It was a day that started in icy cold conditions. After another great evening at the legendary Ramabanta Trading Post lodge, everyone was eager to get one their bikes and take on the gruelling 69 km journey all the way to Malealea. The 2016 race boasts the biggest number of entries since the Lesotho Sky started. Eleven nations are represented in this year’s event.
The favourites in the elite mens category are the German/RSA paring of Daniel Gathof and Renay Goustra, as well as local MTB hero Phetetso Monese partnering with South African Stuart Marais. The riders from the ACE-The Sufferfest-Lesotho-MTB-Team team are always strong contenders and will definitely be regulars on the podium as the week progress.
In the elite ladies Cherie Redecker and Mariske Strauss teamed up for OMX Pro. Ila Stow and Marianne Bergli rides for Team SEICA. Lesotho’s first pro ladies rider Likeleli Masitise partnered with Botswana nationality Ebudilwe Masitise.
The stage was set for a tight finish. Team Gathof/Goustra and the Vodacom Lesotho duo Phetetso/Marais stayed together up until waterpoint two. With 33 km to go until the finish line, Phetetso Monese ran out of legs and hit the proverbial wall. This gave Gathof and Goustra just enough encouragement to step on the gas. Careful not to overcook a long distance attack, they were able to build a solid lead of 9 minutes of the pair.
“The day play into our advantage. We planned a late attack towards the end of the stage, but after the last waterpont, we were able to ride our own pace and still take win.” – Renay Goustra
Struggling over the last kilometers, Team Vodacom Lesotho was chased down, in stellar fashion, by Khantsi Makhebesela and Teboho Paseka. The two are riding for Team Standard Lesotho Bank, one of the top Lesotho teams. They showed their class today and rode a very clever race. The race leaders will surely be watching over their shoulders with these two following close by.
In the elite ladies, Cherie and Mariske of Team OMX Pro cruised to victory, with a 6th overall position.
The big days are yet to come and with the tough terrains of each stage, anything can happen.