Team Spur’s James Reid is riding as an Outcast after teammate Gert Heyns withdrew with illness during Stage 1, and now Team Telkom’s Johann Rabie is also going solo thanks to Hendrik Kruger pulling out on Stage 2.

That leaves USN Purefit’s Lill and Waylon Woolcock to battle it out with Combrinck and Bell over the remaining five stages for the coveted red jersey, and the bragging rights of being Africa’s best at the Absa Cape Epic.

Going into Stage 2 USN Purefit held an almost nine-minute lead over NAD Pro MTB in the Absa African special jersey. However, Combrinck and Bell took advantage of Lill’s misfortune to cut the lead to around five minutes.

Liil and Woolcock, though, have been in great shape over the first three days of the Absa Cape Epic, and will be hard to dislodge from the red jersey pole position.

“Things were going great today,” said Lill, “until my chain snapped. At that stage we were in the lead group and feeling strong. The repairs only cost us a few minutes, but after the stop we lost our momentum.”

Darren Lill [L] and Waylon Woolcock [R] during stage 2 of the 2016 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race from Saronsberg Wine Estate in Tulbagh, South Africa on the 15th March 2016. Photo by Sam Clark/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

Lill and Woolcock’s strategy thereafter was to ride within themselves and not push too hard to catch the front bunch again. “We didn’t want to take too many risks. The trick in these situations is to stay calm and assess the rest of the ride, which is what we did.”

Like most riders on the day, Lill confirmed that the course was rough “all over” and technically challenging in parts. “The last descent before the finish was really rough, and after a full day of that riding you really feel it in the lower back. We took it easy and just made sure we got home in one piece.”

Tomorrow, riders will leave Saronsberg Wine Estate in Tulbagh and make a 104km journey to Wellington.