Mariske Strauss and Candice Lill made use of their cross-country skills to distance their rivals for the stage and general classification honours. Photo by ZC Marketing Consulting.

Mariske Strauss and Candice Lill started the day 37 seconds behind the overnight leaders, Jennie Stenerhag and Nadine Rieder. The Faces CST team thus had to go on the offensive early on. After pushing the pace in the first singletrack they made the race winning break in the famous Houdenbek trails.

“We pushed hard to get into the Houdenbek singletracks first” Lill explained. “Then we could control the pace and rely upon our cross-country punch and skills to get a gap on the rest of the women’s field. At the second water point Darren [Lill] told us we had a 50 second lead. The next time we saw him it was two minutes. But we just kept pushing, because I remembered puncturing in the last 10 kilometres of the stage, here, in 2018.”

The UCI women’s field ensured the 2020 Momentum Medical Scheme Tanwka Trek presented by Biogen was fiercely contested until the final stage. Photo by ZC Marketing Consulting.

Faces CST’s stage win – in a time of 3 hours, 25 minutes and 32 seconds – was enough to secure them the overall victory by 2 minutes and 14 seconds. “Taking the win is really important” Lill continued. “It secures us both a good few UCI points which will help towards our Olympic qualification bid. Part of the plan behind Mariske [strauss] and myself teaming up was to work towards securing two Olympic slots for South Africa.”

Candice Lill and Mariske Strauss, of Faces CST, celebrate with the women’s trophy. Photo by ZC Marketing Consulting.

Jennie Stenerhag and Nadine Rieder had to be content with second position on the stage and on the final general classification standings. They would reflect on untimely punctures, which ultimately cost them dearly on Stages 1 and 3. “Mariske and Candice were the strongest riders today” Stenerhag graciously allowed. “They are deserved winners.”

Robyn de Groot and Adelheid Morath finished third on the stage and rounded out the final overall podium. “Once we saw that we could not catch Faces CST or Fairtree, today, we slacked off” De Groot recounted. “The season is long and while we learnt a lot from the Momentum Medical Scheme Tankwa Trek presented by Biogen we recognised that our energy could be better spent later in the year.”

The final UCI women’s General Classification podium. From left to right: Nadine Rieder and Jennie Stenerhag (second), Candice Lill and Mariske Strauss (first) and Robyn de Groot and Adelheid Morath (third). Photo by ZC Marketing Consulting.

In the UCI men’s race, as on Stage 3, there were two battles unfolding simultaneously. The first was for the stage honours. Which were claimed, in dominant fashion by Cannondale Factory Racing’s Manuel Fumic and Henrique Avancini. The German/Brazilian combination blitzed the course in a time of 3 hours and 26 seconds.

Henrique Avancini and Manuel Fumic won the final stage to end their race on a high, for Cannondale Factory Racing. Photo by ZC Marketing Consulting.

The second was for the overall title. That battle once again featured a strong supporting cast performance from the Bulls Youngsters. Martin Frey and Simon Schneller were able to hold Urs Huber and Simon Stiebjahn’s wheels when the Bulls Heroes attacked. Working together the quartet were never at risk of being caught once they had distanced the CST PostNL Bafang team, of Sebastian Fini and David Nordemann.

“Two minutes is not a big advantage” Huber conceded. “So, we decided to race the final stage as if it was any other. It is better to attack than to defend. We were able to get away from CST PostNL Bafang on a climb in the Houdenbek singletracks. The Youngsters were able to come with us and really helped in the sections between the singletracks.”

Urs Huber and Simon Stiebjahn crossed the final finish line of the Momentum Medical Scheme Tankwa Trek presented by Biogen alongside the Bulls Youngsters to claim the 2020 title. Photo by ZC Marketing Consulting.

“It was great crossing the line with them too” Huber added, reflecting on finishing alongside Stiebjahn, Schneller and Frey. “For the whole team it was a fantastic moment. It is great to start the season with a win and it will give us lots of confidence for the races to come.”

Finishing third on the stage – but ahead of Fini and Nordemann, who finished fifth – was enough to extend the Bulls Heroes’ margin of victory to 3 minutes and 32 seconds. CST PostNL Bafang retained their second place overall. While Tristan de Lange, who survived a horror crash on the final stage, completed the overall podium alongside Alexander Miller, for DANSTE/Megatech.

The final UCI men’s General Classification podium. From left to right: Sebastian Fini and David Nordemann (second), Urs Huber and Simon Stiebjahn (first) and Tristan de Lange and Alexander Miller (third). Photo by ZC Marketing Consulting.