Gert Heyns and Arno du Toit sent an early message to their rivals as they won the opening stage of the Liberty Winelands Encounter in the Cape Winelands today.
Presented by STANLIB, the first day of the three-stage race saw the field tackle a 49km stretch from Zorgvliet Wine Estate just outside Stellenbosch to Le Franschhoek Hotel in Franschhoek.
The DSV Pro Cycling pair came home in 1:52:16, less than two minutes ahead of ASG-NAD’s HB Kruger and Matt Beers.
Imbuko-Momsen’s Dylan Rebello and Marco Joubert were a further three seconds back.
While they were happy with the lead, Du Toit said there was still a long way to go.
“You never know what can happen and with quality riders like HB and Matt plus Dylan and Marco in the mix, we will have to keep our attention all the way,” he said.
Although he raced in the SA MTB Cup Series event in Pretoria earlier this month, Du Toit admitted it was the first real intensity he had faced since the Cape Epic last month.
“I was pretty much in the hurt box most of the day, but I am sure tomorrow will be better.”
He said he really suffered in the last 15 minutes, but that Heyns did a fine job of getting them through.
Du Toit also suffered a mechanical early in the race, but they were able to overcome that setback when Kruger took a wrong turn.
Heyns, a Stellenbosch local who impressed with a fourth-place finish in the Cape Town Cycle Tour MTB Challenge in March, and Du Toit wiped out the deficit without too much trouble.
Once they hit the front there were no further challenges from their opponents.
The mixed category was won by Home Ice Cream-Dormakaba’s Matthew Stamatis and Samantha Sanders, who held off The Gear Change’s David George and Katie Lennard.
Louise Ferreira and Marleen Lourens were home first in the women’s section.
Tomorrow’s stage features a 48km loop from Le Franschhoek Hotel and back.