Croeser claims maiden Karkloof crown as Neethling cruises to women’s title

Kargo Pro MTB Team’s Rourke Croeser produced the strongest display at the 2014 Sappi Karkloof Classic as he held off the rest of the field to claim his maiden victory in the 60km marathon event with Time Freight VELOLife’s Candice Neethling cruising to a comfortable win in the ladies race at the Karkloof Country Club on Sunday.

The riders were greeted to some gloomy weather at the start but as soon as they left the valley they were bathed in sunshine as Croeser and Trek SA’s Brendon Davids made an early break but following a technical glitch to Davids’ bike Croeser took the outright lead and never looked back despite not feeling on top of his game.

“Funnily enough I didn't have the greatest of legs today but I really, really wanted to win,” a satisfied Croeser said. “Myself and Brendon got away fairly early on and then Brendon got a puncture at the top of the major climb and I managed to get around him and get to the end.

“Our team needed a big result, I needed a big result and I was just happy to get the win. It gives me great confidence as I leave for the European leg of our World Cup tour and I am looking forward to the rest of the season,” Croeser mentioned confidently.

It was Cannondale Blend’s Darren Lill who claimed the second place on the podium in his first outing to the Sappi Karkloof Classic and after battling through some sections he managed to hold off the chasing bunch to claim the silver medal for the men’s event.

It was a ruthless sprint down the long finish straight for the third position and ultimately it was Team Jeep’s Julian Jessop who outsprinted TIB Insurance's Andrew Hill and Kargo Pro Team rider Travis Walker to take the final place on the podium.

The women’s race was also fairly one-sided with Time Freight VELOlife rider Candice Neethling’s single track skills proving to be the difference as she opened up a fairly substantial gap over defending champion USN/Hi-TEC’s Jeannie Dreyer.

“I am really stoked, it was one of the best routes I have done! It was quite a lot harder than I thought with all the climbing and I was suffering on the last one called ‘The Pressure Cooker’ but the single track in between that made it so enjoyable,” Neethling said happily.

Neethling put her victory down to a superior ability on the single track as she used her skills from Cross Country riding to gain a lead over Dreyer who was always a threat on the climbs. “The single track skill is what set us apart I think, I was actually behind her on the first climb and I could see her going up ‘Lebanon’ and I was just hoping that there would be more single track! It helps to have that skill, it’s free speed and I used it.”

The Sappi Karkloof Classic was a qualifying event for the UCI Rainbow Challenge.

Summary of results – Sappi 60km Karkloof Classic

Overall

  1. Rourke Croeser 02:37:29
  2. Darren Lill 02:40:42
  3. Julian Jessop 02:41:53
  4. Andrew Hill 02:42:04
  5. Travis Walker 02:42:14
  6. Stuart Marais 02:43:47
  7. Waylon Woolcock 02:47:19
  8. Brendon Davids 02:52:10
  9. Bradley Stroberg 02:52:40
  10. Brand du Plessis 02:53:18

Women

  1. Candice Neethling 03:04.12
  2. Jeannie Dreyer 03:10:09
  3. Ashleigh Moffatt 03:18:00
  4. Natalie Bergstrom 03:21:57
  5. Frankie du Toit 03:24:42

Photo:Anthony Grote/Gameplan Media

Source: Sappi Karkloof Classic press release