Knox, Bell claim stage

2013-05-18 00:00

MAX Knox and Nico Bell mastered slippery conditions to win the decisive second stage and take the overall lead of the Nedbank Sani2c mountain bike race in KwaZulu-Natal yesterday.

After crashing early on the descent into the Umkomaas River Valley, the mud-spattered EAI-Westvaal riders powered their way back to claim the 99 km stage from MacKenzie Club near Ixopo to Jolivet farm in the Highflats region.

They crossed the finish line first in 4:09:36, almost a minute-and-a-half ahead of second-placed Brandon Stewart and Neil MacDonald of FedGroup-Itec (4:11:01). Early leaders Louis-Bresler Knipe and Gert Heyns of Contego-Giant trailed them home in 4:13:23.

An on-form Bell and Knox, who are currently lying first and second in the MTN marathon series, moved from fourth to first in the overall standings with an aggregate time of 6:56:49.

Stewart and MacDonald, who were fifth in the general classification, moved into the runner-up spot for a combined time of 6:58:19, while Knipe and Heyns slipped from second to third overall in 7:00:34.

Overnight leaders Charles Keey and Darren Lill dropped out of contention completely after mechanical problems put paid to their chances.

Faced with over 2 200 m of descending, Knipe and Heyns threw caution to the wind as they set a blistering pace early on and flew towards the valley floor.

By the time they reached the first waterpoint alongside the St Josephine’s bridge at the 38 km mark, they had opened up an almost seven-minute lead on Bell and Knox.

A further two minutes off the pace were Lill and Keey, Stewart and MacDonald, Woolcock and Luus (RE:CM) and Kevin Evans and Gawie Combrinck (FedGroup-Itec 2).

While RE:CM and Cannondale-Blend fell back due to punctures, Stewart and MacDonald pulled clear of the remaining chasers to catch Bell and Knox on the climb out of the valley.

The two teams worked together to close the gap on the leaders and by the second water table, at 65 km, Knipe and Heyns’s lead had narrowed to just three minutes. By the final waterpoint at Highflats Church 15 km later, the three leading teams were together.

“Once we got to Highflats and Nico was still looking fresh I knew that maybe we wouldn’t win, but we at least needed to make it hard for the other guys,” said Knox.

“Then we got a gap and made it count to the finish. Hopefully we can have a smooth run tomorrow and bring it home.”

RESULTS

Stage 2

Men: 1. Max Knox & Nico Bell (EIA-Westvaal) 4:09:36; 2. Brandon Stewart & Neil MacDonald (FedGroup-Itec) 4:11:01; 3. Louis-Bresler Knipe & Gert Heyns (Contego-Giant) 4:13:23.

Women: 1. Ischen Stopforth & Robyn de Groot (Biogen Ladies) 5:10:09; 2. Catherine Williamson & Yolandi du Toit (bizhub) 5:18:59; 3. Bridgette Stewart & Jackie Moore (FedGroup-Itec) 5:41:35.

Overall

Men: 1. Max Knox & Nico Bell (EIA-Westvaal) 6:56:49; 2. Brandon Stewart & Neil MacDonald (FedGroup-Itec) 6:58:19; 3. Louis-Bresler Knipe & Gert Heyns (Contego-Giant) 7:00:34.

Women: 1. Ischen Stopforth & Robyn de Groot (Biogen Ladies) 8:17:54; 2. Catherine Williamson & Yolandi du Toit (bizhub) 8:28:36; 3. Bridgette Stewart & Jackie Moore (FedGroup-Itec) 9:18:31.

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