Varsity MTB women’s winners, Courteney Webb and Amy Tait celebrate in style after securing the title. Image by Xavier Briel
The University of Cape Town’s men’s and women’s teams claimed five stage victories, from a possible six, on their way to winning the 2019 FNB Wines2Whales Pinotage and Varsity MTB titles. Richard Simpson and Michael Lambrecht contributed two wins on their way to the men’s race victory, while Courteney Webb and Amy Tait were crowned champions; in Onrus on Wednesday, 30 October, after three straight wins.
Varsity MTB men’s winners, Michael Lambrecht and Richard Simpson celebrate after three days of intense racing at the 2019 FNB Wine2Whales Pinotage 3 day mountain bike event stage3 from Oak Valley to Onrus. Image by Xavier Briel
Stage 3 was not without drama though. The men’s race saw mechanicals, Simpson taking a brief swim, and a broken handlebar for Tuks’ Andries Nigrini scuppered his and Antonie Joubert’s chances of a stage win. The women’s race was smoother, with UCT racing without incident to the finish.
“Andries and Antonie really made it hard for us today” Simpson confessed. “I finally popped in the Wildekrans singletracks. But missing the bridge had nothing to do with that. I just couldn’t see where it was and I underestimated how deep the stream was. I thought I could just ride through it” he recounted, still wet and starting to shiver, on the finish line.
“Tuks had a lead of nearly 2 minutes at the end of the singletracks, but when we got to Water Point 2 [44 kilometres into the 69-kilometre-long stage] we saw them stopped with a broken handlebar” Simpson explained. “I come from a road racing background and we tried to use road tactics on them today” Nigrini said, clarifying how the stage unfolded from a Tuks point of view.
“We managed to get a gap in the Wildekrans singletracks, but then, approaching the next water point, I slipped on a bridge” Nigrini added. “I took it a bit wide and lost my front wheel when it rolled off the mesh and onto the wet wood. My front wheel washed out and I fell, snapping my handlebar.”
The only option for Nigrini and Joubert was to duct tape Nigrini’s shifter and brake lever in. That left his bike lopsided and though Tuks were able to catch up to UCT again, Nigrini was at a definite disadvantage, in the final 10 kilometres. “Shame, it must have been really difficult for him in those singletracks” Simpson commiserated.
In the singletrack-filled closing kilometres, Nigrini was unable to keep up with Simpson and Lambrecht. He and Joubert slipped from parity to 2 minutes and 6 seconds behind the general classification victors by the time they crossed the finish line. UCT’s stage win secured them the overall title by 7 minutes and 36 seconds over the Tuks team.
The Maties men were third on the stage and the general classification.
Things were less dramatic in the women’s race, though it was no procession to the sea for Webb and Tait. The Nelson Mandela University team, of Jean-Marie Roelofse and Stacey Hyslop, along with the Stellenbosch University team, of Catherine Pellow-Jarman and Susan Kruger ensured the racing was tough on the final stage.
Roelofse and Hyslop had endured a difficult day on the muddy trails of Stage 2, but the pair enjoyed the drying conditions and more open roads of Stage 3. They pressed Webb and Tait all the way to the final 10 kilometres, after Pellow-Jarman and Kruger had dropped off the pace a little earlier. There was no stopping the UCT women, as Webb and Tait proved unbeatable.
“This was the most amazing experience ever” Tait grinned after securing her third stage win of the race, alongside Webb. “The trails were amazing and everything was just great, especially my partner Courteney!” “Getting to the sea here in Onrus was special. It was such a stunning ending to a fantastic FNB Wines2Whales and Varsity MTB event” Webb enthusiastically added.
Webb and Tait’s winning time was 4 minutes and 43 seconds faster than the Madibaz pair’s 3 hours, 35 minutes and 51 seconds. “I raced the Varsity MTB in 2017 when it was a stand-alone stage race” Hyslop remembered, choosing to focus on the race as a whole. “It being part of the FNB Wines2Whales Pinotage this year was so special. It was great to be part of a bigger event and to represent our universities on a big stage” the Stage 3 runner-up said.
After finishing second for the first two days of the race, Pellow-Jarman and Kruger had to settle for third on the final stage. They did enough to remain second on the overall classification though, finishing 23 minutes and 14 seconds behind the race winners. Roelofse and Hyslop’s storming race through Stage 3, was enough to leapfrog them up into the final general classification podium position.
Results: Varsity MTB within the FNB Wines2Whales Pinotage
Men’s Stage 3 Results:
1. UCT Men: Richard Simpson & Michael Lambrecht (02:53:11)
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