There were no surprises on the last day of the 2016 TransCape MTB Race on Saturday morning, February 13, with overnight race leader, Billy Stelling (Seattle Single Shot) comfortably winning the seventh and final stage of the event, from Villiersdorp to Franschhoek, to be crowned this year’s champion.
Going into the stage, Stelling had a 15 minute advantage over Swiss mountain bike star, Esther Süss (28E Capital) and could afford to take it easy. The Capetonian however didn’t rest on his laurels and determinedly set about being first over the line at La Couronne Wine Farm in Franschhoek taking on the first big challenge of the day, the mighty Groenlandberg with gusto.
Putting in a big solo effort, Stelling, who got stronger and stronger as the seven-day race progressed, summited the mountain well clear of Esther Süss and Sharon Laws (Seattle Single Shot), the two international professional women riders who had his number on day one, two and six of the race.
“I didn’t make a conscious decision to break away from the girls and the rest of the field, I just rode at my own tempo and no one chased after me, so I rode within myself to the end.” Stelling commented after winning the final stage in 3:01:45.
Reaching the top of the Franschhoek pass, nearly five minutes adrift of Stelling but ahead of the women, was the Freewheel Cycology Team’s Gavin Klerck and Lionel Murray, who finished the stage second in 3:06:27.
While Stelling had it all his own way up front, the big tussle of the final stage was between the overseas women pro’s with Süss, winner of stage one and two, and Laws, the victor of stage six, going at each other hammer-and-tongs to see who would win the women’s solo category and finish second overall in the event.
After reaching the top of Groenlandberg together, Laws, a former British national road race champion, threw down the gauntlet and tried to drop Süss in an attempt to make up the just over three minutes she was behind the Swiss Olympian going into the last stage.
“I tried lots of accelerations going up Franschhoek pass but Esther stuck to my back wheel like glue.” said Laws.
At the end the two riders had a sprint finish with the latter home first in 3:07:52 and Süss a second behind in 3:07:53. This was not nearly enough for Laws to surpass Süss in the race standings which saw the Swiss rider winning the TransCape women’s solo category and coming second overall.
Third solo women rider home was Catherine Williamson (28E Capital) who will be joining Süss in the Absa Cape Epic later this year and the way both have performed in the TransCape they are certainly a team to watch. Especially considering Süss’s comments that she had had a good week and thought her and Williamson would make a formidable team: “Catherine is really strong on the flats and with my technical abilities I think we can do well.”
Other notable results on the day was that last year’s champion, Belgium Niek Lingier and his teammate and compatriot, Jürgen van den Bon where the second men’s team home in the stage in 3:20:29 . Stage four winners, Johan and Fanie Venter (Barloworld Toyota Centurion) came third in the same category in 3:22:39. In the overall men’s team classification the Venters were first, followed by Klerck and Murray in second and the Belgiums third.
Second in the men’s solo section of the stage was Casper Kaars Sijpesteijn in 3:08:09 and third Malcolm Dods in 3:22:40 which earned Sijpesteijn the overall runner-up prize in the men’s solo division.
While some stages were long, hot and hard, and definitely tested the elite field of riders on their week-long journey from Knysna to Franschhoek, the general consensus of the participants was that the TransCape MTB Race is an amazing event.
This sentiment was confirmed by the new champion who said, “This was a wonderful experience and one of the best stage races I have ever ridden in. The camaraderie was lovely and it was great riding with a world class field of girls as well. Everyone was friendly and the food and service was also great.”
And while the cyclists’ well-being and enjoyment is paramount during race week, the TransCape team are also committed to making a difference in the communities visited along the race route.
Having started with various outreach projects at the start of the TransCape in 2015, this year, race owner, Lenore Collett and her team have stepped up their help and with the assistance of generous sponsors, riders and some innovative fund raising ideas, they were able to raise R200 000.
Among the organisations that will benefit from the money raised are Adaliah Care (a place of temporary safe care for babies in the Overberg District which is based in Swellendam), Uitkyk Laerskool in Greyton, Calitzdorp Hoërskool and the SHINE Development Project in Villiersdorp.
In addition, with the help of Premier Foods and City Logistics, the TransCape crew were also able to distribute Blue Ribbon bread, Snowflake muffin mix, Iwisa maize meal, Manhattan sweets and Lil Lets feminine hygiene products to schools along the route during race week, further emonstrating Collett and the TransCape’s promise to make a tangible difference.