Cannondale’s World Cup Factory Racing squad of Alan Hatherly and Simon Andreassen outfoxed Imbuko Giant in the sprint finish to secure the leader’s jerseys on day one of the W2W Shiraz race.
The opening stage of the final event of the 2023 FNB Wines2Whales Switchback lived up to the pre-race billing. Cannondale Factory Racing and Imbuko Giant took it to the line with Alan Hatherly and Simon Andreassen edging out Marco Joubert and Wessel Botha. Behind them Felix Stehli endured a mechanical and a crash to come home third, alongside defending champion Konny Looser. Friday, 27 October, was just an appetizer though for what is to come in the Shiraz race.
Soft drizzle fell on Lourensford Wine Estate as the teams prepared to take on the Shiraz course. The stage would be 56 kilometres long with 1 300 metres of climbing. Longer steadier climbs made up the opening kilometres, with punchier efforts required in the second half of the day’s route. These short, sharp, climbs provided the launching pad for Hatherly and Andreassen.
First however the top teams needed to distance the lesser contenders. On the opening climb the four pre-race favourite teams established an advantage. With Andreassen driving the pace Cannondale Factory Racing were joined by PYGA Euro Steel, Elesator.ch and Imbuko Giant A. Insect Science 1 led the chase, 2 minutes back, with Project Dream SA’s Johan Fourie de Villiers and Jordan Boshoff.
On the long singletrack descent, of the Uitkyk trails, Botha punctured. “It was strange, I didn’t hit anything but my back tyre was losing air slowly,” the Imbuko Giant man explained. “I had to stop and bomb it, but fortunately that was the end of the problem.” His stop cost Botha nearly a minute and put him off the back of the quartet of leading teams.
Joubert maintained faith in his teammate’s ability to chase back and remained with the group. “I caught the group just after Water Point 2 again,” Botha added. “But as soon as I did the pace went crazy!”
This explanation matched how Hatherly experienced the stage. “The first hour, hour and fifteen, were pretty steady and I sat in the group saving matches,” the South African cross-country champion noted. “Then in the final 45 minutes we really went for it. I started to struggle a bit, but Simon and I have raced together a lot and we know how to win stage race sprints as a team.”
Having shed PYGA Euro Steel’s Philip Buys and Alex Miller from the lead group the Cannondale Factory Racing team continued to apply the pressure. Stehli then suffered a mechanical which left him unable to shift gears, meaning that Elesator.ch were unable to follow Hatherly, Andreassen, Joubert and Botha. This produced a situation where it was Cannondale against Imbuko Giant.
Despite Botha leading the four riders out and crossing the line first it was Cannondale Factory Racing who took the victory. Joubert was boxed in behind the canny positioning of Hatherly and Andreassen, as the cross-country specialists drove for the line. Joubert ceded a few tents of a second, but effectively Imbuko Giant and Cannondale Factory Racing will start Stage 2 level on time.
Elesator.ch’s misfortune continued as they fought to limit their time losses. In the final 500 metres, Stehli clipped a tree and crashed hard. The fall broke his carbon handlebar and left him pushing his bike to the line. This meant that he and Looser ceded 1 minute and 34 seconds to the stage winners. Behind them, Philip Buys also endured a difficult final 15 kilometers, which cost himself and PYGA Euro Steel teammate, Alex Miller, 3 minutes and 25 seconds to Cannondale Factory Racing. Insect Science’s Arno du Toit and Keagan Bontekoning rounded out the top five, a further 57 seconds back.
In the battle for the Exxaro Jerseys Kusaselihle Ngidi and Damon Terblanche made the most of a strong day on the bike to build a commanding early lead. The Fairtree DP World Cannnondale 1 combination were sixteenth overall, earning themselves the white Ciovita Amateurs jerseys as well as the Exxaro Resources category lead. Halalisani Ndebele and William Majapholo are second in the race for the light green jerseys, though the team in third place, Siyabonga Ntsele and Gilbert Mathaba, are closer to them than they are to Ngidi and Terblanche.
Saturday’s Play Day looks likely to be another wet and muddy affair. Thus far the Chardonnay and Pinotage races have also endured difficult conditions for Stage 2 and the Shiraz teams seem unlikely to miss the trial by rain and sludge. The route is scheduled to be 68 kilometres in length, with 1 450 metres of climbing, but a final decision on the exact route will only be made on Friday evening by the race director. If conditions are as tough as they were on Saturday, the 21st, the course could be as little as 58 kilometres in length, while if they are better than expected a route longer than the 64 kilometres the mid-week race undertook could be used.
- Cannondale Factory Racing: Simon Andreassen & Alan Hatherley (2:07:22)
- Imbuko Giant A: Marco Joubert & Wessel Botha (2:07:22 | st)
- Elysator.ch: Konny Looser & Felix Stehli (2:08:56 | +1:34)
- PYGA Euro Steel: Philip Buys & Alex Miller (2:10:47 | +3:25)
- Insect Science: Arno du Toit & Keagan Bontekoning (2:11:44 | +4:22)
- FAIRTREE DP WORLD CANNONDALE 1: Kusaselihle Ngidi and Damon Terblanche (2:23:38)
- EXXARO/PEPTO 1: Halalisani Ndebele & William Majapholo (2:31:21 | +7:43)
- EXXARO ACADEMY 3: Siyabonga Ntsele & Gilbert Mathaba (2:33:14 | +9:35)