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Stefan Sahm of Team Bulls, leads the front pack during the first half of Stage 2 of the DUTOIT Tankwa Trek on Saturday. Sahm went on to win the stage overall and extend his lead in the Solo men's division. // Photo credit: www.oakpics.com

From the beginning of the 89km stage, which started in cool conditions, the pace was rapid and the atmosphere combative and, while it may have broken the spirits of most of the 600-strong field, the 20km long Merino Monster climb, and subsequent descent, proved to be the deciding factor in the stage wins of the racing categories.

Erik Kleinhans and James Reid (Team RECM) managed to win their second successive stage and extend their overall lead in the Men’s Team division with one stage remaining. But they were two minutes behind the first rider home, Germany’s three-time Cape Epic winner, Stefan Sahm (Team Bulls), who is competing in – and dominating – the Solo men’s category.

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Robyn de Groot gives Ascendis Health teammate, Jennie Stenerhag a push on the way up the Merino Monster mountain ascent during Stage 2 of the DUTOIT Tankwa Trek on Saturday. The pair went on to win the stage and extend their overall lead. // Photo credit: www.oakpics.com

The first women home were once again the Ascendis Health pair of Robyn de Groot and Jennie Stenerhag, while the first Solo woman was Great Britain’s Catherine Williamson (Asrin Cycling). The top mixed pair was Asrin Cycling’s Candice Neethling and Craig Boyes. All were repeat winners so have now extended their respective General Classification leads with Sunday’s final leg to come.

“Erik was once again super strong today. He put the pressure on the rest from the start and it was a relentless pace,” explained Team RECM's James Reid.

Nearest rivals Waylon Woolcock and Darren Lill (Red-E Blend) suffered an early setback when a thorn bush became tangled in Woolcock’s rear wheel on the first long descent. They lost two-and-a-half minutes and had to chase hard to rejoin the leaders.

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The battle for supremacy on the climb up the Merino Monster on Stage 2 of the DUTOIT Tankwa Trek was between the Red-E Blend pair of Darren Lill and Waylon Woolcock, the Team RECM pair of Erik Kleinhans and James Reid and Team Bulls' Stefan Sahm. // Photo credit: www.oakpics.com

“We were ahead with Stefan (Sahm) by the time we reached the big climb. Then about half way up Waylon and Darren caught us and actually put in an attack!” recalled Reid.

But the five riders soon regrouped and Kleinhans surged near the top to claim the cash prize for the first rider to the summit. Sahm, Kleinhans and Reid relished the almost 10km long, technical descent, putting time into the less-skilled descenders, Woolcock and Lill. They managed to stay clear until the finish, with Sahm charging ahead to secure the overall stage win.

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Riders tackle an early climb during Stage 2 of the DUTOIT Tankwa Trek on Saturday.// Photo credit: www.oakpics.com

Lourens Luus and Adriaan Louw (Contego) finished third in the men’s team category, just over three minutes adrift of runners up, Woolcock and Lill.

In the women’s race, the two top teams, Ascendis Health’s De Groot and Stenerhag and RECM’s Ariane Kleinhans and Cherise Stander, traded blows throughout the first half of the race. They reached the big climb at 50km together but De Groot and Stenerhag proved too strong for Kleinhans and Stander on the steep slope that gained over 1000 metres of altitude in just 20km.

“It was tougher than I expected,” said De Groot. “We didn’t have a huge lead but we knew that if we kept the pressure high on the big climb we might be able to pull clear of them. It worked out well. We were a bit cautious on the long, technical descent, but we’d rather risk them catching us than crashing or having a mechanical,” explained De Groot.

But the Ascendis Health pair held onto their lead, crossing the finish line just over a minute ahead of RECM. Third place went to Yolande de Villiers and Bianca Haw (Sasol Racing).

In the Mixed division, Candice Neethling and Craig Boyes (Asrin Cycling) secured the win by just over five minutes from Yolandi du Toit and Michael Posthumus (Garmin), with Sasol Racing’s Johan Labuschagne and Leandri du Toit rounding out the podium places.

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The leading women's team's, RECM and Ascendis Health, rode another closely matched stage during Stage 2 of the DUTOIT Tankwa Trek on Saturday. // Photo credit: www.oakpics.com

Sunday’s final stage is over a total distance of 87km. The first 26km will be a neutral zone, which means the actual stage distance is only 61km. Expect fast, intense racing on a route that’s got a high percentage of singletrack.

For live race updates, follow @TankwaTrek on twitter. The stage proper will start at 08h15 on Sunday.

DUTOIT TANKWA TREK 2015

Stage 2 – leading results:

Team Men

1 James Reid (RSA) / Erik Kleinhans (RSA) Team RECM 3:53:33

2 Darren Lill (RSA) / Waylon Woolcock (RSA) Red-E Blend 3:55:04

3 Lourens Luus (RSA) / Adriaan Louw (RSA) Contego 3:58:17

4 Gawie Combrinck (RSA) / Johann Rabie (RSA) EAI Cycling 4:03:31

5 Nico Pfitzenmaier (GER) / Robert Sim (RSA) Dorma Robert Daniel 4:18:21

Solo Men

1 Stefan Sahm (GER) Team Bulls 3:51:14

2 Tyronne White (RSA) 4:00:41

3 Timo Cooper (RSA) 4:08:18

4 Ben Melt Swanepoel (RSA) 4:12:42

5 Derrin Smith (RSA) 4:12:42

Team Women

1 Robyn de Groot (RSA) / Jennier Stennerhag (SWE) Ascendis Health 4:30:12

2 Cherise Stander (RSA) / Ariane Kleinhans (SUI) Team RECM 4:31:31

3 Yolande de Villiers (RSA) / Bianca Haw (RSA) Sasol Racing 4:52:35

4 Ann Harrison (RSA) / Marleen Lourens (RSA) Dawn Wing Momsen 5:20:29

5 Nina Hind (RSA) / Kathy Crabbe (RSA) Fruit Sizers 6:32:11

Solo Women

1 Catherine Williamson 4:37:50

2 Christine Jansen van Rensburg (RSA) 4:51:58

3 Cherie Vaile (RSA) 4:58:55

4 Jane Seggie (RSA) 5:15:51

5 Monica Glover (RSA) 5:34:59

Team Mixed

1 Candice Neethling (RSA) / Craig Boyes (RSA) Asrin Cycling 4:36:10

2 Yolandi du Toit (RSA) / Michael Posthumus (RSA) Garmin 4:41:15

3 Leana de Jager (RSA) /Johan Labuschagne (RSA) Sasol Racing 4:48:07

4 Carmen Buchacher (RSA) / Allan Cox (RSA) VSL Mixed 5:04:50

5 Joanne Bentley (RSA) / Craig McKune (RSA) Stynky Lynxes 5:42:25

General Classification after Stage 2

Team Men

1 James Reid (RSA) / Erik Kleinhans (RSA) Team RECM 7:13:55

2 Darren Lill (RSA) / Waylon Woolcock (RSA) Red-E Blend 7:19:31

3 Lourens Luus (RSA) / Adriaan Louw (RSA) Contego 7:27:12

4 Gawie Combrinck (RSA) / Johann Rabie (RSA) EAI Cycling 7:35:56

5 Hanco Kachelhoffer (RSA) / Chris Wolhuter (RSA) Altech Autopage 7:56:09

Solo Men

1 Stefan Sahm (GER) Team Bulls 7:11:40

2 Tyronne White (RSA) 7:35:41

3 Timo Cooper (RSA) 7:39:53

4 Ben Melt Swanepoel (RSA) 7:44:28

5 Derrin Smith (RSA) 7:57:57

Team Women

1 Robyn de Groot (RSA) / Jennier Stennerhag (SWE) Ascendis Health 8:22:30

2 Cherise Stander (RSA) / Ariane Kleinhans (SUI) Team RECM 8:26:40

3 Yolande de Villiers (RSA) / Bianca Haw (RSA) Sasol Racing 8:54:37

4 Ann Harrison (RSA) / Marleen Lourens (RSA) Dawn Wing Momsen 9:56:07

5 Nina Hind (RSA) / Kathy Crabbe (RSA) Fruit Sizers 12:06:59

Solo Women

1 Catherine Williamson (Asrin Cycling) 8:41:26

2 Christine Jansen van Rensburg (RSA) 9:10:39

3 Cherie Vale (RSA) 9:11:50

4 Jane Seggie (RSA) 9:46:33

4 Monica Glover (RSA) 10:19:02

Team Mixed

1 Candice Neethling (RSA) / Craig Boyes (RSA) Asrin Cycling 8:34:03

2 Yolandi du Toit (RSA) / Michael Posthumus (RSA) Garmin 8:45:44

3 Leana de Jager (RSA) /Johan Labuschagne (RSA) Sasol Racing 9:08:34

4 Carmen Buchacher (RSA) / Allan Cox (RSA) VSL Mixed 9:20:29

5 Joanne Bentley (RSA) / Craig McKune (RSA) Stynky Lynxes 10:26:32