The young Plettenberg Bay team of Aidan Connelly and Rogan Smart were thrilled to snatch the stage win on the second day of the PwC Great Zuurberg Trek mountain-bike race today.
The Bikeshop-Scott-Strocam pair finished the 88km queen stage at the Zuurberg Mountain Village at Addo, some 70km outside Port Elizabeth, in a time of 3:40:49.
In second place were Jason Peach and Jason Reed (Saddle and Cleats), with Renay Groustra and Stuart Marais (RSA Web) third.
Overnight leaders Andrew Hill and Shaun-Nick Bester, who set the pace early in the stage, suffered a serious mechanical at the first water point and later a puncture to finish fourth.
However, they still lead overall, although their cushion has been cut from nine minutes to two seconds over the Plett outfit.
Peach and Reed are third overall, just under three minutes off the pace.
Connelly, 19, said he and his 20-year-old teammate were thrilled with the outcome, even though it “was completely unexpected”.
“It was really amazing to come home first and this is our first ever stage win in a major race,” he said.
After forming a group at the front, which included RSA Web [Stuart Marais and Renay Groustra] and Home Ice Cream-Garrun Insurance [Reinhard Zellhuber and Marc Fourie], Connelly said they were later caught by Reed and Peach.
“The four teams rode together for the majority of the stage but on one of the climbs, with about 25km to go, we and the two Jasons managed to break away.”
Reed and Peach were able to create a gap going down Gower’s Gauntlet, but the Plett pair rode back to them with 14km left.
“Once we managed to overtake them we put our heads down and just time-trialled it to the finish,” said Connelly.
The pair are riding the GZT for the first time and Connelly said they were just tackling each challenge as it happened.
He added they would take the same approach into tomorrow’s final stage.
“Today’s queen stage definitely lived up to its name. It was super-tough, but we will go through our normal recovery process and just see what happens tomorrow.
“We have no real expectations and it is quite a fun day, so we want to go out there and enjoy it.”
The leading women’s team of Swiss ace Ariane Luthi and South African Robyn de Groot, of Ascendis Health Spur, consolidated their lead in a stage-winning time of 3:53:36.
This puts them well ahead in the general classification in 6:57:47, 25 minutes clear of Theresa Ralph and Sarah Hill (Galileo Risk), who were second on today’s stage.
De Groot, from George, said she was enjoying their partnership and they were able to keep a nice tempo on a testing stage.
“There was a lot of hard work during today’s stage and not many easy sections,” she said.
In the mixed category, Neill Ungerer and Yolande de Villiers, riding for Silverback Bikes, won their second stage in a row in 3:48:11. They were followed home by Ben Melt Swanepoel and Yolandi du Toit (Garmin).
Nicholas Webb and Kylie Hanekom (Bike Hub) were third in 4:34:12.
Ungerer and De Villiers head the overall standings in 6:49:00, nearly 26 minutes ahead of Swanepoel and Du Toit.
The PwC Great Zuurberg Trek draws to a conclusion tomorrow with the final stage over 50km.