Chris Wolhuter and Andrew Hill took one back from overnight leaders Kevin Evans and Pieter Seyffert as they sprinted to the stage win on day two of the three-day PwC Great Zuurberg Trek near Port Elizabeth on Saturday.
Wolhuter and Hill, riding in the colours of TIB Insurance, finished in 3:43:01 to hold the Biogen Volcan-Altech Autopage duo at bay by a single second to claim the 78km queen stage that took in remote portions of the Addo Elephant National Park.
Cycle Lab’s Andrew Mclean and Bruce Diesel finished a distant third in 4:03:00 on the tough stage that featured almost 2 000m of climbing.
Evans and Seyffert retain their positions at the top of the leaderboard with an aggregate time of 6:23:29 and will take a 1:18 lead into the final day.
The young Isostar team of Jurgens Uys and Jason Meaton finished fourth in 4:03:25 to remain third in the general classification in 6:52:24.
The stage is now set for an interesting showdown on the fast-paced 50km final stage.
While Wolhuter and Hill may have the technical advantage on the Hayterdale cross-country trails, the race could come down to the final climb up Zuurberg Pass, where Evans and Seyffert asserted their authority on the opening stage.
“I think a minute’s enough to win this race if you don’t have any bad luck or mechanicals,” said Evans.
“Andrew and Chris were stronger today than yesterday, so our goal was just to ride with them, not lose time and defend our lead.”
The race started at a brisk pace as the riders descended into the valley from Camp Figtree towards Slagboom Dam, with the foursome going clear on the technical Monty’s Python climb just before the first waterpoint.
“Then we climbed up and out of the Addo Park grasslands, where I just sat at the front and rode a nice consistent pace,” said defending champion Hill.
On one of the recommended portage sections after the second waterpoint, the Isostar youngsters caught the leaders but the elastic snapped once more when the tempo was increased.
There were some anxious moments for the overall leaders when Evans’s chain kept dropping, forcing him and Seyffert to chase back several times in the vicinity of the radio mast high on the northern ridge of the Zuurberg mountains.
“We then set a really strong pace through the third and fourth waterpoints along the Karoo Koppies section, with a tailwind behind us and a nice smooth track,” said Hill.
However, his turn for trouble came when a lead motorbike crashed in front of him, snagging a roll of farm fencing and his rear wheel in the process.
After extricating Hill from the barbed wire, the foursome paced together on For Pete’s Sake, the final sting in the tail climb, before deciding the stage in a nail-biting finishing sprint.
In the women’s race, the Merrell team of Andrea Shirley and Sanmari Woithe claimed their second stage victory in 5:10:12 for a combined time of 8:44:58.
Multiple Cape Town Cycle Tour champion Anriette Schoeman and Africa Silks teammate John Wakefield won the day in the mixed category in 4:47:23 for an overall time of 8:01:50.
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