Waylon Woolcock and Neil MacDonald finished first and second respectively in a clinical 1-2 finish for Team RE:CM at the Pennypinchers Die Burger Karoo-to-Coast mountain bike race between Uniondale and Knysna on Sunday.
It was Woolcock’s second win in a week following his surprise Sprint Lap victory for Team Bonitas at the MTN Zoo Lake road cycling event last Sunday. But his victory at the Western Cape’s most popular point-to-point mountain bike race this week wasn’t quite so surprising.
The 95km race follows mostly gravel roads between the Karoo town of Uniondale and the coastal town of Knysna, which suits Woolcock and MacDonald, two road cycling professionals that have successfully been making the transition to mountain biking. But a less technical course didn’t necessarily mean a less difficult race.
Woolcock and MacDonald shared the pace setting with others on the first climb out of Uniondale up Die Ou Wapad, a stony road and the most technical part of the race. By the time they were two thirds of the way up the climb they had a gap on the rest of the field. By the summit, less than 10km into the race, they had almost a one-minute lead.
“We were a bit surprised to have a lead over the whole race so early on and were a bit uncertain what to do. It wasn’t part of our pre-race plan, that’s for sure. We decided to just keep riding our own pace and if we got caught then we at least knew that we were among the strongest on the climbs,” explained Woolcock.
The pair rode steadily on towards Knysna, sharing the workload and making the most of the slight tailwind. Three riders had got clear of the rest of the field and were pursuing the two leaders, but their challenge faded at around half way.
“We could see the three guys chasing us and they held us at about 50 seconds for a long time. But then they split up and their chase lost its impetus from around half way. We got a time split of 3 minutes and 30 seconds with about 15km to go,” said Woolcock.
Realising they had a substantial lead, Woolcock and MacDonald eased off a little on the final climb to Simola before the drop into Knysna.
“We underestimated the climbs and the heat. We were pretty spent by the time we got near Knysna and it didn’t help that the tailwind had become a headwind as we got close to the coast,” said a weary Woolcock, who crossed the finish line marginally ahead of MacDonald in a time of three hours and 10 minutes. David Morison (Blend Property Group) finished third.
It was the third 1-2 result for Team RE:CM this year. MacDonald won both the Compendium Derby in KwaZulu-Natal and the Nissan Trailseeker Down and Dirty in Gauteng ahead of Woolcock. The pair also won six stages and the overall title at the Fairbairn Capital Old Mutual joBerg2c stage race in May.
“It’s our first victory in the Western Cape, which is great because our sponsor, RE:CM Asset Management, is based in this province. Hopefully it’s the start of more success here,” said Woolcock, who will return to the region with MacDonald next month for the DCM Cape Pioneer Trek stage race.