After losing time yesterday, Gawie Combrinck and Nico Bell bounced back to win the fifth stage of the Old Mutual joBerg2c at Nottingham Road in KwaZulu-Natal today.
The NAD Pro pair won the 122km stage between Emseni, outside Winterton, and Nottingham Road in 3:54:34.
They were followed by Telkom’s Johann Rabie and HB Kruger in 3:54:35, with Thule-Pyga-TIB’s Andrew Hill and Tyronne White completing the podium in 3:58:42.
Rabie and Kruger still top the general classification with a total time of 18:59:42, followed by Combrinck and Bell in 19:03:23 and Hill and White in 19:22:27.
“Today was actually quite relaxed,” said the 30-year-old Combrinck, who lives in Nelspruit. “Nobody really wanted to take the initiative early on with the headwind.
“We attacked at Giant’s Castle leading up to the second waterpoint but couldn’t get rid of the Telkom guys. From there we set the pace for much of the day and in the end it came down to a sprint.
“It was a case of entering the single-track leading into the finish first so that we could at least get a stage win out of the day.”
Bell, who is also from Nelspruit, said it was quite tough over the last 40km where they tried to get away.
“They basically just had to follow our wheels and it came down to who entered the single-track first.”
Combrinck said tomorrow’s new stage six, which will take riders over 98km to Glencairn Farm on the Sani Pass road, promises to be quite a tough one and they would try to attack if and when they could.
“Despite the climbing, I think tomorrow will be quite a fast stage and I’m looking forward to it.”
Having lost the overall lead yesterday after three flat tyres, Johan Labuschagne and Catherine Williamson bounced back to win the Lanham-Love Attorneys mixed section and move back to the top of the general classification.
The Bicycle Company-Bestmed pair completed the day in 4:04:15, followed by Dorma-USN-Purefit’s Darren Lill and Candice Neethling in 4:11:24 and Valencia Lanham-Love’s Grant Usher and Amy McDougall in 4:21:22.
Labuschagne and Williamson lead with an aggregate time of 20:08:46, with Usher and McDougall falling back to second in 20:22:34. Lill and Neethling, who are becoming stronger as the race progresses, remain in third on 20:28:54.
Labuschagne said positioning was very important at the start.
“Going into that single-track up to Hangman’s Tree it is always important to be placed well because that is usually were the field splits.
“Although we were quite well positioned, Candice and Darren were slightly ahead of us and got away. I think that is where Grant (Usher) fell and broke his seat.”
He said they caught up to Lill and Neethling at waterpoint one and they were all together on the district road leading up to waterpoint two.
“On the dirt road it was attack after attack. Darren and Candice were extremely strong – especially Darren, he was a beast.
“We dropped off a few times but managed to come back each time.
“After waterpoint two we were still together but then they disappeared and I can only assume they had a puncture or Candice might have had a difficult moment.”
Labuschagne said they decided to push on and see if they could make up time on the competition.
“Yesterday was a tough day with the punctures, but that is mountain biking for you. Taking back the lead is very nice – especially the day after you have lost it.”
The Robert Daniel duo of Corrie and Richard Muller head the veterans’ section (21:26:10), Cycle Lab’s Greg Anderson and Deon Kruger the masters’ category (20:09:23) and Valencia’s Samantha Sanders and Anriette Schoeman the women’s (22:27:21).
The nine-day Old Mutual joBerg2c ends in Scottburgh on Saturday after 900km of racing.