The first timed day of the event also threw up an interesting result in the Lanham-Love Mixed Category, with Darren and Candice Lill (dormakaba) crossing the line first (03:16:10). Darren Lill of course retired from professional cycling last year, so his effort alongside his wife Candice on day 2 is rather impressive.
The racing and riding on day 2 took the 820 joberg2c participants - including almost 200 foreign riders - from Frankfort to Reitz. The 93km stage started cold and clear as riders made their way out of Frankfort and along the banks of the glassy Wilge river. In general, it was a day of fast district roads broken up by exciting single track.
The Lanham-Love Mixed Category is definitely the category to watch at the 2017 Old Mutual joBerg2c, with a number of strong teams in contention. On the first day of racing, it was the dormakaba duo who drew first blood. Candice Lill said the stage was tougher than it looked, but felt the day was filled with positives.
“We managed to get a good gap in the beginning. On these roads there is no backing off because if you do, you might land up in no man’s land. So Darren and myself had to work hard to stay with some of the men and in the end we did.
“The last part was some great single track but the little hill in the end was a surprising sting in the tail. Overall it was a good day.”
An out-of-breath Darren Lill said the win was welcomed, but there is a tough task ahead for the rest of the race.
“Today was a bit of a shock to the system. I felt slightly better than I’d anticipated, but I can definitely feel that I haven’t been racing. I’m not able to help Candice as much as last year with pushing and pulling, but fortunately she is a lot stronger this year and it doesn't look like we are going to need that from me - I’ve just got to survive!”
Grant Usher and Amy Beth McDougall (Lanham-Love Valencia) finished shortly behind for Lanham Love Valencia (3:18:36).
Usher, looking fit and relaxed, said the day was manageable, “It seems as though it’s been quite a mild start this year compared to previous years. We were with the lead group in the first part of the morning and then the guys put on a bit of pressure, and from there I think we were just two too many riders back and Candice and Darren got away with a really strong surge.
“Having said that, I think we rode nicely, rode within ourselves and limited our losses - it was a really good day with perfect weather and no wind,” said Usher.
McDougall is excited by the thought of a tough competition throughout the coming week, “It’s always nice to have lots of competition around - it’s going to be hard and I’m looking forward to it.
“I’m feeling good for what is to come. I struggled in the beginning so Grant and I were on our own the whole way but we kept a comfortable pace - not ideal but let’s wait and see!”
Catherine Williamson of The Bicycle Company Mitas says the mixed field is the same as last year but the addition of of Yolandi du Toit and Ben Melt Swanepoel to the racing this year makes things even more exciting, “I think the other two teams are stronger this year, so I can see us battling with Yolandi and Ben throughout.
“I think it’s going to be a tale of those two and us two which is great but you never know what is going to happen. We will try and stay on the podium though and one day maybe bring in a win,” shared Williamson.
Ben Melt Swanepoel said he is thrilled about the rivalry as it really highlights the best aspects of mountain biking.
“It was brilliant racing. Barring the men’s category I think the mixed category is probably the strongest and this is great for the sport because it means it’s growing and introducing more ladies into the sport. We had a tough battle out there. There is a whole week to go and we are going to keep fighting.
In the men’s race, Nico Bell was pleased to have a strong first official day. Despite their convincing lead, he said the stage win didn’t come without pressure.
“Today there was loads of big open roads with some single track every now and then. We pushed the pace a bit on the single track. There was a long drag up to water point one and the guys behind us were right on our wheels, but we kept going. From there we were able to ride away and kept it fast on the downhill,” said Bell.
Although PYGA Euro Steel now face a time deficit, Beukes says there is still more than enough time to challenge NAD Pro MTB and is thankful their result today wasn't decided by fitness.
“Unfortunately near the day’s start a piece of wire got caught in Phil’s drivetrain and Nico and Gawie took the chance with that to try and get a lead on us. But today was still a lekker drag race.
“There is still a long way to go - these open roads don’t really suit us and I think we don’t want to burn too many matches, we are going to wait to for the real mountain biking later in the week,” said Beukes.
Day 3 is one of the two longest days at the Old Mutual joBerg2c, so the racing elite and the riders will enjoy a long day in the saddle. The 122km route takes participants from Reitz in the Eastern Free State to the vast Sterkfontein Dam in the Drakensberg. Th>e highlights of the day include "Jabulani", a winding riverside single track, and the descent of Mt Paul. Depending on the wind direction, the dam wall finish along the Sterkfontein Dan can either be heavenly of hellish.
View the full Old Mutual joBerg2c day 2 results here.