GZT Mens podium crop

Nelson Mandela Bay’s Bruce Campbell and Jay Carneiro battled on in wet and muddy terrain to win the men’s section on the first stage of the Great Zuurberg Trek mountain bike race on Friday.

Heavy overnight rain caused the 58km route to be shortened to 40km but, despite the abridged distance, conditions under wheel were tough going for the field.

Campbell and Carneiro posted a winning time of 1h:59:48, a little under four minutes ahead of the second-placed pairing of Gavin Wood and Mark Pienaar who came home in 02:03:27.

Wichard Cilliers and Stephen du Preez crossed the line third in 02:04:37.

Tracey Campbell and Juanita Mackenzie topped the women’s category after winning the opening stage in 02:11:48, while Mark and Gail Willimott took the honours in the mixed race after crossing the finish line 2:09:03.

“With the shortened stage we weren’t quite sure what to expect,” men’s winner Campbell said.

“I kind of knew where the [original] route was going, so the new route was up in the air.

GZT Mens podium crop

Jay Carneiro and Bruce Campbell (centre) from Nelson Mandela Bay won the men’s section on the first stage of the three-day Great Zuurberg Trek at the Zuurberg Mountain Village on Friday. Gavin Wood and Mark Pienaar (left) were second and Stephen du Preez and Wichard Cilliers third. Photo: Full Stop Communications

“We started off very safely with the slippery downhills and then put in a little bit of effort on the long drag.”

He found conditions to his liking on the “excellent” single-track at the bottom of the course, though there were some “boggy” sections that required him and Carneiro to get off the bike.

The stage winners saved a lot of energy for the Zuurberg pass that led them back to the Zuurberg Mountain Village and gave everything they had left in the tank to extend their advantage as much as possible.

Carneiro quipped that his ride was like a “suffer fest of note”.

“Bruce knows how to drive in the nail.”

Tracey Campbell said partner Mackenzie was “on fire” and despite the sodden conditions, the pace was frenetic.

“It was very muddy, which made [the race] quite technical.

“I can understand why the organisers had to make the stage shorter because it was very slippery.

“But it’s always great to ride here. Love these trails.”

She credited Mackenzie for “pulling me along”.

The Willimotts, delighted to be the first mixed pairing home, described conditions as “cold and wet but very cool”.

This is the couple’s second time out at the GZT, having first raced five years ago.

Riders can expect better conditions on Stage 2, with a temperature of 23˚C forecast for Addo and Zuurberg on Saturday.