Jessop and Marais raced the entire race together with Pieter du Toit, and the crowd enjoying the 25th-anniversary celebrations of this pioneering event were treated to a grand stand finish to the blue ribbon race.
It was an emotional win by Jessop, whose racing career started at the same venue when was a nervous youngster.
"I did my first race here when I was nine years old," The Pyga/Euro Steel star recalled. "I was crying on the start line of the 10 km race because I was too scared to do it.
"Then my younger brother took off, and I thought 'There is now way I can let him beat me', and off I went, so I actually dedicate this win to him.
"Stuart (Marais) was really on form today," said Jessop, who had to watch his early lead eroded by the lion-hearted Marais on the tough Lebanon climb. "He was on fire and dropped me at the top."
He was able to team up with Pieter du Toit and bridge the gap back to the charging Marais, and which stage he realised the need to be calm and plan the closing stages of the race.
"The last section in Logan’s Loop is always tough, and going into that section Stuart and I were attacking each other, and I managed to get into the single track ahead of him.
"But I had a slight problem with my fork and I crashed. Stuart asked me if I was alright and then got in front of me.
"In my fury to catch up I crashed another three times, because those corners are very slippery.
"Finally I caught him as we got into the sugar cane, and that’s where I went through my plan to win the sprint finish.
"When I saw him go from the corner I realised he had gone way too early. I had to wait but it was quite hard because I wanted to go around but didn't want to go too early, so I just waited.
"When I saw that he was blown I went around him. I think watching the Giro helped!" he added.
The woman's race was dominated by the Red Bull ace Bianca Haw, who was never under serious pressure from any of the other elite women, with Jeannie Dreyer, a former winner here, securing second and Christie-Leigh Hearder the last step on the podium.
"I was having such fun the whole way," Haw enthused. "I was warned that there were three huge climbs so I paced those ones, but after those climbs there was such cool single track."
She said that riding the enduro on Saturday afternoon had been useful as she learnt a lot about the single track on the descent from Lebanon, though her ride was far from flawless.
"I had a high-speed slide out, landing on my shoulder in the bank, but luckily I was fine," said the bubbly Himeville rider.
She said that starting all the elite women in B batch made assessing the race really easy, and she realised she was racing away into a commanding lead early on in the race.
The race for overall line honours in the 40km Sappi Karkloof Half Marathon also went down to a sprint finish, with the cool head of Sam Moore prevailing over Johandre Marx.
The pair broke away early on after a blisteringly fast start, and soon had a sizeable gap to the rest of the A batch riders.
"Coming into the finish I just waited on his wheel and when he looked back I took the gap and sprinted off," said a delighted Moore.
Francis Janse van Rensberg took the women's 40km spoils ahead of young Tiffany Keep.
"There was a lot of single track which I loved," enthused Janse van Rensberg.
60km Sappi Karkloof Marathon
1. Julian Jessop 2:39:22
2. Stuart Marais 2:39:23
3. Pieter du Toit 2:39:40
4. Henry Liebenberg 2:47:57
5. Tyrone White 2:48:54
6. Brennan Anderson 2:52:25
7. David Low 2:52:32
8. Sthembiso Masango 2:59:35
9. Ndumiso Dontso 3:00:00
10.Nathan Treble 3:00:29
1. Bianca Haw 3:13:32
2. Jeannie Dreyer 3:17:37
3.Christie-Leigh Hearder 3:23:13
4. Andrea de Boer 3:27:24
5. Shauna Esmeyer 3:30:43
6. Nadine Nundes 3:43:47
7. Landy Puddu 3:51:15
8. Sandra Haywood 3:52:44
9. Debrah Thomas 3:56:37
10.Bronwyn Evans 4:08:51
40km aQuellé Half Marathon
1. Sam Moore 1:54:10
2. Johandre Marx 1:54:20
3. Stefan van Deventer 1:59:58
4. Thomas Cheatle 2:01:19
5. Daniel van der Watt 2:01:27
6. Brent Yelland 2:05:10
7. Kieran Blunt 2:05:10
8. Mitchel Potgieter 2:05:49
9. Grant Muller 2:05:51
10.Heinrich Zellhuber 2:08:26
1. Frances Janse van Rensberg 2:01:25
2. Tiffany Keep 2:05:11
3. Chloe Bateson 2:15:48
4. Ilse Longmore 2:19:25
5. Beanie Thies 2:24:27
6. Ainsli de Beer 2:26:56
7. Yvette Roberts 2:29:14
8. Sarah Ryan 2:30:50
9. Lindsay Everson 2:33:43
10.Jacqueline Scott 2:36:12
More info can be found at www.karkloofmtb.co.za