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Tough times for Evans, Niyonshuti at the Trek

Max Knox and Thomas Zahnd (DCM) proved during the third stage of the DCM Cape Pioneer Trek cycle race on Wednesday that it will take a super human effort from Kevin Evans and Adrien Niyonshuti (MTN-Energade) to take the coveted yellow jersey from them.

Actually judging by the way they rode during the third stage which is considered to be one of the toughest of the entire race it is starting to look as if Knox/Zahnd will be hard to overtake on the overall classification.

Evans admitted as much. ÔÇ£The only thing left for us to do is to play the waiting game. The only chance that we have of winning the tour is if Max and Thomas make a really stupid mistake or if they have some serious setback as far mechanical problems are concerned,ÔÇØ Evans said.

The third stage was actually a classic case of Evans and Niyonshuti winning the battle but losing the war.

Niyonshuti, who represented Rwanda at the recent Commonwealth Games in India, attacked 50 metres from the line and managed to outsprint everybody, unfortunately for the rider from Rwanda Evans was caught napping and that enabled Christoph Sauser and Silvio Bundi (Specialized-Songo.info) who were racing shoulder to shoulder to win the stage over 110km from George to De Rust in 4hr 50min 34sec.

Evans crossed the line in fourth place which meant the MTN-Energade team had to be satisfied with a second place finish. Knox and Zahnd finished third without losing time.

After three stages the DCM-team has an overall lead of 5:35 on Evans/Niyonshuti. They are the only two teams who still are in contention for an overall victory. Brandon Stewart and Jacques Janse van Rensburg (DCM) who is currently the third placed team is now 37 minutes behind.

What was sort of ironic during the third stage was when a journalist in the media vehicle wondered out aloud on how long the 34 year old Sauser, a double world champion and Olympic medalist, will still be competitive. ÔÇ£Is he not getting a little bit oldÔÇØ, was the question asked? Well Sauser let his legs do the talking.

On the Kammanassie Nature Reserve’s old Voortrekker-trail, which is a really murderous technical climb of 1000m, where most mountain bikers can’t help uttering three and four letter words that are not usually used in civilized conversations, Sauser was more interested to improve his photographic skills while being part of an eight-man breakaway.

Near the top while Niyonshuti was sprinting flat out to win the King of the Mountain-prime, Sauser was using only one hand to steer his mountain bike through the treacherous loose rocks. With his other hand he was holding a small digital camera. He seemed totally oblivious to what his rivals were doing. His only concern was to get a good picture of the helicopter hovering above them and the stunning view behind it.

Sauser only laughed when asked about his photographic obsession during what is considered to be the tour’s second toughest stage. ÔÇ£Yes it was really important for me to get a good picture of the helicopter. In South African racing it is always special to have a helicopter hovering above you. I am going to use the picture on my website.ÔÇØ

This nonchalant performance by Switzerland’s top mountain biker made the journalist admit that he might have underestimated Sauser’s abilities.

Sauser’s was slightly concerned about the slower riders. ÔÇ£A lot of riders are really going to battle in the hot and very windy conditions. As far as I am concerned everybody who finishes this tough third stage is a winner.ÔÇØ

Andrew McLean and Bruce Diesel (Cycle Lab) who race as veterans (over 40) impressed everybody when they latched on to the pro-elite breakaway group on the Kammannasie-climb and managed to stay with them until the finish and taking their fair share of turns in front to set the tempo.

After yesterday’s heroic performance McLean and Diesel are leading the veterans category by more than 90 minutes. Afterwards Janse van Rensburg, a roadie turned mountain biker, did not hold back when asked what he thought about the route through the Kammannasie.

ÔÇ£Sometimes I really battle to understand how mountain bikers think. Why would anybody want to race on a route where you cannot ride your bike. It is definitely not any fun. ÔÇ£

Meanwhile in the mixed category during a day where deals were offered and refused, water bottles lost — leading to a near unbearable thirst — and┬áof course untimely punctures it was again Johan Labuschagne and Yolandi de Villiers (Cycle Lab) who proved that once the going gets tough, the tough gets going.

For the second day in a row they were the stage winners and in the process they gained another five minutes on the overall leaders in the mixed category, Kobus and Fienie Barnard (Klein Karoo).┬áThey are now fourth, 30 minutes behind. De Villiers and Labuschagne’s winning time was 5hr 21min 14sec.

According to Labuschagne they tried making a deal with the Swiss-team, Patrick Griessen and Ariane Luthi, during the last 30 kilometres.

ÔÇ£We asked them to work with us so as to try and make up as much time as possible on the other teams. The deal we offered them was that if we work together they should allow us to win the stage and in return they will get to wear the red jersey.

ÔÇ£When the Swiss-team turned the deal down, I dropped back to Yolandi and told her what happened. We then bided our time before I used a ‘slingshot’ to catapult Yolandi into the lead. From then on we made the racing really hard. The Swiss tried chasing us down for about a kilometre before giving up.

ÔÇ£As luck would have it Damien Booth and Cornell van Heerden joined up with us. That made things a lot easier because we could take turns setting the pace up front.ÔÇØ

Griessen and Luthi finished second in a time of 5:23.49. Luthi said afterwards their problems started when she lost her water bottle.

ÔÇ£In effect it meant that for the last 60 minutes of the race we had no water. You certainly don’t want to be in such a situation if you have to race against a dry headwind in hot conditions. I am just glad that we did not lose too much time.ÔÇØ

Actually Luthi deserve a special mention. A former swimmer, she has only been cycling seriously for the last 12 months.

The Barnards finished third in a time of 5:27:11 and in doing so they ensured that they still have a 4min 2sec lead on the Swiss team and are nearly 16 minutes ahead of Marcel Deacon and Ischen Stopforth (Bizhub).

According to Kobus Barnard the turning point in their race came when he punctured on the decent of the treacherous Kammanassie.

ÔÇ£Up until then we were all riding together. Although it did not take long to repair the puncture we could not manage to catch up with the leaders again. That meant we were out on our own for the last 30km. That made for some real tough going.ÔÇØ

Stopforth admitted that there was not much she enjoyed during the third stage. ÔÇ£I consider myself to be a hard woman that can handle a lot. Today was the first time that I literally cried during a race.ÔÇØ


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