The talented young Fedauto duo took on the chilly early morning conditions and their competitors alike as they surged to the front of the intimate field from the get-go and soon opened up an unassailable lead over the Dream Team chase pair of Hendrik Bester and Brennan Anderson.
Try as they may, Amanzimtoti’s Bester and Anderson were powerless in preventing Kokstad’s Zellhuber and Bloemfontein’s Fourie from improving their lead at the front of the field the longer the opening stage went on.
“We’re really chuffed with our stage win,” explained Zellhuber. “It was pretty cold at the start so we decided to try get away from the others quite early on, get out of sight and then give ourselves a chance to recover, which worked well for us.”
“Fortunately, with both of us coming from cold places, we’re quite used to the cold and the legs felt really good throughout,” added Fourie. “Once we knew we were quite safe then we were able to ease up a bit as we tried to save some energy for tomorrow.”
The youngsters – former National MTB Series age group rivals yet good friends off the bike – started the day eager to stamp their authority of the event ahead of Saturday’s grueling climb up the iconic Sani Pass.
“We tried to find as many hills as possible to train on in the build up to the Fedauto Sani Dragon but I don’t anything could have prepared us for what we’re in for,” said Zellhuber. “Almost twenty kilometres of climbing and a 1360 metres gain in altitude is going to hurt no matter what!”
“We’ll just have to see how the legs feel in the morning and then decide how hard we look to push at the start of the second stage so that we make sure we have enough for the climb up Sani Pass,” chimed Fourie.
Bester and Anderson followed Fedauto’s overnight leaders home while Mielie & Wood’s Carel le Roux and Grant Underwood finished the day in third place.
In the women’s category Drop Off Daisies’ Sarah Matcher and Riallette Kruger opened a comfortable lead over Pic n Mix’s Elma York and Estie Potgieter while Cleats & Cleavage’s Retha and Gertjie Harmse, 50 Shades of Grey’s Roger and Elizabeth Clark as well as Team Peas’ Grant Cowen and Lee MacPherson top the mixed double standings ahead of Saturday second and final stage.
Stage one’s win in the Sani Dragon’s popular solo category went the way of Grant Lavers who, together with the day’s second place finisher Theo Jordaan, enjoyed much of opening encounter in the company of Dream Team’s Bester and Anderson.
Lavers ultimately finished three minutes ahead of Jordaan while Grant Langley finished in third place a further fourteen minutes back.
Miroda Otto enjoyed a strong day through the district of Underberg, Himeville and surrounds to be the first solo female rider welcomed home with Yvette Roberts and Annelize Gouws finishing second and third respectively.
Winning ways continued in the Zellhuber family as Sani Dragon leader Reinhard’s younger brother, Heinrich and his Fedauto/Russell White partner Ethan Kemp were the first Sani Dragon Lite team to the finish.
Gregg McDonagh and Shareen Snyman go into Saturday’s second stage leading the Sani Dragon Lite men’s and women’s solo charges respectively after solid opening stage performances.
Saturday’s second stage gets underway at 06h30 with Sani Dragon competitors set to take on the event’s major drawcard – the climb up Sani Pass – while the Sani Dragon Lite riders will head for the South African Border Post at the bottom of the pass.
More information found at www.sanidragon.co.za.
1.Fedauto (Reinhard Zellhuber/Marc Fourie) 2:21.00
2.Dream Team (Hendrik Bester/Brennan Anderson) 2:23.00
3.Mielie & Wood (Carel le Roux/Grant Underwood) 2:42.00
4.Mortimer Toyota (Chris van der Linde/Rowan Bernstein) 2:48.00
5.In It To Finish It (Ian Sayer/Andrew Glover) 2:56.00
1.Drop Off Daisies (Sarah Matcher/Rialette Kruger) 3:25.00
2.Pic n Mix (Elma York/Estie Potgieter) 4:25.00
1.Cleats & Cleavage (Retha Harmse/Gertjie Harmse) 3:32.00
2.50 Shades of Grey (Roger Clark/Elizabeth Clark) 3:54.00
3.Team Peas (Grant Cowen/Lee MacPherson) 4:26.00
1.Grant Lavers 2:23.00
2.Theo Jordaan 2:26.00
3.Grant Langley 2:40.00
1.Miroda Otto 2:53.00
2.Yvette Roberts 2:59.00
3.Annelize Gouws 3:23.00
SANI DRAGON LITE
1.Fedauto/Russell White (Heinrich Zellhuber/Ethan Kemp) 1:55.00
1.Gregg McDonagh 1:46.00
1.Shareen Snyman 2:33.00