Toyota Specialized and Cannondale Factory Racing got the 2024 Momentum Medical Scheme Tankwa Trek, presented by Biogen, off to a winning start on Stage 1; on Thursday, 8 February. Matt Beers and Alex Miller slipped away to win taking a 37 second advantage into Stage 2. Mona Mitterwallner and Candice Lill benefitted from a crash by Annie Last, who had been in second just behind the leaders, and ended the day with a 1 minute and 6 second buffer to Efficient Infiniti Insure.
The 26 kilometre opening stage was raced at a lightning fast pace and Toyota Specialized controlled proceedings form the off. “I pushed the pace on the first proper climb and we sort of unexpectedly got a bit of a lead,” Beers explained. “Alex [Miller] and I pushed on because anything can happen out here in the Koue Bokkeveld. Having a bit of an advantage will serve us well going into a tough couple of days tomorrow and on Saturday.”
Behind the leaders, KMC Ridley had to fight through the field, having been caught behind slower wheels in the trails. Martins Blums and Gunnar Holmgren gradually fought their way to the front of the chase group and kept the Toyota Specialized men in their sights, whenever the course levelled out, throughout the stage. They could however never reel Beers and Miller in, and had to be content with second.
PYGA Euro Steel, the two Team Bulls squads and Imbuko Pro Cycling were locked in a four-way battle for third, which Pieter du Toit and Jaedon Terlouw emerged best from. “The racing was tough today! The stage was short and fast, with Toyota Specialized making it hard,” Du Toit noted. “We got a bit lucky with positioning coming into the finish here at Kaleo and were able to sprint for third, edging out Urs Huber and Leon Kaiser, of the Bulls.”
In the women’s race a large group, of the top four teams raced together for the first half of the stage. Then on an undulating trail, a gap naturally opened behind Mitterwallner, Lill, and Last. “I was aware that the sounds of wheels behind me were getting fainter on a rolling singletrack,” Lill retold. “When I had a chance to look back, I saw that we had a gap and only Annie [Last] had been able to follow. She then had to wait for her teammate. On the next dual-track I looked at Mona [Mitterwallner] and she said go. So, that’s what we did.”
“Annie and Malene Degn were only about 20 seconds behind us coming into the final couple of kilometres,” Lill added. Disaster then struck for the Lapierre Mavic Unity team, Last crashed heavily and was only able to limp through the final kilometre. “It looked like a really bad fall, I hope Annie is okay and able to start tomorrow,” Vera Looser sympathized.
Looser and Danielle Strydom inherited second place on the trails and crossed the line in second. The Namibian/South African combination are racing for the first time together and are now well-placed for the rest of the race. They were followed home by KMC-Ridley’s Janika Loiv and Yana Belomoina. Lena Gerault and Margot Moschetti were fourth, just ahead of Last and Degn in fifth.
This sets Friday’s Stage 2 up for exciting racing. The route, into the Witzenberg Valley, is 88 kilometres long and includes 1 700 meters of climbing. Built by Sakkie and Hannes Hanekom the trails are famously technical and will be a complete test of man, woman and machine. The racing action gets underway at 06:30 and mountain biking fans can follow the action on Instagram and Facebook stories. Follow @tankwatrek on Instagram and Tankwa Trek on Facebook. Further information can be found at www.tankwatrek.co.za.
Momentum Medical Scheme Tankwa Trek, presented by Biogen, Results:
Men’s | Stage 1:
- Toyota Specialized: Alex Miller & Matthew Beers (0:51:52)
- KMC Ridley: Martins Blums & Gunnar Holmgren (0:52:29 | +37)
- PYGA Euro Steel: Pieter du Toit & Jaedon Terlouw (0:53:45 | +1:53)
Women | Stage 1:
- Cannondale Factory Racing: Mona Mitterwallner & Candice Lill (1:01:12)
- Efficient Infiniti Insure: Danielle Strydom & Vera Looser (1:02:18 | +1:06)
- KMC-Ridley: Janika Loiv & Yana Belomoina (1:02:56 | +1:44)
For the full results from the Momentum Medical Scheme Tankwa Trek, presented by Biogen, click here.