A muddy course and perfect conditions for mountain biking made for a brilliant day of cycling at the first major sporting event of this year’s Pick n Pay Knysna Oyster Festival. The Momentum Knysna Cycle Tour kicked off with four MTB events – 80km, 50km, 30km and 15km.
The 80km event was won by Gert Heyns in 2:53:59. Second was Knysna home boy Matt Beers in 3:01:00 and third was HB Kruger in 3:03:19.
First female home and ninth overall was Robyn de Groot in 3:25:14 with Candice Lill a split second behind her. Third was Sarah Hill in 3:25:35.
Gert Heyns said it was “quite muddy out there today but not too cold, so in the end it was actually good riding conditions. The last 20km was quite a lot of puddles and you could feel the gears grinding a bit but it didn’t really affect the race.”
Heyns and Beers made a breakaway early in the race and stayed together but Beers admits he did not have the gas to stay with Heyns.
Says Beers: “It was super muddy. It was actually a lot worse than previous years. Obviously, the forest is always quite damp but was a good race. We set a hard pace from the beginning. Gert and I got away up Simola and stayed away the whole rest of the race. We were attacking each other all day and just on the last climb he attacked again… he had the stronger legs today and he took it.”
Says Heyns: “I knew that the finish was quite fast and it’s quite hard to get away. Last year I came second with a sprint against Matt so I was quite confident that if I couldn’t get away for the finish I should still be able to take the sprint. I felt quite good today and I think about 10km out on the last little climb I attacked.”
Robyn de Groot said that she didn’t realise it had rained so much overnight. “It was muddy out there! But it actually made for really nice racing; it wasn’t too slippery – it was actually perfect.”
It was an extremely close finish for the Elite women. Says de Groot: “I was lying in third place most of the way and caught Candice with about 20km to go, or maybe even less, and then we rode together and sprinted for the finish. I was happy with that.”
A mud-spattered Carel Bosman, head of sponsorship at Momentum said after his 50km race: “Rain overnight was exactly what mountain bikers are looking for. It was a little wet, a little bit slippery, but this part of the word is sublime for mountain biking and today was just absolutely perfect,” he enthused. “To have this type of weather today and tomorrow for the Road Races is a real blessing because there’s some colder weather coming in on Monday.”
Bosman said that the town of Knysna had taken a massive knock with the fires last year. “For Momentum to be part of the rebuilding process is a great privilege. The people here are still rebuilding mentally and financially, and the Pick n Pay Knysna Oyster Festival brings an economic boost to Knysna. It’s great to be part of that and make some sort of contribution.”
Race Director Elwin Thompson of Knysna Rotary thanked the sponsors, particularly Momentum, as well as the cyclists. “The sponsors and riders make it possible to have this event every year and their support and participation is what enables Rotary to do so much good work in the Knysna area,” he said.
Tomorrow sees the Momentum Knysna Cycle Tour Road Races, the Forest Family Dam Ride and the SPUR Children’s Tour.