Travis Barrett and Carla Oberholzer added a second and third Everything.Insure Berge & Dale title to their respective palmares when the 22nd edition of the event took place in Krugersdorp on February 26.
Cape Town Cycle Tour champion Barrett finished the 109km road race in 2:31:04, with Tiano da Silva and Jaco van Dyk completing the podium.
“I’m extremely happy to have won this weekend’s Berge & Dale,” said Barrett.
“All wins are important, but being able to defend my title after winning the previous edition, which was held in 2020, made this one extra special.”
The 22-year-old said going into the race, being able to defend his title was always in the back of his mind.
“But after a week of racing in Namibia, followed by a hard training week in the days leading up to the event, I wasn’t quite sure how my body would react.
“With that in mind, our team had a few plans to ensure that one of us would end up on the top step of the podium,” said the Honeycomb Pro Cycling rider.
Barrett said the team had quite a lot of depth, in terms of riders with different strengths, so they had a few different strategies and cards to play for different scenarios, depending on how the race played out.
“I decided to roll the dice and try to get in the early breakaway as I did in 2020 and see if it would stick to the finish.
“The race had a shocking resemblance to the 2020 edition in the way things played out. I once again managed to get into the winning breakaway early on, on a fast stretch of road at around the 15km mark (which was exactly what happened in 2020).
“The riders in the break immediately started working well together and quickly established a gap of around one minute.”
He said the group consisted of strong riders, such as Da Silva, Van Dyk, Rohan du Plooy, and Nolan Hoffman which immediately made him confident that the break had the potential to stay away to the finish, especially since most of the big teams had representation.
“I knew from the previous years that if we had a gap of between two to two and a half minutes at the bottom of the biggest climb of the day (Hekpoort) then the chances of staying away were pretty good.
“The breakaway split up on the lower slopes of Hekpoort, and the four of us in front rode a steady pace to the top.
“Jaco and Tiano contested for the KOM competition at the top, but I chose to save matches for the finish.”
Barrett added that in the final 15km the gap to the peloton started to rapidly decrease, but his teammates in that group did an amazing job at controlling it and making sure that there was not any cohesion between the remaining riders, and preventing them from bridging across to them.
“When the three of us at the front of the race passed the 1km to go mark, which was on the steepest section of the final climb, we still had a 30 second gap to the chasing riders, which was when I knew it would be the three of us who would have to sprint for the win.
“In the end, I had the strongest kick out of the three of us, and timed my sprint perfectly.”
The Johannesburg local said Berge & Dale was an event that he had always loved.
“The variety of hilly terrain and flat roads is something different compared to a lot of races we see in Gauteng, which I enjoy.
“The Road Rangers and marshals also did a great job to ensure that we were safe out on the roads.”
For the 35-year-old Oberholzer it was an “amazing race to win”, especially because it had a quality field including the current national road champion Frances Janse van Rensburg.
“The goal was originally to race for my teammate Joanna van de Winkel who is a superb climber.
“But after Hekpoort we realised that we had to change our game plan a bit, and that I had the better chance to win in a sprint against Frances,” said the Clarens resident.
“Jo was amazing and adapted very quickly to the change and executed our plan B to perfection,” said the Sandton City CycleNation rider.
She added that their strategy was to stay cool and calm to the Hekpoort climb (90km) where Van de Winkel and herself would take turns to attack and try to get one of them away.
“Unfortunately, this didn’t work and we had to switch to a scenario where Jo would attack on the steep part of the Sterkies climb (1km to go) forcing Frances and Kelsey [van Schoor] to chase.
“If she got a gap, she would go on to win. If they caught her again it would place me in the perfect position to sprint.
“Jo’s attack got rid of Kelsey and then Frances closed the gap to her (500m to go) and I could sprint off of that.”
Oberholzer finished the race in 3:00:46, with Janse van Rensburg finishing less than a second later. Van de Winkel claimed third.
The weekend also saw a mountain bike event take place on the Sunday, which consisted of two distances.
The 45km men’s race was won by Lenré Coetzee (2:09:08), with Craig Uria second and Ethan Alford third.
Jade Skinner claimed victory in the women’s race (3:22:05), with Gizelde Strauss and Adriana Saayman completing the podium.