Not even the heat of the Addo sun was enough to deter riders as they tackled another successful The Herald Continental Cycle Tour Mountain Bike Challenge on Sunday, 17 February 2019. The men’s 80km extreme race was won by Cycle Tour debutant Arno du Toit, while Yolande de Villiers made it two wins in as many years for the women’s section.
More than 1,300 riders were in the starting line-up at the Addo Polo Club and hordes of fans were waiting at the finish. With temperatures hovering in the high twenties for most of the morning, riders nevertheless had few problems navigating the tough, technical course laid out around the Addo area.
Arno du Toit flew the Team DSV flag high by winning the race on Sunday. Du Toit, racing in the absence of fellow DSV rider and defending champion Gert Heyns, finished in a time of two hours, 50 minutes and 29 seconds, as the first elite man h o m e. He crossed the line ahead of Imbuko Giant rider Marco Joubert (2:50:30) and Nicol Carstens (2:55:33) in third.
Speaking at the finish line, Du Toit said the win was the perfect result for him in what was his debut Herald Continental Cycle Tour event.
“I’ve never raced here before. I have raced in the area, so I knew what to expect and my partner Gert Heyns helped me prepare mentally,” Du Toit said.
“I also knew the Imbuko Giant guys had me outnumbered. They had three teammates here and it was clear from the start they were riding for him being a local boy. He knew the trails and he had me under pressure on the single tracks too, so hats off to him on a good ride.”
He said his competitors had made it hard for him in the beginning with a few attacks, but he managed to keep it steady through the Zuurberg Pass.
“Halfway down the single track, Marco and I broke away. We had a nice big gap. They could have made it a lot easier for Marco. When Nicol and the other Giant riders backed off, I didn’t need to race that hard. He kept following my wheel, but if they had pushed harder from the back I would have had to ride harder in front. So I could keep it steady and knew I had a good sprint, taking it to the line with confidence.”
Du Toit said he knew he had to try and cover every move made by his opponents. “With three riders on a flat route towards the end, if one rider had a gap, they could have forced me to do the work by myself, which happened. But I was in the front by then, so I just had to cover all their moves and try to stay as fresh as possible to the end.”
Du Toit had a lot of fun out on the course, especially through the more challenging sections like the Zu u r b e r g Pass. “I hope to be back next year, having more fun, and to defend my title.”
In the women’s race, Yolande de Villiers made it two wins in a row as she claimed another Herald Continental Cycle Tour Mountain Bike title, coming home in 3:04:02 – almost four minutes ahead of Sabine Spitz in second with a time of 3:07:40 and Anriette Schoeman in third in 3:19:32.
The Oudtshoorn resident, Yolande de Villiers said that conditions in Addo mimicked that of her hometown and thus did not play a major role in her performance.
“I must say this event keeps getting better each year, from registration all the way to the set-up, the accommodation – everything was just perfect from a racer’s point of view, and I am certainly looking forward to returning next year.”
Meanwhile, De Villiers said the route was quite flat with the climbs happening mainly in the first third of the race.
“The guys in front made a bit of a gap and I was happy to go with them. Shortly thereafter, we lost Sabine. From there I just kept a steady pace and was happy to take the win,” she said.
“It’s a fantastic single track. The first section is open road, and then you climb Zuurberg Pass and from there it’s lots of single track over bridges, sharp turns, loose rocky climbs – ve r y beautiful.”
Asked about her game plan, De Villiers said: “Due to the flattish nature of the course, I decided to go as hard as possible from the start. Luckily, I managed to get a gap over Sabine and managed to maintain that.”