Race leaders HB Kruger and Stuart Marais kept Norwegian rivals Eirik Fiskvik and Thomas Engelsgjerd at bay in a tight finish to the fourth stage of the Liberty TransCape MTB Encounter today.
As the two teams sprinted for the line at the end of the 106km leg from Riversdale to Swellendam, the ASG-Ellsworth riders managed to split the overseas pair to take victory by just two seconds.
Engelsgjerd, riding for Team Happysalmon, was the first rider home in 4:09:58, but Kruger and Marais were just a second behind. Fiskvik was just unable to bridge the gap, giving the European outfit a time of 4:10:01.
Kruger and Marais maintained their overall lead, stretching it to nearly 11 minutes after Antonin Marecaille and Julian Biefang (Chiru-Magura-Canyon), who were second overnight, came in seven minutes behind the leading teams.
This meant the French-German team dropped to third overall, with Fiskvik and Engelsgjerd moving into second place.
After the South Africans had created a gap around the 70km mark, Fiskvik said they managed to catch up again when Marais had technical problems in muddy conditions.
“We rode with them to the finish and the aim was to try to beat them in the final sprint. Unfortunately I just fell off a bit and they were able to get in-between us.”
The Norwegian said they were happy to move into second spot overall, but knew it would be difficult to close the gap on the leaders.
“They are definitely the strongest team, but this is a long race so we just want to keep things as stable as possible.
“We will go out to do as best we can and see what happens. Legs can get tired and one of you can have a bad day, so you never know how things will turn out.”
Coming from a European winter, Fiskvik said they were happy with their conditioning.
“Considering we had not raced since October, we are feeling good for the rest of the race.”
In the mixed category, Britain’s Catherine Williamson and Kristof de Neys of Belgium continued to set the pace with a time of 4:49:06.
The fourth edition of the 614km race, supported by STANLIB and Volvo Cars, finishes at La Couronne Wine Estate in Franschhoek on Saturday.
Tomorrow’s 99km leg, known as the Rivers Stage, will take cyclists from Swellendam to Greyton, with much of the riding being done alongside the Breede and Riviersonderend rivers.