The winners of the Old Mutual joBerg2c had been decided on day eight of the nine day, 900km ride from Heidelberg to Scottburgh.
In the men’s category it was Phil Buys and Matthys Beukes (PYGA Euro Steel) who rode away victorious, while in the competitive Lanham-Love Mixed Category Darren and Candice Lill (dormakaba) defended their 2016 title with a commanding display of mountain biking. That meant everyone in the 750-strong field could wake up stress-free on day nine and enjoy the Old Mutual Wealth (Champagne) Stage to the maximum.
The final day’s ride was an 80km neutral stage from Jolivet in Highflats to Scottburgh. That start was a rolling start, so riders had the hour between 7 and 8am to get on their bikes and aim for the coast. After eight days of serious racing, the field was eager to get going and promptly raced off as the clock struck seven, but the winning teams used the opportunity to lie in and only rolled off just before 8am.
The idea of the ‘champagne” stage was to let riders enjoy their final moments at the Old Mutual joBerg2c without the worry of missing a cut-off, and to let them enjoy their last night in a joBerg2c race village. Most participants took advantage of the race’s day 8 finish and partied long into the night in Jolivet before stumbling back to tents beneath impressive macadamia trees.
The joBerg2c’s official craft beer partner, Nottingham Road Brewery, did a roaring trade, and many riders started the champagne stage with Pickled Pig Porter or Tipsy Tiger IPA beer breath. Men’s champs Matthys Beukes and Phil Buys also took time to mingle with the evening revellers, further enhancing their reputations as likeable winners.
With nothing left to race for, the Lills, Buys, Beukes and other top riders like Grant Usher, Nico Bell, Gawie Combrinck and Amy Beth McDougall all took the opportunity on day 9 to ride in the middle of the bunch, cruising to the finish later than they normally would.
Day 9 was all about celebrating South Africa and the unique nature of the joBerg2c, the ride that takes people from all over the world all over South Africa’s beautiful countryside. All riders crossed the line elated, thrilled that they had achieved something life changing. Every rider was also presented with a special joBerg2c bottle of champagne.
“This was a fantastic nine days,” said Erik Ramstad of Norway, after completing his 900km cycle. “I give it a 15 out of 10. Every stage was incredible. The day 8 ride was painful but we can’t complain, it was a marvellous experience. This was the first time I have been in South Africa for more than a few days, and it was an amazing way to see the country. I have lots of cycling friends at home, so I think next year you will see lots of Norwegians at the joBerg2c!”
The winner of the solo women’s category, Siska Van Der Bijl, also enjoyed her nine day ride. “This is a tough race, make no mistake, but it was a great nine days of riding. It’s hard to pinpoint a particular highlight, because the earlier days seem so far away! But if I had to choose, I would go for the drop down to the Umkomaas on day 8, or day 4 from Sterkfontein to Em’seni, or just the way the scenery changes every day at this event. Overall, this is an awesome event. I’ve done a lot of them, but this has been one of the best.”
Regular participant, Free State potato farmer and day 3 trail builder for the joBerg2c, Oupa Tshabalala, was happy to see the sea, and thrilled with his performance for the nine days.
“It was brilliant,” said Tshabalala. “It’s almost unbelievable that we started 9 days ago in Heidelberg and that today is day 9 and we are now at the sea.”
After thinking about it for a moment, he added, “Wow, what a ride, what an experience. It’s tough, hey. There are some long days at the joBerg2c; but the main thing of joBerg2c is the great team spirit. Everybody, from the riders to the water tables to the organisers, is just so happy to see you and wants to help you cross the finish line. It’s an incredible event.”