Friday’s testing 99km King Stage from Mackenzie Club near Ixopo to Jolivet Farm near Highflats was always going to be a leaderboard shaker as the grueling 1900 meters of climbing pushed competitors to the limit.
After a placid descent into the spectacular Umkomaas Valley, Max Knox and Kevin Evans of Biogen-Volcan then set a hot early pace however with 15km to go the race was down to just two.
An unlikely district road puncture for Lill cost the Blend pair dearly as EAI Wheeler took full advantage of the gap they had been hoping for, just as Looser was starting to get past the jetlag that had hampered him on day one as well.
“I was feeling much better today than I was yesterday when I was just tired from all the traveling,” explained Switzerland’s Looser. “At the beginning of the climb out the valley I suffered bit but the further it went on, the better I felt; hopefully my legs are even better tomorrow!”
“Tomorrow is a really fast stage so it’s going to be difficult to make up those twenty odd seconds but we’re definitely going to try!” added Rabie.
Desperate to keep both their title and long term sponsorship hopes alive, Woolcock and Lill dug deep to limit the damage and preserve as much of their two minute overnight lead as possible.
“Waylon and I had been sitting pretty comfortably up until I punctured and so the last 15km were a bit of a scramble,” explained Lill. “We’re happy to at least still be holding onto some sort of lead going into tomorrow though and it leaves the racing still up to the competition; hopefully we have a smooth run down to the coast.”
“A two minute buffer going into tomorrow would have been great so losing much of that definitely isn’t ideal,” added Woolcock. “Today’s racing is definitely going to make for an interesting day tomorrow, that’s for sure!”
The Biogen-Volcan pair managed to overcome their mid-stage struggles and crossed the line third to move them up to fourth overall ahead of The Gear Change’s David George and Justin Tuck but still three and a half minutes behind RECM’s Nico Bell and Erik Kleinhans who occupy the race’s bottom step of the podium.
Despite day filled with mishaps, TIB Insurance’s Andrew Hill and Chris Wolhuter still lead the charge in the bottom half of the top ten as they crossed the line together with close friends Adriaan Louw and Luke Evans of Contego Pro MTB while Jowetts/ROAG’s Warren Price and Matthew Wilkinson were one of the day’s big movers, launching themselves into ninth overall behind IXU Scott’s Guylin van den Berg and Hendrik Kruger and ahead of Complete Cyclist Subvets’ Mike Hewan and Franco Ferreira.
“We had a valve issue coming down into the Umko so we bombed it at the bottom and chased back onto the lead group,” explained Hill. “Going through the first water point the tyre was going down again though so we stopped, took the valve core out, put a new one in and bombed it up again but it went down again!”
“We pumped it up at each of the water points after that and carried on but it was one of those days,” he laughed.
RECM’s women’s race overnight leaders Ariane Kleinhans and Cherise Stander flew out the blocks as they looked to get ahead of the traffic before the Umkomaas Valley drop.
The ploy worked perfectly as they opened up a sizeable gap on their nearest rivals Yolande de Villiers and Catherine Williamson of Sasol Racing before a slower mid-section saw the chasers close in on the lead duo once more.
A burst towards the end by RECM however saw them reaffirm their control of the race, earning them nineteenth place on the general classification and handing them a five and a half minute lead going into Saturday’s final leg down to Scottburgh Main Beach.
“We had a brilliant start and were right in the front going down into the Umkomaas Valley,” said Kleinhans. “We tapped off a little bit after that – a little bit too much maybe – and we saw them just behind us.
“Luckily we had something left in the tank though and could keep the gap open and take the stage win,” she added.
It wasn’t quite so simple for Stander though. “I really suffered today! I’m not sure if I can put into words what agony I was in today but luckily I was riding with Superwoman and she pulled me through; I definitely wouldn’t have made it without Ariane today!”
While De Villiers and Williamson will take heart from the second stage performance, it will require a monumental final leg’s effort to the coast if they are to whip the rug out from under RECM’s feet.
“Today suited both of us really well and we just clicked really nicely again,” said De Villiers.
“We hadn’t seen RECM all day and then near the big climb near the end we saw them and started reeling them in a little bit,” added Briton Williamson “We gave it a good chase and Yolande was as strong as ever driving it towards the end there; we were so pleased just to finish that close to them and hopefully we can still give them a bit of a run for their money.”
While in firm control of the women’s title challenge, Kleinhans hopes her and Stander’s clean run continues on Saturday. “Tomorrow is such a fast stage that you can’t afford to sit up at any stage, you’ve just got to keep going and concentrate the whole way.
“We’re very happy with how things have gone so far, hopefully we can have another clean day again tomorrow and take the win home!”
In the mixed race RMB Change a Life husband and wife combination Jeannie and Martin Dreyer narrowly edged out Sasol Racing’s Johan Labuschagne and Yolandi du Toit for the second stage victory however the day’s three second deficit will hardly impact on the near four minute advantage Sasol Racing earned on day one.
The Adventure has been laden with celebrities and the Cell C SA Rugby Legends have been out in force throughout the race and the impressive pair of former World Cup winner Joel Stranksy and Sharks and Munster flyer Shaun Payne were the most impressive former rugby stars as they proved that they have lost very little of their competitive edge.
“This was my first sani2c in a while but I absolutely love this race!” a dusty Stansky said at the finish line. “The atmosphere that surrounds the Adventure is something that you don’t get in any other race and the camaraderie between the riders is incredible!”
Taking on his fellow rugby legends, Stransky explains the fellowship that the riders build up over the three days and even though him and Payne were the strongest of the squad, there was still a strong sense of competition going into the race between some of them.
It was a first outing for the two as a combination and Stranksy was complimentary of his partner when they reached the end on the South Coast.
“There is a lot of banter that goes around at the overnight stops between us and it just makes the race that much more enjoyable. We were a bit faster than the other guys but it was still a great spending time with the guys this week.
“Shaun and I had never ridden together before this week and let me tell you he is an absolute machine! We combined really nicely through the week which makes the race that much more enjoyable,” a smiling Stransky added.
Former Proteas speedster Makhaya Ntini had a second stage that he wanted to forget but the cricketing hero brushed himself off and started the third and final stage and was his jovial self when he rode over the line in Scottburgh.
“Two punctures at the same time, I’ve never heard of that ever!” the Super Group rider said of the closing stages of his second day’s effort. “The second stage was so hard and I had to go and find myself two more tyres last night but today was awesome and I want to thank all the Super Group guys for helping me out through the three days!
“I will definitely be back to do this again and I will make sure that I finish the second day properly next time!” he said with a beaming smile.
Saturday’s third and final stage of the Nedbank sani2c’s Race will see riders make their way down from Jolivet Farm in Highflats to Scottburgh Main Beach, bringing down the curtain on another spectacular edition of the renowned mountain biking event.
More information can be found at www.sani2c.co.za.
SUMMARY OF RESULTS – 2015 NEDBANK SANI2C
STAGE TWO (MACKENZIE FARM, IXOPO – JOLIVET FARM, HIGHFLATS)
1.Blend (Waylon Woolcock/Darren Lill) 3:38.15 6:16.18
2.EAI Wheeler (Johann Rabie/Konny Looser) 3:36.37 6:16.46
3.RECM (Nico Bell/Erik Kleinhans) 3:44.29 6:24.39
4.Biogen-Volcan (Max Knox/Kevin Evans) 3:42.58 6:28.10
5.The Gear Change (David George/Justin Tuck) 3:49.10 6:34.21
6.TIB Insurance (Andrew Hill/Chris Wolhuter) 3:53.16 6:39.47
7.Contego Pro MTB (Adriaan Louw/Luke Evans) 3:53.16 6:41.59
8.IXU Scott (Guylin van den Berg/Hendrik Kruger) 3:58.17 6:45.31
9.Jowetts/ROAG (Warren Price/Matthew Wilkinson) 3:59.47 6:53.26
10.Complete Cyclist Subvets (Mike Hewan/Franco Ferreira) 4:04.34 6:55.11
1.RECM Women (Ariane Kleinhans/Cherise Stander) 4:12.52 7:13.23
2.Sasol Racing (Yolande de Villiers/Catherine Williamson) 4:14.27 7:18.59
3.Ascendis Health (Jennie Stenerhag/Vera Adrian) 4:27.21 7:34.17
4.Miele RBS Holland (Samantha Saunders/Theresa Ralph) 4:27.11 7:41.06
5.(Bianca Haw/Candice Neethling) 4:34.30 7:46.18
1.Sasol Racing (Yolandi du Toit/Johan Labuschagne) 4:18.31 7:19.01
2.RMB Change a Life (Jeannie Dreyer/Martin Dreyer) 4:18.28 7:22.52
3.Haaskat (Anneke Hanekom/Russell Lund) 4:33.21 7:46.44