A beginning and an end in the Berg

Travis Stedman, riding his final race as an U16 before moving up to the junior category next year, and Frances Janse Van Rensburg, riding her first road race ever, were the overall winners of the inaugural Drakensberg Extravaganza road cycle race in Bergville on Sunday.

In a display of the potential future of men’s cycling in KZN, U16 Stedman, U23 runner up Bevan Reddy and third-placed U18 junior Cian Leveridge battled each other for 84km before Stedman eked out a race-winning advantage on the final 90-degree turn just 100m from the finish line.

Travis Stedman outsprints Bevan Reddy with Cian Leveridge third. Photo: Tim Whitfield / Sports Wrighte
Frances Janse van Rensburg crosses the line to claim the win in her first road race at the inaugural Drakensberg Extravaganza cycle race. Photo: Tim Whitfield / Sports Wrighte

In the women’s race, experienced mountain biker Frances Janse van Rensburg (Absolute Motion), riding her first ever road race, powered away from the pre-race favourite Tiffany Keep (Volvo Silverback) after about 30km and managed to work with some of the men’s racers. Keep could not jump across to the Van Rensburg’s group in the strong headwind and saw her hopes of victory ride away to eventually lose five minutes by the finish.

Riders set off from Bergville in hot, windy conditions in the foothills of the Drakensberg and after the first major climb a group of four riders, Stedman, Reddy, Leveridge and Warren Moolman, had eased themselves off the front.

Moolman could not hold the group and after 30km it was left to the other three to tackle the circular route on the undulating roads around the Woodstock Dam, before a fast final 25km with a strong tailwind back to Bergville.

Leveridge lead out the initial sprint into the last corner and looked to have managed the perfect set up for Reddy, his older Absolute Motion teammate. But Stedman (Steel and Pipes for Africa) took a risk and was faster around the final 90-degree turn to gave himself a three-bike length advantage starting the final sprint.

“It was an awesome race,” said Stedman after finishing. “It was quite slow in the beginning so I wanted to get away. I knew there were a couple of guys that were strong enough to make a gap, so we stuck together.

“We dropped one of the other guys who were with us initially and then just worked together. It was nice working together with the older guys. It was a bit difficult at some times with less gears than them (U16 riders have restricted gearing).

“It is quite a privilege to win the first time this event was held.”

For both Stedman and Leveridge this is their final race in their respective age groups. Stedman will be moving up to the U18 ranks in January and Leveridge will be joining Reddy in the U23 class.

For Van Rensburg, however, this race may be the start of a new beginning.

“It was my first road race ever so I did not know what to expect,” said the junior who has been competitive in the women’s mountain bike events all year. “We were in the chasing group for the first 30 or 40 kilometres and then three of us attacked on a climb and managed to keep it away from there. Tiffany was with us until that attack.

“I’m super chuffed to win this, I did not expect to win it. I just thought I would give it a try.”

On Saturday night Van Rensburg won the Most Improved Rider trophy at the KZN Mountain Bike Commission Awards Evening and the road riders better watch out: She may be getting at the same award for road riding next year.

On Saturday, Mauritian juniors Niels Hartmann and Hadrien Maingard, currently in South Africa on a mountain bike training camp won 20km mountain bike event at the Drakensberg Extravaganza.

The two formed the front group with 22-year-old Durban rider Keagan Matthews and Hartmann powered away to a 13-second win. In the tight sprint for second, Maingard just edged ahead of Matthews to give the Mauritian pair a one-two finish.

Olivia Reitz was the first women home on Saturday with Tanith Van Druten 31 seconds behind ions econd.

Results

84km Road Race

Men

1 Travis Stedman 2:23:47

2 Bevan Reddy 2:23:48

3 Cian Leveridge 2:23:56

4 Gareth Potgzeter 2:29:09

5 Warren Moolman 2:31:16

Women

1 Frances Janse van Rensburg 2:29:11

2 Tiffany Keep 2:34:41

3 Elmari De Wet 2:46:41

4 Candice Parker-Dennison 2:47:50

5 Chloe Bateson 2:56:12

 

40km

Men

1 Thandolwethu Mfuphi 1:18:05

2 Jordan Brandon Bold 1:18:06

3 Thabiso Zindela 1:18:11

4 Keith Kuhn 1:26:08

5 Evan Moolman 1:26:21

Women

1 Heidi Bird 1:36:17

2 Merilyn Sclanders 1:53:58

3 Gail Bissett 1:54:06

 

15km

1 Abdul Aziz Hoosen 1:27:56

Travis Stedman leads Cian Leveridge and Bevan Reddy in the foothills of the Drakensberg.
Photo: Tim Whitfield / Sports Wrighte
Bevan Reddy leads teammate Cian Leveridge and Travis Stedman in the foothills of the Drakensberg.
Photo: Tim Whitfield / Sports Wrighte
The loneliness of long distance rider. An unidentified riders crosses the “banana bridge” over the Woodstock Dam.
Photo: Tim Whitfield / Sports Wrighte
They’re off! The inaugural Drakensberg Extravaganza road race starts in Bergville on Sunday. Photo: Tim Whitfield / Sports Wrighte