The new professional team of Pieter Seyffert and Travis Walker claimed their fifth stage victory as the TransCape mountain bike race paid tribute to former British road champion Sharon Laws, who was diagnosed with cervical cancer late last year.
Organisers ASG Events dubbed the top of the day’s major climb, Rusty Gate, as the Sharon Laws Summit to honour the 42-year-old double Cape Epic champion.
Seyffert said going up Rusty Gate, which greeted participants on the penultimate stage of the seven-day event, it had been windless and hot.
“I wouldn’t exactly call it magic, but it was one of those climbs where the view is overwhelming when you get to the top. Looking down into the valley from that height is definitely worth all the suffering.”
On the 68km route from Greyton to Villiersdorp, which included the 6km Rusty Gate climb and the new Greyton Black single-track segment, the Ellsworth-ASG outfit of Seyffert and Walker were back in their normal position at the front after conceding the stage win on Thursday.
The South Africans crossed the line in 3:07:14 for an overall time of 23:41:47, followed by yesterday’s winners, Belgians Eddy Feliers and Kristof de Neys of Cicero Baik, in 3:39:09 (25:25:35).
Grabbing the final podium spot on the day in 3:45:40 were RR’s Rodney Stroud and Ryan Loots, but the Bromance pairing of David and William Wertheim Aymes, who finished in 3:58:47, remain in third overall (26:07:24).
With tomorrow’s final stage between Villiersdorp and La Couronne Wine Estate in Franschhoek looming, Seyffert and Walker are firmly on track for the top spot on the podium and should be able to enjoy the final run-in to the Western Cape town.
“Today we actually started quite quickly from the gun and Travis was unbelievably strong the whole day,” said the 30-year-old Seyffert, who lives in Helderkruin on the West Rand.
“Almost immediately after the start we went into quite a technical single-track section, followed by another technical downhill. So I think everyone split up quite quickly after the start.”
The Greyton Black single-track was developed for the TransCape and Seyffert said one could see it was new, “being quite bumpy and rough”.
“Once it gets used more often it will be something to experience because the views are amazing – when you are not focused on the route.”
He said he and the 25-year-old Walker, who is from Hilton in KwaZulu-Natal, had pushed quite hard today, but still rode with a certain level of caution.
“We rode within ourselves on the descents because a nasty spill could be the end of the race and a setback for the season. So we went quite hard at times, but mixed that with calculated risks on certain sections.”
In the mixed section, Spar’s Hannele Steyn and her British teammate Catherine Williamson continued to impress to lead the field home in 3:39:33 (25:54:37).
Ian and Jane Seggie were second in 4:36:33 (30:49:08), followed by Matthias and Denise Kubli in 4:39:04 (32:26:06).
The 51-year-old Steyn, from Durbanville in Cape Town, said they had opted to compete in the mixed category and were enjoying the competition.
“It’s great for us to have that challenge and apart from the day when we had a mechanical in the mud, we have been in the top three overall,” she said.
“It’s good for us to compete and we do our work when we are in the group with the men. We chase until the very end.”
A former professional triathlete who turned to mountain biking, Steyn said she stopped racing competitively in 2011 after two back fusions.
“Since then I have been focusing on the long, extreme races like the Munga and Trans Africa,” she said.
“Then Catherine said to me last year why don’t we do this together. I thought she was mad, but for whatever reason I said yes.”
The experience, she added, was outstanding, especially as she looks ahead to next month’s Cape Epic
“This event is fantastic in terms of leg speed because you sit on some open gravel roads at high speed.
“For someone with experience, technical riding is not something you need to practise that much, but the leg speed you get makes this perfect preparation for the Epic.”
Defending champion Billy Stelling continued to build a comfortable lead in the men’s solo category, his 3:34:43 giving him an aggregate time of 25:39:10.
Belgian Karl Dossche is in second place overall after finishing in 3:52:35 (26:04:11), followed by Alan Tilling (26:29:01), who was second on the stage in 3:49:01.
Women’s solo leader Alma Colyn completed the day in 3:54:00 (26:14:20), followed by Chandre Wertheim Aymes in 4:55:39 (34:05:37).