The Summit pairing of Candice Lill and Adelheid Morath extended their FNB Wines2Whales Chardonnay race lead with a peak performance on Stage 2, around the Elgin Valley on Saturday 27 October. Behind them, for the second day in a row, the minor places were fiercely contested.
With the leading women once again starting separately, and ahead of the rest of the field, they had a clear run through the scintillating trails of Oak Valley and Paul Cluver Wine Estates. Raising their speed as they hit the trails, the general classification leaders split the group of five teams which had traversed the early kilometres together. For 15 kilometres Summit had played the waiting game, happy to allow Ariane Lüthi and Barbara Benko, of Team Spur to set the pace. Also in that group were; Robyn de Groot and Michelle Vorster, of Ascendis Health, Mariske Strauss and Jennie Stenerhag, Silverback CBC, and Galileo Risk’s Theresa Ralph and Sarah Hill.
Once Lill and Morath’s wheels touched the singletracks they launched the day’s decisive move – simply riding away from their rivals. “The girls all sort of rode together for the first 15 kays. Then there was a singletrack followed by a hill and another singletrack followed by a hill. We went to the front there and the gaps started to open” Lill explained. “It was just an amazing stage” Morath chimed in. “We enjoyed it from the start to the finish. Especially the bridges, I love it” the German rider smiled.
The pair’s stage victory was never in doubt from the moment they established that initial gap. Once they were out of sight the distance between the Summit riders and the chasing group of Silverback CBC and Ascendis Health rapidly ballooned. The only heart their rivals can take is the fact that they limited that advantage to 5 minutes compared to Stage 1’s 11.
Silverback CBC and Ascendis Health shadowed each other’s every move throughout the 66 kilometre long stage, eventually ensuring that the day came down to a sprint for second position. As on the opening stage Strauss and Stenerhag positioned themselves perfectly and held off De Groot and Vorster.
“As you can see the stoke is high” laughed Strauss on the finish line. “Awesome trails at Oak Valley and Paul Cluver. Thanks to all the farmers and thanks to Wines2Whales” the effervescent rider enthused. Telling the story of how the race for second unfolded De Groot said: “It was still quite hectic for me. But it was nice to have their (Strauss and Stenerhag’s) company. We rode nicely together and it was definitely a better day than yesterday.”
Further back Ralph and Hill were locked in a battle with Lüthi and Benko. The Galileo Risk pair won out and raced home to Oak Valley to cross the line forth. “We’re finding our rhythm riding as a team” Ralph recounted. “This terrain isn’t my strong point but following Sarah (Hill’s) wheel it becomes a strength. We seemed to be making up time on Ariane (Lüthi) and Barbara (Benko) on the singletracks. They were ahead of us until the final 30 kilometres, then we overtook them and extended the gap in each singletrack that followed” the senior partner in the Galileo Risk team concluded.
Team Spur, slightly demotivated after their stage one time penalty, were fifth across the line. “We tried our luck a bit in the beginning, but it is hard to suffer when you lose motivation” Lüthi confided. “It was a pity about yesterday, but the ladies ride really strong. So you have to really be willing to suffer to ride with them.”
The final day of hard racing for the elite women, and exhilarating riding for their non-competitive riders, awaits on Sunday the 28th of October. Riders will descend out of the Elgin Valley and traverse the Hemel en Aarde Valley on their 72 kilometre journey from Oak Valley to the Marine Hotel in Hermanus. To follow the action from home mountain biking fans can visit www.wines2whales.com or follow @w2wmtb on Twitter.
FNB Wines2Whales Results | Chardonnay Stage 2:
Summit: Adelheid Morath & Candice Lill (2:56.46,0)
Silverback CBC: Mariske Strauss & Jennie Stenerhag (3:01:48,6 | +5.02,6)
Ascendis Health: Robyn de Grood & Michelle Voster (3:01:48,9 | +5.02,6)
Galileo Risk: Theresa Ralf & Sarah Hill (3:03:04,8 | +6.18,8)
Team Spur: Ariane Lüthi & Barbara Benko (3:04.36,6 | +7.50,6)
FNB Wines2Whales Results | Chardonnay General Classification after Stage 2:
Summit: Adelheid Morath & Candice Lill (6:21.13,8)
Silverback CBC: Mariske Strauss & Jennie Stenerhag (6:37.55,5 | +16.41,7)
Ascendis Health: Robyn de Grood & Michelle Voster (6:37.56,1 | +16.42,3)
Galileo Risk: Theresa Ralf & Sarah Hill (6:42.46,1 | +21.32,3)
5. Tiletoria Ladies: Fienie Barnard & Hanlie Booyens (7:21.31,7 | +1:00.17,9)