Using home-ground knowledge to his advantage, HB Kruger led from start to finish to take the honours in the 60km feature race at the Bestmed Paarl MTB Classic mountain bike race at Rhebokskloof Wine Estate today.
The 25-year-old BCX pro from Paarl crossed the finish line in a time of 2:43:58, just under three minutes ahead of Robert Hobson, who stopped the clock in 2:46:34, with Jurgens Uys completing the podium in 2:48:30.
The Boland event, which also offered a 30km option, was reinstated this year after a hiatus of a year and Kruger said it had the potential for significant growth.
“There are amazing trails in this region and Paarl is a proper playground for mountain bikers,” said Kruger, who won the Liberty Winelands Encounter alongside teammate Waylon Woolcock last month.
“It can definitely grow because it is very well organised, the course is well marked and there is a great vibe here.”
He was delighted with his performance, even more so because it came in his backyard.
“It was great to be able to ride to the start from my home, do the race, and then ride home afterwards,” he said.
Kruger said the Bestmed Paarl MTB Classic, which is presented by ASG Events and the City of Drakenstein, offered a testing course with a total ascent of 1 700m.
“That is a lot of climbing for this distance but being from Paarl I knew what to expect so I went quite hard up the first climb.
“I built up a bit of gap and then I paced myself during the race and tried to stay alert to what was happening behind me.”
Kruger said the conditions were dry and slippery, which meant he had to stay focused throughout.
“The biggest challenge is going up Paarl Mountain, but there is some great single-track going down into Rhebokskloof.
“However, it is a fairly long section and you still have to work coming down because it’s easy to make a mistake and take a tumble if you are not focused.”
He said he had a technical issue over the closing 10km when his chain kept on slipping off the jockey wheel, but was able to manage the situation.
In the women’s race, Capetonian Carmen Buchacher also dominated from early on to lay the foundation for a comfortable victory and the 29-year-old was pleased to sign off in style before leaving for Europe later in the day.
She clocked 3:11:51 to beat Team Bestmed-ASG’s An-Li Kachelhoffer (3:30:06) and Bianca Martinaglia (3:44:50).
“I took the lead from the start and there was not that much pressure,” said Buchacher.
“I was able to hold a steady pace throughout and to be cautious on the single-track because I’m flying out this evening so could not afford any mistakes.”
She backed up Kruger’s view, describing it as “a phenomenal event”.
“For example, they ensured there were enough water points along the way, especially where the sections were a bit hectic, so the general rider was well looked after.”
Adding to that, she said it was “a beautiful region and the weather is great”.
The men’s 30km race was won by Rudi Koen in 1:16:37. He was followed home by Fourie Fick in 1:22:06 and Bobby Troskie in 1:24:21.
Yolande Peacock took the women’s title in 1:55:43, followed by Marike Jordaan in 2:11:03 and Yolanda Engelbrecht in 2:30:22.