Matthys Beukes emerged victorious at Round 3 of the Ashburton Investments National MTB Series at Clarens in the Eastern Free State at the weekend, winning the men’s marathon stage race title in emphatic fashion.
Second overall was HB Kruger of Team BCX with Beukes’s Pyga Eurosteel teammate, Philip Buys taking third place after another exciting weekend of racing the new two-day format.
For Beukes, the overall victory was incredibly sweet and confirmed his return to peak form after having spent three months recovering from a serious crash that damaged his hand, his shoulder and his foot. It was also his first ever overall win at an Ashburton Investments National MTB Series event.
On Saturday, Beukes and Kruger went on the attack before halfway through the 69km stage and managed to hold their lead to the finish. In the final kilometre Beukes managed to pull clear of Kruger and claimed the stage win in a time of 02 hours 29 minutes and 16 seconds. Kruger rolled home second seven seconds later with Nico Bell (Team NAD Pro) taking third place another minute back.
The next seven finishers were all home within the next minute, confirming the tight racing on a day when the winning average speed was a very rapid 27.7kph!
Day 2’s 54km route was shorter, but included more singletrack and a tough climb and rough descent near the finish. Beukes and Buys set a fast pace from the start and split the A group up considerably before halfway. On the big climb late in the stage, only series leader, Max Knox, was able to stay with the Pyga Eurosteel duo.
On the rough, loose descent to the finish Knox was stung by a bee, which caused him to take a tumble, leaving him to limp to the end with a bent rear derailleur. Beukes and Buys charged ahead to secure first and second on the stage, with Buys crossing just a head of Beukes in a time of 2:02:02.
Bell caught and passed Knox in the final 100 metres to secure third place on the stage a minute and a half after Buys and Beukes had rolled home. Kruger managed to grab fifth place 1:44 behind Buys. He’d done enough to be able to hold onto his second place overall behind the elated Beukes.
“The plan for today (Day 2) was for me to look after Matthys to defend his lead. If we could try and get the minute and half that I was down yesterday, we’d try, but the priority was getting Matthys to the finish safely and fast,” said Buys afterwards.
“It’s great to finally win. I have been second and third before at National MTB Series events, but this is my first win. It’s a good weekend for me,” said Beukes.
“On the last big climb we pushed the pace hard. Max (Knox) stayed with us but on the descent Philip went to the front and just pushed the limits. I followed his wheel and we managed to get away and rolled into the finish. It’s our first win in the new team colours, which is great for our sponsors and supporters too,” smiled Beukes.
“It was an aggressive race from the gun. Matthys went quite early on the attack and was on his own for a bit. I rode across to him on quite a gnarly section. The guys behind must have lagged for a bit as we got a gap quite quickly. Matthys was really strong and he opened up a gap on me on the last bit of singletrack. He was a well deserved winner,” said Kruger after Stage 1.
With both stage times combined, Beukes’s winning time was 4:31:19, 1:50 ahead of runner-up Kruger with Buys’s strong second stage putting him in third place in a time of 4:33:27. Bell ended up in fourth place with Knox fifth. Knox retains the overall series lead after three rounds.
Round 4 of the 2017 Ashburton Investments National MTB Series is another two-day race format on 10 and 11 June at Champagne Valley in the Central Drakensberg. To enter or for more information, visit www.nationalmtbseries.com
Ashburton Investments National MTB Series 2017
Round 3, Clarens
Men Stage 1:
1 Matthys Beukes (RSA) Pyga Eurosteel 2:29:16
2 HB Kruger (RSA) Team BCX 2:29:23
3 Nico Bell (RSA) Team NAD Pro 2:30:30
4 Konny Looser (SUI) BIXS 2:30:50
5 Waylon Woolcock (RSA) Team BCX 2:30:50
6 Travis Walker (RSA) Ellsworth 2:30:54
7 Max Knox (RSA) New Holland/This Way Out 2:31:05
8 Philip Buys (RSA) Pyga Eurosteel 2:31:25
9 Brendon Davids (RSA) Road Cover 2:31:31
10 Willie Smit (RSA) Road Cover 2:31:40
Men Stage 2:
1 Philip Buys (RSA) Pyga Eurosteel 2:02:02
2 Matthys Beukes (RSA) Pyga Eurosteel 2:02:03
3 Nico Bell (RSA) Team NAD Pro 2:03:35
4 Max Knox (RSA) New Holland/This Way Out 2:03:40
5 HB Kruger (RSA) Team BCX 2:03:46
6 Travis Walker (RSA) Ellsworth 2:03:55
7 Brendon Davids (RSA) Road Cover 2:04:47
8 Gert Heyns (RSA) Ascendis Health 2:05:57
9 Timothy Hammond (RSA) 2:06:07
10 Arno du Toit (RSA) LCB Racing 2:06:10
Men combined final positions:
1 Matthys Beukes (RSA) Pyga Eurosteel 4:31:19
2 HB Kruger (RSA) Team BCX 4:33:09
3 Philip Buys (RSA) Pyga Eurosteel 4:33:27
4 Nico Bell (RSA) Team NAD Pro 4:34:05
5 Max Knox (RSA) New Holland/This Way Out 4:34:45
6 Travis Walker (RSA) Ellsworth 4:34:49
7 Brendon Davids (RSA) Road Cover 4:36:18
8 Timothy Hammond (RSA) 4:37:47
9 Konny Looser (SUI) BIXS 4:38:00
10 Arno du Toit (RSA) LCB Racing 4:38:27
Males combined – final positions
1 Pieter du Toit 2:29:25
2 Brendan van Eeden 2:37:28
3 Marc Oliver Pritzen 2:38:15
For full marathon and half-marathon results, visit www.saseeding.org