Tankwa Trek Prologue Mastered by Ghosts and Pygas

The prologue of the Tankwa Trek is meant to be a short, sharp look at what's to come. Boy, are we in for fireworks!

Tankwa Trek |

The 2023 Momentum Medical Scheme Tankwa Trek, presented by Biogen, got underway in the Koue Bokkeveld with a fast-paced 30 kilometre route that set the scene for the four days of racing to come. PYGA Euro Steel took the stage in a sprint. Ghost Factory Racing were the victors in the women’s race, with the Cappuccino team rolling across the line ahead of their Flat White squad-mates. 

Matt Beers, of Toyota Specialized, drove the tempo from the off in the men’s race, splitting the field asunder. The Bull Heroes, Urs Huber and Simon Schneller, were early casualties to the pace; as they struggled with the blazing afternoon heat. KMC’s Tim Smeenge and Teus Ruijter were also in trouble early, as Smeenge suffered a puncture within the opening kilometre of the race. 

Arno du Toit and his Insect Science Pro teammate, Keagan Bontekoning, were fourth on the opening stage. Photo by Oakpics.com.

At the front of the race Beers’ split drew Alex Miller, Philip Buys, Pieter du Toit, Marco Joubert and Tristan Nortje away. Just 20 seconds back, Gert Heyns, of Valley Electrical Titan Racing, was pulling a chase group which had his teammate, Matthew Keyser, the Insect Science Pro team, KMC MTB Racing Team Men and Team Bulls Mavericks in it. After 20 kilometres of flat out racing the groups came back together. 

“The start was quite hard, Matt [Beers] went to the front and sort of caught people by surprise a bit,” Buys reflected. “Three teams got away initially then it felt like it slowed down a bit and the others re-joined us. But then towards the end it all broke loose and things became really shattered. Just as we were trying to make a move for the front Alex [Miller]’s chain dropped, which basically left him with a three kilometre sprint.”

The pace was ferocious from the off with Imbuko {type}DEV, PYGA Euro Steel and Toyota Specialized driving the tempo in the early kilometres. Photo by Oakpics.com.

With the teams racing through the final singletrack the PYGA Euro Steel team managed to regain contact with the group and somehow Miller fought his way back into a position from which to contest the sprint against the Imbuko {type}DEV combination of Du Toit and Joubert. “I sort of wanted to tell him we should rather leave it and not fight for second or third,” Buys added. “But Alex really dug deep and he managed to get by Pieter [du Toit] just, just, to take the win.” 

Alex Miller (left) outsprinted Pieter du Toit (right), to take the victory on the opening stage of the 2023 Momentum Medical Scheme Tankwa Trek, presented by Biogen, for PYGA Euro Steel. Photo by Oakpics.com.

Buys and Miller’s margin of victory was less than a second over Imbuko {type}DEV. Behind them the riders from each team crossed the line in a rag-tag line of individuals. This meant that the KMC MTB Racing Team Men, David Nordemann and Mārtiņš Blūms, were able to secure third, ahead of Arno du Toit and Keagan Bontekoning, of Insect Science Pro, and the Toyota Specialized team. The gap between first and fifth on the general classification, after 30 of the race’s 270 kilometres, is just 20 seconds. 

In the women’s race the top two teams were nearly as close on the overall standings after the opening day as the top two men’s teams. Though the racing was less fierce between them. Ghost Factory Racing’s teams, Cappuccino and Flat White, put their cross-country pace to work on the punchy opening day. 

Ghost Factory Racing (from left to right): Nicole Koller and Anne Terpstra (Cappuccino) plus Isla Short and Caroline Bohe (Flat White). Photo by Oakpics.com.

“Initially we were with three or four other teams,” Isla Short, of Ghost Factory Racing Flat White, explained. “Then Nicole [Koller] drilled it on the front and we just hung in behind her, which allowed the four of us to ride away from the rest of the field. It was really fun out there, but so loose and dry; which I’m not really used to. But it runs super-fast, so that’s really fun.” 

Having established a lead, the Ghost Factory Racing teams were able to maintain their advantage without going to deep, a fact that Anne Terpstra was very happy about. “It’s going to be a tough race and conserving energy is going to be important. Knowing when to push and when to take it a little easier is going to be really important,” the Dutch star said. 

Ghost Factory Racing’s Cappuccino and Flat White teams raced the stage together, before Nicole Koller (leading) and Anne Terpstra (second from the front) took line honours. Photo by Oakpics.com.

With Koller having done the lion’s share of the work the line honours went to the Ghost Factory Racing Cappuccino team, ahead of Short and Caroline Bohe of the Flat White combination. 2 seconds separate the leading two teams, with Efficient Insure Infiniti’s Amy Wakefield and Samantha Sanders in third 1 minute and 23 seconds back. She Untamed, Sarah Hill and Elrika Harmzen-Pretorius, were fourth, ahead of the KMC MTB Racing Team Women, Janika Loiv and Yana Belomoina. 

These time gaps will almost certainly stretch on Stage 2, as the race takes on the fabled Witzenberg Valley. 88 kilometres with 1 700 meters of climbing await in a valley where the singletrack are famously technical. The racing action gets underway at 06:30 and another hot day is expected in the Bokkeveld. 

Mountain biking fans can follow @tankwatrek on Twitter for updates from the race, or watch along on the @tankwatrek Instagram and Tankwa Trek Facebook stories. Race highlights and photo galleries will also be posted to Instagram and Facebook later in the day. 

Results: 2023 Momentum Medical Scheme Tankwa Trek, presented by Biogen

Stage 1 | Elite Men:

1. PYGA Euro Steel: Philip Buys & Alex Miller (1:04:54)

2. Imbuko {type}DEV: Marco Joubert & Pieter du Toit (same time)

3. KMC MTB 1: David Nordemann & Martins Blums (1:05:00 | +06)

4. Insect Science 1: Keagan Bontekoning & Arno du Toit (1:05:11 | +17)

5. Toyota Specialized: Matt Beers & Tristan Nortje (1:05:14 | +20)

Stage 1 | Elite Women:

1. Ghost Factory Cappuccino: Anne Terpstra & Nicole Koller (1:16:23)

2. Ghost Factory Flat White: Isla Short & Caroline Bohe (1:16:25 | +02)

3. Efficient Insure Infiniti: Amy Wakefield & Samantha Sanders (1:17:46 | +1:23)

4. #SheUntamed: Sarah Hill & Elrika Harmzen-Pretorius (1:18:09 | +1:46)

5. KMC MTB: Janika Loiv & Yana Belomoina (1:18:20 | +1:57)

For more information visit www.tankwatrek.co.za. 

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