This was the second consecutive weekend that Bell was victorious. Last weekend he and Max Knox won the Sani2C stage race.
Bell’s winning time for the 70 km race was 2 hours 18 minutes and 56 seconds. Neil MacDonald (RE:CM) was second in 2:18:57 and Gawie Combrinck (Westvaal/Bell Cycles) third in 2:18:58.
Matthew Brittain (USN), Olympic gold medallist in rowing, nearly caused a major upset. He was 4th, only three seconds behind Bell.
The Olympic rower was quite modest about his performance.
“What an awesome race. I cannot believe that I almost crossed the line with some of the best riders. It was a real privilege to be able to stay with them during most of the race.”
According to Brittain, the constant attacks that were launched throughout the race by Bell and Combrinck, got to him in the end.
“As a rower that is something I am not used to.”
Brittain was full of praise for the Nissan TrailSeeker route.
“I did not realize that there were still such amazing mountain-bike trails almost in the suburbs of Pretoria.”
Brittain’s mountain-bike exploits have been one of the revelations of the season so far.
Partnering with Rob Dormehl he finished 6th overall in the nine-day Joburg2C mountain-bike tour.
Another good result was when he finished 3rd in the first race of the Burry Stander Memorial series.
What made that performance even more special was that, on the eve of the race, Brittain asked his girlfriend, Alicia Enslin, to marry him.
When she answered ‘Yes’ it naturally became quite a late night for the two of them, but that did not deter him from being competitive on his mountain bike the next day.
Brittain is quick to point out that he has no plans to become a full-time mountain biker.
“I only took up mountain biking because of a serious back problem. The doctors advised me to take a year’s break from rowing to give the injury enough time to heal.
“Apparently mountain biking is a good form of rehabilitation and I will admit that I am thoroughly enjoying myself at the moment.
“But as soon as I get the go ahead from my doctor, I will be back on the water and working hard to be included in the team that will compete in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.”
Bell and Combrinck impressed with the way in which they worked together to dominate the race.
One of them was constantly launching an attack. It paid off, because after the second climb only MacDonald and Brittain were still able to keep up with them. This led to a checkmate situation.
At that stage MacDonald and Brittain had to keep their wits about them to prevent the two Westvaal/Bell Cycles riders from riding away from them.
It seems as if Bell and Combrinck are turning the Nissan TrailSeeker’s Curro Hazeldean race into their personal event.
Last year Combrinck won and now Bell is the champion.
Combrinck is not upset about missing out on a second victory.
“It is still in the ‘family’, therefore it is OK.”
With her victory in the women’s marathon, Lise Olivier proved that road cycling’s loss is mountain biking’s gain.
Although Olivier is considered by many to be a certain candidate for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, a lack of funding and sponsorships forced her to abandon her Olympic dream.
Last year she finished fourth overall, as well as second in two of the stages, in one of the major international women’s cycling tours in France.
She now only competes in the odd mountain-bike race.
“It is really a disappointment for me not to be able to race as a professional road cyclist anymore, but there is nothing to be done about it.
“I had fun racing the Nissan TrailSeeker race and will probably compete in more of the events.”
OIivier’s winning time was 2:37:47. Christine Janse van Rensburg was second in 2:39:20 and Nicci Grobler third.