African champion scores big in Addo

RECENTLY crowned under-23 African cross-country champion James Reid showed his continental class when he soloed to victory in the 80km Extreme mountain bike challenge at The Herald VW Cycle Tour in Addo on Saturday.

Reid, sporting the green and gold band of his national XCO champion's jersey, broke away from nearest rival Gert Heyns with 18km to go to take an uncontested victory in 3 hours, 3 minutes, 16 seconds.

Heyns (ASG-Pinarello) trailed him home in 3:06:08, with Darren Lill (Cannondale-Blend) a further five minutes back in 3:11:25.

In the women's race, Reid's girlfriend Candice Neethling (Velo Life) completed a hat-trick of wins in 3:44:27. Siska van der Bijl claimed the runner-up spot in 3:58:07, with Port Elizabeth's Andrea von Holdt (Merrell) a distant third in 4:09:26.

The pro field got off to a cautious start on the gravel farm roads but it was Reid (21) and Heyns (20) who turned up the heat on the first stretch of single-track 20km into the race.

The young riders opened a gap on the technical Hayterdale section, where Reid earned his SA title in July.

"Gert and I really sent it on the national series course. He's really quick and a super strong rider," Reid said.

With a lead of a few seconds over the chasing group, it was down to a two-man race for the king of the mountains title on top of the Zuurberg Pass.

Heyns took Reid to the line but proved to be the stronger climber on the day.

"After that, we got into the top single- track with a lead of about 20 seconds but from there we saved where the rest spent," Reid said.

That set the pattern for the remainder of the race and by the 50km mark Reid and Heyns had opened up a full three-minute lead on nearest challengers Lill and Kevin Evans (FedGroup-Itec Connect).

"Towards the end, Gert was struggling a bit, so I punched it hard on a short uphill and managed to ride away. Then it was just an epic solo to the finish."

The Cape Town resident was full of praise for what he termed "a proper mountain bike course".

"There's lots of short punchy stuff, not miles and miles of district road. You're out there on the single-track with the cows and elephants. It's hard – you've really got to dig deep."

Young PE-based pro Marco Joubert (Kargo Pro) claimed victory in the 60km Adventure.

Hedwig Lemmer won the women's race.

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