Today unarguably marked the end of a fantastic beginning, that is for sure. History was made as the inaugural TransCape MTB Stage Race went into its final day here in the Winelands, with the riders taking on a tortuous route over the rugged Cape Fold ranges along nearly 80km of track all the way to the historic village of Franschhoek.
But let us not get ahead of ourselves … First there was the emotion-laden penultimate night, with organisors, crew and riders at the gala banquet last night. A local string quartet and a children’s choir flash mob left not a dry eye in the house, with two standing ovations and absolutely fabulous food.
The ‘house’ in question was more of a barn, and this one in specific brimmed with dozens of antique tractors. It was therefore perfect symmetry to have the peleton roll along the Villiersdorp main street this morning, swirling in a neon wake behind a blood-red John Brown tractor harking from a bygone era.
From town, a neutral zone boomed the riders to Theewaterskloof Dam, where the harsh realities of the day kicked in with Groenlandberg in all its pissed off splendour. The ascent up to Rusty Gate was gruelling to say the least, but a nearby finish line serves as a huge incentive, and the field swept home vigorously and full of fantastic spirit.
Jan van der Bergh gave it stick to win his first stage in a powerful climb up Franschhoek Pass, and by 14:00 the last group of riders rolled into La Couronne Wine Estate after a journey they will surely never forget. Smiles, tears, elation, pride … all under-written by the sense of family that the TransCape event has established in a mere week of togetherness.
“This event is here to stay, and bound to become one of the world’s favourite stage races”. Not my words, but that of the charismatic Lingier Niek (one half of the victorious Team Versluys). Huge congratulations to Wayne and Lenore Collett, Irmarie Venter, Leana Pool, Corne Grobler and the rest of the team. You guys rock!
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