Defending champion Chris Wolhuter and protégé Craig Boyes crushed their rivals on the second day of the Liberty Winelands MTB Encounter to build up a comfortable lead going into Sunday’s grand finale.
As they had done on the opening day, the Imbuko-Freewheel Cycology professional team set the pace for most of the way to win the 57km stage between Franschhoek and Kleine Valleij outside Wellington in 2:20:00.
They got the better of Altech-Autopage’s Colin Noel and Hanco Kachelhoffer, who finished a distant second in 2:28:42.
After CP van Wyk’s horrific crash the previous day while fighting for stage honours, he and his Momsen teammate Dylan Rebello put in a superb ride to place third in 2:29:47.
Wolhuter, from Cape Town, and Boyes, who lives in Stellenbosch, head the general classification with a combined time of 4:46:34.
They are followed by Noel and Kachelhoffer (5:05:22) with Rebello and Van Wyk (5:11:25) in third.
Boyes said they had again got off to a flying start as they pushed hard up front alongside Noel and Kachelhoffer with Rebello and Van Wyk in tow.
“Unfortunately Hanco punctured and he and Colin lost touch,” said the 25-year-old.
“About 5km after exiting the Drakenstein prison grounds, we took a gamble and went really hard as we headed towards the first waterpoint.
“Fortunately we know the route and Chris has been unbelievably strong so we were able to just roll on to the finish after that.”
Although they would not be taking anything for granted, Boyes said they were looking forward to the final day.
“We have managed to build up a comfortable buffer and are really aiming to enjoy the final day and the sights.”
Boyes said his maiden Liberty Winelands MTB Encounter was a special experience.
“Everyone has made us feel so welcome. The friendly reception and the work the organisers have put in have been huge.”
After solid early-season performances at the GR300 and Cape Epic, where they were third overall and fourth African team respectively, Boyes said they were keen to graduate to the top step of the podium.
Team Spur’s Stephan Senekal and Ariane Kleinhans completed back to back victories in the mixed section when they placed fifth on the stage in 2:45:14.
Their aggregate time of 5:35:49 puts them in a comfortable lead in the overall standings ahead of Everett and Anna Haywood and Ricky and Kerry Tomaselli.
The final stage, which starts and finishes at Kleine Valleij, will be over a distance of 48km with 1 100m of climbing.