thrill of testing themselves on the full 96km course.
Beers and Bell, who had a four-minute cushion after their opening day blitz, remained in control of the men’s race, while Team DSV in second place pulled away from the rest of the pack after Iconic Climb.
The dash to the end requires knowledge, and that is where Bell’s nous came in handy. Having finished at King’s Harvest Academy in the recent Old Mutual joBerg2c, he knew precisely where to go, and that crucial intel was to prove crucial at the end of the stage.
“Through the jeep track section, there is a bit of an incline and some sharp corners coming into the finish,” Bell pointed out.
“We turned left into the single track and then I knew that when we came out under the road and then out onto the tar, there is a sharp left and then it curves to the right. I just made sure we stayed in the front.”
“Matt followed my lead because he wasn’t too sure, but to get ahead and take the stage win in the end was great for us!,” Bell exclaimed.
It was a tough old slog on day two, with heavy mist making conditions even stickier, as riders emerged from the dusty climb. The leaders didn’t content themselves with their day one gap, though, and tried to press home the advantage.
Team DSV’s Gert Heyns and Arno du Toit admitted that they tried as they might to haul in the leaders and then eat into the lead, but the local knowledge at the end was a crucial advantage.
“We wanted to push on the Iconic Climb but NAD were with us all the way and I think they just knew the finish better than us, which helped them in the final run in to the line,” Heyns lamented.
“The racing was tough and the stage is quite long compared to day one, so we wanted to put some time into the PYGA/Euro Steel guys. We did push quite hard. We’ve consolidated our second place but it’s going to be a tough task to catch the NAD guys on Saturday with it being such a short stage,” Heyns added.
There was a change in third place on the stage, as PYGA/Euro Steel's Phillimon Sebona and Pieter du Toit enjoyed a fine day ahead of team mates Matthys Beukes and Julian Jessop. The latter duo still hold third place in the overall standings, however.
In the women’s race, the impressive dormakaba duo of Sam Sanders and Amy McDougall stretched their lead to nearly an hour over second place Andrea de Boer and Hayley Smith. Charging out of the blocks at Mackenzie, the leaders again enjoyed an excellent day of racing.
“We both just really love riding our bikes!” McDougall beamed.
“We have been racing hard and despite the competition we have been doing our best and enjoying the trails. It’s a big race and it would be awesome to win it. It’s a pity the top girls aren’t here, but a win is a win,” she said of the lack of sincere competition.
Regardless of the competition, they have been thoroughly impressive, and have beaten several experienced men’s pairings along the way.
Their anticipated, debut victory march into Scottsburgh on Saturday will be one to certainly savour.