Cape Town - HB Kruger won two stages of the Knysna Bull MTB event, in conjunction with Constantia Insurance, but it wasn’t enough to overhaul the overall lead Matt Beers held in the race from Wednesday’s evening prologue.
In the end, Beers claimed the win on Saturday and the R100 000 prize just ahead of under-23 cross-country world champion Alan Hatherly, with Kruger having to settle for third.In the women's race, where the prize for first was also R100 000, Sam Sanders was the winner. Jennie Stenerhag claimed second place, with Sanders’s Dormakaba team-mate Amy McDougall taking third place overall.Germany’s Sabine Spitz, an Olympic gold, silver and bronze winner, was in contention for the big payday until a flat tyre dented her hopes on day two.
For Beers, who along with Hatherly only decided to enter the Knysna Bull at the last minute, it was a sweet win. Beers, who grew up in Knysna, said winning on home turf was special.
“My last win in this area was Karoo to Coast a while ago. So to do well again in my old backyard was a special feeling,” said Beers. “I think I definitely had an advantage over the others, because when I looked at the stages and the routes we were taking, I knew exactly what to expect.”
The Knysna Bull men’s field also included Swiss powerhouse Nicola Rohrbach, but it was Beers who took a stranglehold on the race for R100 000 from the get go. From his prologue victory, it was just a matter of keeping Hatherly, Kruger and Rohrbach, who withdrew on day two, at bay.
“It was certainly a different dynamic, racing solo and for such a large prize purse,” said Beers. “It made the racing very intense - like the event number board says, it was R100 000 to lose!”
For Hatherly and Kruger the Knysna Bull was a race pace platform for their seasons ahead, and an opportunity to race in an infrequently-visited part of the country.
“I liked the solo aspect of the racing,” said Kruger. “It was a good block of intense training, and it’s great to compare yourself to the likes of Matt and Alan; it’s not every day that you get to race against a world champion.”
Hatherly said that while the distance and climbing metres overall in the Knysna Bull were not overly aggressive, the riding was still full throttle.
“I find the more I race, the faster I get. So this race was perfect ahead of Cape Epic. It was four days of proper riding, with lots of pedalling! I’m chuffed with my result but also for Matt. It’s a great win. When you put him on the open road, there are very few people who can catch him.”
Former Cape Epic winner Stenerhag was impressed with the event and competition throughout. “Sam is a very worthy winner,” said Stenerhag. “She is riding so well at the moment and is very strong. It was an intense four days of racing, but lots of fun too.”
The Knysna Bull is the first time Sanders has raced in the area, and after claiming the big cheque with the big number, she leaves with fond memories.
“I’m very happy - naturally!” said Sanders. “The cheque is a bonus, really. I’ve had a good season so far, and to carry on with the good form is fantastic. I was looking forward to riding in Knysna, and the Bull has lived up to my expectations and beyond. The racing was good, the riding was amazing, and to race against people like Sabine and Jennie was a thrill. I really admire them both, so to race them was superb.”
In the Young Bull category, for riders between the ages of 18 and 23, Henry Liebenberg and Bianca Haw were the respective winners of the male and female titles, Liebenberg finishing in an impressive fifth overall. They each take home R10 000 for their efforts.
For four days, riders enjoyed forest trails, newly-built single track and the unique race village of the Knysna Waterfront. With short, sharp days on the bike and a relaxed lagoon-side setting after the day’s riding, the Knysna Bull is the perfect race for those looking to dip a toe into the world of mountain bike stage racing or to fine tune their race pace.
Knysna Bull Constantia Insurance results:
Men - Day 3
HB Kruger 1:56:46
Matt Beers 1:56:48
Alan Hatherly 1:56:49
Women - Day 3
Sam Sanders 2:19:32
Amy McDougall 2:20:40
Jennie Stenerhag 2:22:07
Men Overall - final
Matt Beers 6:44:32
Alan Hatherly 6:44:59
HB Kruger 6:47:55
Women Overall - final
Sam Sanders 7:51:37
Jennie Stenerhag 7:55:47
Amy McDougall 8:05:46