Great send-off for PE to Plett race

John Harvey

THOUSANDS of people lined the streets of Port Elizabeth on Saturday for the start of the inaugural Investec PE to Plett mountain bike race.

The event, which began at Shark Rock Pier and will end at Central Beach in Plettenberg Bay tomorrow, has drawn more than 400 riders, who will cover a distance of 368km, taking in breathtaking scenary along the Sunshine Coast and Garden Route.

Race organiser Mike Glover said yesterday he had been "absolutely stoked" with the turnout on Saturday, and was thrilled with how the event had been going to date.

"It was wonderful to see all the people of Port Elizabeth coming out on Saturday. It was like the crowds we see for the Ironman."

As the riders concluded the second stage yesterday – through Kabeljous, Jeffreys Bay and Paradise Beach to St Francis Bay and the Brakkeduine Resort – it was the Western Cape-based pair of Louis Knipe and Gerhard Heyns (Team Contego) who led the field in the men's event.

Close on their heels were Port Elizabeth riders Francois Geldenhuys and Conrad Viljoen.

In the women's race, Red Cherry riders Ischen Stopforth and Robyn de Groot set the early pace through Saturday's first leg to Gamtoos and continued to dominate yesterday, while in the mixed section Jezhua Muller and Andrea von Holt appeared to have matters well in hand.

"We are very excited about Monday's section, what we have called '52 Shades of Green', which will take the riders through lush farmland in the Tsistsikamma area. Today [Sunday] has been a bit easier, but tomorrow the riders will have to cover a distance of 103km."

Glover said he was overwhelmed by how the race had already been received, and applauded Investec for showing faith in the initiative by signing a five-year headline sponsorship agreement.