Spioenkop proves pivotal at day 4 of joBerg2c

23 April 2018

On day 4 of the Old Mutual joBerg2c, a 93km “sprint” from Sterkfontein Dam to Em’seni near Winterton, it was another great day for the leading team in the Amabokkebokkie Global Mixed Champs category, with Amy McDougall and Arno du Toit extending their lead over Team Summit’s husband and wife team of Darren and Candice Lill. The chasing pair are now a daunting 11 minutes behind.

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It was a beautiful evening at Sterkfontein Dam for the finish of day 3 at the Old Mutual joBerg2c

“I thought we were waiting for Spioenkop climb, but then Amy went early,” said Du Toit with a laugh and a sideways glance at his partner after the finish. “So I guess I just had to back her from there. She went and I just helped as much as I could. Then we recovered until Spioenkop and then whacked it up there again.”

McDougall knows to race to the finish after the 2016 joBerg2c when she and then race partner, Grant Usher, were leading early on in the race with the Lills far back.

“We had 20 minutes on them after the second day in 2016 and they ended up coming back and winning, so you cannot take anything for granted in this race.”

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Sunrise cyclist; a lone rider heads towards the official start of the joBerg2c

Spioenkop also proved a success with the bulk of the joBerg2c field. The climb was reintroduced into the race this year, after an absence of some years. Coming late on the day, the back markers zig-zagged their way up in the beating midday sun, but still managed to stop and appreciate the incredible views from the top. The 12km sweeping single track descent to the finish also left riders beaming from ear to ear.

Overall, top of the major category leaderboards remains the same at the Old Mutual joBerg2c, with the NAD Pro team and the dormakaba team dominating matters, but on day 4 the PYGA Eurosteel pair of solo riders, Matthys Beukes and Phillimon Sebona, upstaged the big guns.

The NAD Pro duo of Gawie Combrinck and Nico Bell added another eight minutes to their growing lead in the men’s team race. But the stars of the show on Monday were the two PYGA Eurosteel riders with Beukes leading his teammate, Sebona, home by two minutes, with NAD Pro a further two minutes back.

Beukes and Sebona were the only two riders who were able to match Bell and Combrinck on the first climb up to the iconic Great Wall My China section of Monday’s course. This traverse along the top of the Drakensberg escarpment allows riders some incredible scenery from the top of the high cliffs overlooking the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands.

However, the quartet of leading riders was not able to look at the spectacular views as they raced to the descent off the escarpment. After establishing a small break on the climb, the four leaders had to work hard together to build a gap over the chasers before Beukes made the decisive break with less than an hour left to race.

“The four of us worked well together and then with 20 kays to go I put the hammer down and got away from them and just soloed to the finish,” said Beukes after he had crossed the line.

Sebona then attacked the leading men’s team on the steep climb up to the Boer War memorial on the top of the Spioenkop Mountain and held them off on the technical descent to the finish at the Em’seni resort on the banks of the Tugela River.

“It was a good day for the team, and especially for Phillimon,” said Beukes, a vastly experienced multiple race winner. “For us it is really important as a team to bring the younger guys through and we are super proud of Phillimon. He is so humble and such a super guy, and now he has a good opportunity with the team. He is riding phenomenally well – I did not expect him to be riding so well so soon.

“We are not riding as a team here and decided to compete as two solo riders, but I think it is a good thing because it might have put a lot of pressure of on him to be riding with me. But now I can still ride with him and give him some guidance but he does not have the pressure of trying to keep up with me.”

In the men’s race Combrink and Bell are now 17 minutes clear of Alan Gordon and Tim Hammond (Insect Science), who finished second. Declan Sidey and Shaun-Nick Bester (Silverback Best4Sports) were third on the stage and have dropped behind the Insect Science pair to lie third overall, just two minutes outside second position.

In the women’s race Sarah Hill and Theresa Ralph  (Galileo Risk) notched up their third win in a row and extended their lead to a massive 96 minutes over Adele Ambrose and Lauren Walker (Nix and Del).

On Tuesday the riders tackle arguably the most gruelling stage of the event, a tough 122km haul from Winterton to Nottingham Road. The stage is not only the longest of the route, but with 2 200m of vertical ascent it also has the most climbing.

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Great Wall my China was in perfect condition for the 2018 event, with the weather playing ball too

Watch the footage from Day 4 here and Kevin Sawyer’s images here.