An on-song Nico Pfitzenmaier powered his way through the muddy trails of the Fisantehoek forest to win the solo category on the opening stage of the RECM Knysna 200 mountain bike race on Saturday.
The former world masters champion (Dorma) drove hard from the beginning of the undulating 79km course, which started in unseasonably warm weather at the Knysna Elephant Park, to cruise into the finish at Thesen Harbour Town in 3:22:03.
Hanco Kachelhoffer and Colin Noel (Altech Autopage) won the team event in 3:29:03.
In the women’s race, Robyn de Groot (Ascendis Health) repeated the form that brought her a third consecutive national marathon title last week to claim the stage in 3:45:43.
Pfitzenmaier, who took the overall victory in the team category alongside Renay Groustra last year, said the revised first stage had been much tougher than the previous year.
“It was a beautiful route but technical, muddy and rough; the trails were quite challenging,” he said.
The 44-year-old said he had felt good on the bike as he negotiated the technical descents after the first big climbs of the day.
He was first through waterpoint one at Packwood Wine Estate after 22km and maintained his lead through the Petrus se Brand section of the Garden Route National Park.
He was well and truly in charge of the stage by the time he had reached the second waterpoint on the Uniondale road after 43km.
The final stretch, which included race organiser Patrick Mostert’s eight kilometres of “secret” single-track through indigenous forest en route to Simola and the finish, was a mere formality.
Second-placed solo rider Dylan Rebello (Jeep) lost valuable time when he suffered a sidewall cut in the first 5km.
“Eventually I got it plugged and just went full gas,” said Rebello.
“But I think I went too hard at the start trying to catch up, so towards the end I had to dig really deep.”
The 20-year-old local said the race was far from over.
“This is my home territory and day two passes right behind my house, so I hope to make up the time over the next two days.”
George-based Kachelhoffer and Noel kept a consistent pace throughout the stage to take a comfortable lead into day two.
“Keeping up with Nico wouldn’t have been wise because you run the risk of a mechanical because he goes so fast on the downhills,” said Kachelhoffer.
“There were also quite a few steep climbs towards the end and Colin started cramping a bit, so we just had to manage our speed.”
After losing sight of the solo race leader, the two took an accidental detour in the closing kilometres but had done enough to secure their category win.
“It was a good start for our team,” said Kachelhoffer.
Husband-and-wife duo Andrea and Steven Shirley (Merrell) were first on the day to claim honours in the mixed race in 4:08:38.
Nicola Giliomee and Marleen Lourens took another category win for Merrell in the women’s section in 4:11:36.
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Solo – men
1. Nico Pfitzenmaier (Dorma) 3:22:03
2. Dylan Rebello (Jeep) 3:41:35
3. Jan Hanekom (Privateer) 3:47:29
Solo – women
1. Robyn de Groot (Ascendis Health) 3:45:43
2. Anriette Schoeman (Africa Silks) 4:07:12
3. Patsy Hime (Privateer) 4:28:34
Team – men
1. Hanco Kachelhoffer and Colin Noel (Altech Autopage) 3:29:03
2. Iniel Hattingh and Vickus Boshoff (Coimbra Cycle House) 3:56:17
3. Neill Clark and Hein Giliomee (Privateer) 3:56:19
Team – women
1. Nicola Giliomee and Marleen Lourens (Merrell Ladies) 4:11:36
2. Belinda Marais and Teresa Horn (Stealth Carbon) 5:44:55
Team – mixed
1. Andrea Shirley and Steven Shirley (Merrell Mixed) 4:08:38
2. Yolande de Villiers and Henties de Villiers (SasolRacing) 4:13:27
3. Piet Viljoen and Hannele Steyn (RECM Mixed) 4:22:24
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