The two-day mountain biking race sees five top university teams competing in outfits of three, with Maties sending out an early signal of their intention to retain their titles.
After Tristan de Lange and Rinus Maarsingh, supported by Jacques Lloyd led the men’s team home in 2:08:17, their female colleagues Frances du Toit and Nicky Giliomee, with Marie Kempf as their third rider, built a four-minute cushion in the women’s category.
The women’s team from Pretoria were second in 2:42:40, with North-West a distant third in 2:49:42.
While they controlled the First National Bank-sponsored race from the outset, Du Toit said she had seldom experienced such gusty conditions as the wind picked up on Du Toitskloof Pass.
“You would come around a corner and literally stop dead, so that made it quite tough,” said the U23 national cross-country champion.
“But we managed to get a lead about 2km into the race, so we were by ourselves for the whole stage.”
The Maties men’s team were followed home by University of Cape Town, who registered a time of 2:09:31, with the University of Pretoria completing the podium in 2:13:01.
De Lange said they were delighted with their performance on the hilly 50km route that started at Nederburg and finished at the same venue after taking the field through the Drakenstein mountains.
“The course was rough and loose in places and the wind hectic. On top of that, the downhills were technically challenging,” he said.
Stressing the fact that their strategy was to stay together for as long as possible, he said they were confident ahead of tomorrow’s final stage.
“These races can be unpredictable in terms of how you feel, so it’s mainly a matter of working together and then deciding who is the strongest. From there, we make a call on the best strategy to follow for that stage.”
Tomorrow’s stage will take place over 58km with 1 600m of climbing towards Wellington.