It was a hard-fought win for the pair as they had to battle against some of the country’s strongest two-man teams and challenging terrain in what turned into an ideal build-up race for next month’s ABSA Cape Epic, the world’s most prestigious mountain bike stage in the same region.

Luus (21) and Woolcock (30) gained the overall lead late on Saturday’s Stage 2, which they then successfully defended on Sunday’s final stage. Second overall was the Cannondale Blend Properties pair of Darren Lill and Charles Keey with Oliver Munnik and Timo Cooper (GT Bridge Momsen) rounding out the podium places.

“We were half a minute off Lill and Keey after Stage 1 and on Stage 2 we knew they’d be giving it everything on the big climb that the race organisers dubbed the Merino Monster. We were right and we managed to stay with them to the summit. They’re strong climbers so it was pretty tough,” recalled Woolcock.

The Merino Monster incorporates 25km of ascent, but not all constant. The toughest part is an eight-kilometre section with a 12% gradient, which is where the race split properly, effectively turning it a two-team contest.

On the rough nine-kilometre descent that followed, Woolcock and Luus took some risks to open up a lead, which turned out to be the race-deciding move.

“Lill pretty much stayed with us, but Keey wasn’t as confident on the descent. At the bottom, with about 15km to the finish on district gravel roads, Lourens and I turned ourselves inside out and managed to win the stage and take the overall lead, which we then defended with some cautious riding today,” said Woolcock.

Hanlie Booyens and Ischen Stopforth, both experienced stage racers, teamed up to win the Women’s title, while Billy Stelling and his British teammate, Jane Neussli (BMC/Market on the Wharf) claimed the Mixed title. In the Solo division, Nico Pfitzenmaier (Bridge Momsen) secured the men’s crown, while Yolande de Villiers (Toyota Supercycling) claimed the women’s title.

“What an amazing event!” said Woolcock. “Besides spectacular race routes, the accommodation and catering were superb. Actually, that’s the best catering I’ve experienced at any bicycle race. I think this is going to become a really sought after race.”

"The Tankwa Trek is a fantastic event. I loved the singletrack on Stage 3 especially. It's a very good preparation race for the Cape Epic from a conditions perspective and the timing is spot-on," said Nussli, who will tackle the 2013 edition of the Cape Epic with Esther Suss to challenge for the women's category title.

“With just under 100 riders, we had a relatively small field, but that suited us for the first event,” said Carel Herholdt of Dryland Events, the organisers.“It was still a high quality field that experienced a new, challenging, late-summer stage race through amazing scenery, just over two hours drive from Cape Town.”

Tankwa Trek 2013

Final General Classification after Stage 3

Men Teams:

1 Lourens Luus/Waylon Woolcock (RE:CM) 10:05:05

2 Charles Keey/Darren Lill (Cannondale Blend) 10:06:28

3 Oliver Munnik/Timo Cooper (GT Bridge Momsen) 10:22:45

4 Hannes Hanekom/SakkieHanekom (Welgemeen Boerdery) 10:49:16

5 Jandri Ferreira/Bennie Pretorius (Cornerstone Cycles) 11:51:06

Women Teams:

1 Ischen Stopforth/Hanlie Booyens (Hanlie & Ischen) 12:25:08

2 Eulogy Du Plessis/Maritza Terblanche (Cycle Lab Tours) 15:52:00

3 Kathy Crabbe/Wendy Potgieter (Abbvie Girls) 16:06:45

Mixed Teams:

1 Jane Nuessli/Billy Stelling (BMC Market on the Wharf) 11:22:30

2 Craig Gerber/Jennie Stenerhag (Newline Focus) 11:55:47

3 Katerina Slegrova/James Chevallier (Cycle Training Ladies) 13:23:24

Solo Male:

1 Nico Pfitzenmaier 10:25:22

2 Abraao Azevedo 10:25:25

3 Robert Sim 10:57:01

Solo Female:

1 Yolande De Villiers 12:01:14

2 Ann Harrison 12:41:02

3 Amanda Brooks 13:36:11

For full General Classification and daily stage results, visit www.tankwatrek.co.za

The scenic Ceres region gave the riders unparalleled beauty during the three days of racing at the 2013 Tankwa Trek.

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The Nikon Onesight team of Tyrone Rawlins (front) and Craig Kolesky negotiate a rock-face descent during the Tankwa Trek.

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Just over two-hour's drive from Cape Town, the Ceres region offers a remarkable variety of terrain, which made for a stimulating Tankwa Trek race route.

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Former Cape Epic winner, Hanlie Booyens (front) and Ischen Stopforth won the women's team category at the inaugural Tankwa Trek.

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Race Director, Henco Rademeyer leads the riders to the official start of Stage 3 of the Tankwa Trek.

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Team RE:CM's Lourens Luus negotiates singletrack with a difference through the sandstone rock formations on Stage 3 of the Tankwa Trek.

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Former Cape Epic winner, Yolande de Villiers, claimed the overall title in the Solo Women's category at the Tankwa Trek.

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Cannondale Blend's Charles Keey is framed by the massive sandstone rock through which a large section of the Tankwa Trek's Stage 3 passed.

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First-year professional, Lourens Luus, continued to impress by being the first over the summit of the massive Merino Monster climb on Stage 2. Here he leads RE:CM teammate, Waylon Woolcock (obscured) and eventual Solo Male category winner, Nico Pfitzenmaier of Germany.

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Solo Men's category racer, Charl du Plessis, concentrates on the trail ahead as he passes through the sandstone rock section on Stage 3 of the Tankwa Trek.

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Riders were stunned by the high percentage of stimulating singletrack during the inaugural Tankwa Trek.

Photo credit: www.oakpics.com