Miller and Sanders Crowned King and Queen of the Attakwas Extreme

attakwas
2024 Momentum Medical Scheme Attakwas Extreme, presented by Biogen, men’s podium (from left to right): Wessel Botha, Matt Beers, Alex Miller, Marco Joubert, and Pieter du Toit. Photo by Oakpics.com.

Namibian champion Alex Miller and, former South African marathon champion, Samantha Sanders conquered the Attakwaskloof and temperatures in excess of 40 degrees Celsius to win the 2024 Momentum Medical Scheme Attakwas Extreme, presented by Biogen. The race, which took place on Saturday, 20 January, from Chandelier Game Lodge, near Oudtshoorn, to Pine Creek Resort, in Great Brak River, was war of attrition. The Toyota Specialized man was the form rider throughout the 121 kilometre course, while Efficient Infiniti Insure’s Sanders rode a tactically astute race to win the women’s title.

The Mercury was already dangerously high on Friday afternoon as the nearly 1 000 riders registered to take on the Hell of the South. As a result, Dryland Event Management instituted a mandatory regulation stipulating the minimum volume of fluid riders were allowed to start with. This and the relatively fresh memories of the scorching 2022 edition led to cautious approaches by the elite men and women.

The racing, across the Klein Karoo, in the early morning hours was actually conducted in pleasant temperatures. Yet, nobody was keen to overcommit. As such a large group of men remained together through the first 46 kilometres, to Water Point 2. Only there did the race begin to break up, as they approached the Attakwas Nature Reserve.

“Ruan [Lochner] and the support crew guys were just super-fast on the bottle change,” PYGA Euro Steel’s Pieter du Toit praised. “Leaving the water point I suddenly had a 20 second lead. So, I pushed on to see what could happen.”

The other riders’ slower stop left Du Toit out front on his own, until an elite selection began to make inroads into his lead. “On the climb towards the King of the Mountain hotspot I saw Matt [Beers], Alex [Miller], Marco [Joubert], Wessel [Botha] and Michael [Foster] catching up. Michael then went past so fast! He took the KOM and then exploded pretty soon after the summit,” Du Toit explained.

Through the Attakwaskloof the top five riders, after Foster dropped out of contention, were the two Toyota Specialized men, Miller and Beers, the Imbuko Pro Cycling riders, Joubert and Botha, and the PYGA Euro Steel rider. They remained within touch of each other until Water Point 3, at Bonniedale when Du Toit began to struggle.

“I think Alex was the strongest rider all day,” Joubert noted. “He pushed the pace on the rolling roads after water point 3.” “I felt good and rode a tempo I was comfortable with,” Miller revealed. With Du Toit 2 minutes off the pace, after 90 kilometres of racing Botha slipped out of contention. Joubert was next to drop from the group, but he fought hard to keep Miller and Beers in sight.

For 15 kilometres he kept the Toyota Specialized pair a 40 second advantage, but on the toughest climb in the closing kilometres both Joubert and Beers lost their battle with Miller. The Namibian maintained his tempo on the two steep kicks, while Beers slipped from his wheel. Initially the defending champion conceded 10 metres, then with the next ramp he ceded another 40. Over the summit Miller maintained the pressure and the gap ballooned out to 30 seconds by the final water point.

Miller raced through, grabbing a cup of water to pour over his head to cool himself off. Beers however stopped and doused himself in water, happily handing the leader more time. Joubert, similarly took some time at the water point.

“Even though I knew I had a good lead I was worried in the final kilometres,” Miller confessed. “The last climb was okay, but I was a bit worried on the flat roads. Matt [Beers] is so strong on the flats, so I wasn’t confident until I stared descending to the finish.”

“I’ve done the Momentum Medical Scheme Attakwas Extreme, presented by Biogen, twice and twice I’ve lost in a sprint. So, taking the win this year means a lot. On a new team, on a new bike. It’s a great way to start the year!” Miller smiled.

In the women’s race Sanders was part of an early elite breakaway. She was joined by Italian cross-country specialist Greta Seiwald, Danielle Strydom and defending champion Sarah Hill. “Danielle [Strydom] was surging a bit and setting too fast a tempo,” Hill said, explaining how the women’s field broke apart. “I decided, because of the heat, to rather not go with that group and to ride my own race.”

Strydom climbed to the Queen of the Mountain hotspot but Sanders and Seiwald remained in contact. Through the Attakwaskloof the top three women held their positions, while Hill had some difficult moments. Exiting the kloof Sanders upped the tempo. “My plan had always been to take it easy to Bonniedale and Water Point 3, from there I had intended to push on,” Sanders retold. “I think Danielle spent too many matched on the early climbs and she’ll learn from her first Attakwas experience. Once I took the lead, I could hear Greta [Seiwald] was breathing harder than me, on my wheel.”

The pressure told on the Rockrider Ford star, who was making her marathon racing debut. “It’s my first ever XCM,” Seiwald laughed. “Now I know why you call it the Hell of the South. It was hard, but I really enjoyed it!”

Sanders and Seiwald rode in first and second, separated by a steadily increasing margin through the second half of the route. Once in the lead Sanders’ victory was never in doubt. Though the minor podium places underwent late changes. Strydom faded through the last 40 kilometres while Hill regained her rhythm to finish strong, in third. Kelsey van Schoor ran out of road to reel Strydom in, and had to be content with fifth, 3 minutes off Strydom in fourth.

The Momentum Medical Scheme Attakwas Extreme, presented by Biogen, also has fiercely contested age category competitions. Alexander Lawrence was the fastest of the Open Men, Damian van As won the Sub-Veteran Men’s, Michael Postumus was the first age grouper home, in twenty third overall to win the Veteran Men’s category. Fanie Venter was the first of the Master’s Men and William Aymes was the Grand Master’s champion. The Veteran Women’s winner was Chantelle Bosch, Nicky Botes won the Master’s Women division, and Colleen Jacobs was crowned queen of the Women’s Grand Master’s category.

In the shorter distance races, Eden Cycling’s talented young riders contested for age category positions. The 47 kilometre “Half” route saw Samuel Cleary and Ilandrie Du Plessis win the Junior Men’s and Women’s (17-18 years) categories, while Dean Woolley and Rachelle Botha were victorious in the Youth Boys and Girls (15-16 years) races. Nico Van Nysschen and Lara Van Der Vyver were the Junior Boys and Girls (13-14 years) competitions in the 32 kilometre “Mini”.

2024 Momentum Medical Scheme Attakwas Extreme, presented by Biogen, Results:

Men:

1. Alex Miller: Toyota Specialized (4:49:22)

2. Matt Beers: Toyota Specialized (4:51:47 | +2:25)

3. Marco Joubert: Imbuko Pro Cycling (4:53:58 | +4:36)

4. Wessel Botha: Imbuko Pro Cycling (4:58:34 | +9:12)

5. Pieter du Toit: PYGA Euro Steel (5:03:04 | +13:42)

Women:

1. Samantha Sanders: Efficient Infiniti Insure (6:05:32)

2. Greta Seiwald: Rockrider Ford (6:11:58 | +6:26)

3. Sarah Hill: Complete Cyclist (6:40:08 | +34:36)

4. Danielle Strydom: Efficient Infiniti Insure (6:46:32 | +41:00)

5. Kelsey van Schoor: Pirtek Cube (6:49:48 | +44:16)

For the full results from the 2024 Momentum Medical Scheme Attakwas Extreme, presented by Biogen, click here or visit www.atta.co.za for more information.