Cooler temperatures greeted riders early on at Stage 6 of the Absa Cape Epic, but temperatures warmed up again as the day progressed. Thankfully, a consistent, fresh breeze gave relief to riders and spectators alike on a sunny Saturday.
Enjoying the conditions were Diepsloot MTB Academy riders William Mokgopo and Phillimon Sebona, who keep the Exxaro special jersey for yet another day (they finished the day in a time of 5:22.28,4).
In the Absa African special jersey race PYGA Euro Steel (Philip Buys and Matthys Beukes) completed a routine ride to come first in their category (4:41.24,0). NAD Pro MTB riders Gawie Combrink and Nico Bell followed with a time of 4:50.44,7.
An unusually tired Mokgopo, who has been ebullient throughout the week, was happy to achieve the result, especially after falling back a handful of places in the overall standings.
“At the last water point, we were about fourth in the chase for the Exxaro special jersey which was difficult because at that point it was very hot. We had to make a big comeback but good consistent riding helped us take back the top spot on the day.”
Mokgopo hasn’t let exhaustion get the better of him. He and Sebona understood the penultimate stage of the 2017 Absa Cape Epic was always going to be tiring, especially with the challenge of Groenlandberg.
“This stage has been one of the toughest, but we did our homework last night, checked our tyre pressures and ensured all parts of the bike were in good working order,” said Mokgopo.
Sebona added, “It was difficult today. But we have been conserving energy all week so our only real big challenge was Groenlandberg. That is not to say we weren’t prepared. We know that pass very well. So we already knew that if we could just get to the top, the rest of the race would be easier.”
As commanding Exxaro special jersey leaders, Diepsloot MTB Academy will relish the prize of R50 000. Mokgopo said, “If we win tomorrow, I will use the prize money to pay for my education and if there is left over after that, I will decide then!”
This isn’t all the Exxaro winners can enjoy. It was announced in January that the Bakala Academy in Leuven, Belgium will host the winners for eight days, where they will undergo testing and training of the highest quality.
In the Absa African special jersey race, PYGA Euro Steel rider Philip Buys was pleased to keep the red jersey, despite a puncture.
“I think the cooler conditions definitely made it a little bit easier. It was still a tough day out there. Any stage that includes Groenlandberg is a tough one. It’s not just the climb that is tough – coming down is also a challenge. But it was good riding.
“I was a just off the leading bunch just before Groenlandberg but on one of the downhills I got a pinch flat. I managed to plug it and then changed the wheel at the techzone just for safety,” said Buys.
NAD Pro MTB’s Gawie Combrink also enjoyed the stage.
“We just tried to stay with the front bunch but we had a few issues after Groenlandberg.
“It wasn’t anything major, it was just that Nico flatted and then I flatted right after. When we got everything repaired, we just rode steady on to the finish,” said Combrink.
2017 Stage 6 Absa African
1. PYGA Euro Steel 9-1 Philip Buys (South Africa) 9-2 Matthys Beukes (South Africa) 4:41.24,0
2. NAD Pro MTB 14-1 Nico Bell (South Africa) 14-2 Gawie Combrinck (South Africa) 4:50.44,7 +9.20,7
3. The Gear Change 141-1 Justin Tuck (South Africa) 141-2 David George (South Africa) 4:52.50,4 +11.26,4
1. PYGA Euro Steel 9-1 Philip Buys (South Africa) 9-2 Matthys Beukes (South Africa) 24:36.57,0
2. NAD Pro MTB 14-1 Nico Bell (South Africa) 14-2 Gawie Combrinck (South Africa) 25:02.03,3 +25.06,3
3. The Gear Change 141-1 Justin Tuck (South Africa) 141-2 David George (South Africa) 26:01.42,6 +1:24.45,6
4. BCX 10-1 Hendrik Kruger (South Africa) 10-2 Waylon Woolcock (South Africa) 26:09.52,7 +1:32.55,7
5. SPOT Africa-Agrichem 39-1 Timothy Hammond (South Africa) 39-2 Dominic Calitz (South Africa) 26:25.59,0 +1:49.02,0
6. Imbuko Freewheel Cycology 23-1 Christopher Wolhuter (South Africa) 23-2 Dylan Rebello (South Africa) 26:46.04,7 +2:09.07,7
7. NFB – Spine & Sport 27-1 Craig Uria (South Africa) 27-2 Andrew Duvenage (South Africa) 27:33.46,9 +2:56.49,9
8. William Simpson 33-1 Michael Posthumus (South Africa) 33-2 Derrin Smith (South Africa) 27:55.09,0 +3:18.12,0
9. LGE Midas/Slender-Wonder 330-1 Igna de Villiers (South Africa) 330-2 Paul Theron (South Africa) 28:36.30,8 +3:59.33,8
10. Diepsloot MTB Academy 1 376-1 William Mokgopo (South Africa) 376-2 Phillimon Sebona (South Africa) 28:49.04,3 +4:12.07,3
2017 Stage 6 Exxaro
1. Diepsloot MTB Academy 1 376-1 William Mokgopo (South Africa) 376-2 Phillimon Sebona (South Africa) 5:22.28,4
2. BMT Academy Fairtree 1 362-1 Luyanda Thobigunya (South Africa) 362-2 Baphelele Mbobo (South Africa) 5:23.50,9 +1.22,5
3. Songo-Investec 1 373-1 Thando Klaas (South Africa) 373-2 Lorenzo Leroux (South Africa) 5:32.32,4 +10.04,0
1. Diepsloot MTB Academy 1 376-1 William Mokgopo (South Africa) 376-2 Phillimon Sebona (South Africa) 28:49.04,3
2. BMT Academy Fairtree 1 362-1 Luyanda Thobigunya (South Africa) 362-2 Baphelele Mbobo (South Africa) 30:26.25,1 +1:37.20,8
3. Songo-Investec 1 373-1 Thando Klaas (South Africa) 373-2 Lorenzo Leroux (South Africa) 30:50.37,4 +2:01.33,1
4. DMA Absa 361-1 Sean Baloyi (South Africa) 361-2 Luke Mashiane (South Africa) 31:07.39,8 +2:18.35,5
5. Exxaro MTB Academy2 365-1 Anele Mtalana (South Africa) 365-2 Rilamulele Gadabeni (South Africa) 31:27.07,1 +2:38.02,8
6. RMB Change a Life 1 372-1 Bongumusa Zikhali (South Africa) 372-2 Mazwi Smimango (South Africa) 31:38.58,7 +2:49.54,4
7. RMB Change a Life 371-1 Ndumiso Dontso (South Africa) 371-2 Sipho Kupiso (South Africa) 32:24.19,9 +3:35.15,6
8. Land Rover 7 370-1 Syanda Masango (South Africa) 370-2 Luvuyo Siyasi (South Africa) 33:02.58,5 +4:13.54,2
9. Absa DMA ROSS 305-1 Clement Mabula (South Africa) 305-2 Mphodisa Bruce Sebopa (South Africa) 34:10.19,4 +5:21.15,1
10. BMT Academy 377-1 Abongile Bhusakwe (South Africa) 377-2 Siyabulela Tutu (South Africa) 34:32.14,5 +5:43.10,2
* The 2017 Absa Cape Epic mountain bike stage race is taking place until Sunday 26 March. Watch the action live on our website www.cape-epic.com