Stage 5, a 93km trek from Wellington to Boschendal Wine Estate in Stellenbosch, was no different for the leading African team at the race. Earlier on in the day, Woolcock had sealant and tyre issues, while on the last climb Lill suffered yet another puncture. Still, they remained calm to finish in ninth on the day, in 4:16.58,2. The chasing African team of Gawie Combrinck and Nico Bell (NAD Pro MTB) finished approximately five minutes later in 13th position for the stage.
With five big climbs on the day and a rugged descent towards the finish, Stage 5 was a potentially hazardous day for those with general classification and special jersey ambitions. Lill and Woolcock, though, negotiated the terrain, and upset stomachs, to inch closer to the African Absa special jersey.
“We were not 100 percent today,” said Lill, “but we kept it smooth and kept are eyes on the main goal. The punctures have been annoying, and it would be nice to ride for a day without stopping, but that’s the Epic for you.”
Both Lill and Woolcock found the climbs to be smoother than on previous stages of the 2016 event, so they weren’t duly stressed by the route. “It was the most climbing, for sure,” said Lill, “but the smoother surfaces suited us.”
The South African duo came into this year’s event determined to take home the Absa African Special Jersey, and with two stages to go, it’s almost mission accomplished.
“The red jersey was always the goal,” said Lill. “We came to the Epic for that jersey and we’re pleased with the way our race has gone. The Epic is a race that really trashes you, but if we achieve what we came for, it will be worth it.”
2016 Stage 5 Absa African
1. USN Purefit 7-1 Darren Lill (South Africa) 7-2 Waylon Woolcock (South Africa) 4:16.58,2
2. NAD Pro MTB 8-1 Gawie Combrinck (South Africa) 8-2 Nico Bell (South Africa) 4:21.54,6 +4.56,4
3. Kargo Pro 23-1 Andrew Warr (South Africa) 23-2 Marco Joubert (South Africa) 4:24.30,0 +7.31,8
1. USN Purefit 7-1 Darren Lill (South Africa) 7-2 Waylon Woolcock (South Africa) 22:22.47,2
2. NAD Pro MTB 8-1 Gawie Combrinck (South Africa) 8-2 Nico Bell (South Africa) 22:44.14,7 +21.27,5
3. Rwanda 21-1 Nathan Byukusenge (Rwanda) 21-2 Thinus Redelinghuys (South Africa) 24:14.10,5 +1:51.23,3
4. Imbuko-Freewheel Cycology 25-1 Christopher Wolhuter (South Africa) 25-2 Craig Boyes (South Africa) 24:15.10,3 +1:52.23,1
5. GoPro 30-1 Oliver Munnik (South Africa) 30-2 Matthew Beers (South Africa) 24:30.56,0 +2:08.08,8
6. William Simpson A 33-1 Michael Posthumus (South Africa) 33-2 Derrin Smith (South Africa) 24:34.33,5 +2:11.46,3
7. Britehouse Biogen 24-1 Carl Pasio (South Africa) 24-2 Charles Keey (South Africa) 24:42.42,1 +2:19.54,9
8. White Inc 61-1 Adrian Enthoven (South Africa) 61-2 Nic White (South Africa) 24:44.52,4 +2:22.05,2
9. Kargo Pro 23-1 Andrew Warr (South Africa) 23-2 Marco Joubert (South Africa) 24:52.35,5 +2:29.48,3
10. NFB - Spine & Sport 32-1 Craig Uria (South Africa) 32-2 Andrew Duvenage (South Africa) 24:59.16,9 +2:36.29,7