IN what will be remembered as the closest dice ever over six days of mountain bike stage racing, Ludwig Malherbe and Almero Barnard of South Africa piped Namibia's Jacques Tattersall and Archie Graham to the finishing line on Friday morning in Swakopmund to win the gruelling second Windhoek Lager Namib Quest MTB Challenge.
The duo set a blistering pace over six days and covered the 480 km in 19 hours, 39 minutes and 33 seconds, a mere 1 minute and 8 seconds ahead of Tattersall and Graham.
Namibia's evergreen Zoe Mitchell and Astrid Helm made up for the narrow loss of their fellow countrymen in the elite men's race by winning the women's event in 26:54:45. Vera Adrian, Namibia's elite national women's champion, teamed up with the highly talented Christo Swartz of Windhoek to win the mixed team event in a quick time of 22:28:33 and cross the finishing line in fourth spot overall. The Namibian team of Charmaine Shannon and Monika Grossmann was the second women's team home in 28:51:04.
Paddy Murphy (50) was the oldest competitor and he and team mate Stefan van Doorn put up a solid performance to take third place overall in 22:25:29.
The only American team consisting of Jessi Stensland and Luis Vergas put ip a brave performance but could not keep up with the pace setters and had to settle for eleventh place overall in a time of 33:19:38.
Organizers Tinus Hansen and Russell Paschke of African Extreme Promotions were delighted with the stiff competition and the exciting racing over six days. 'The Quest was full of highlights, but the second last stage stood out. It was decided over a 61 km stretch in the form of a time trial, and turned out to be most exciting. Tattersall and Graham had a tremendous dice with leaders Malherbe and Geldenhuys. The Namibians won the stage, but only just and after Barnard had to struggle all the way with a deflating rear wheel that he had to tend to six times. It was exhilarating racing,' they concluded.
The two women's teams from South Africa found the Namibiaan terrain harsh and unforgiving and Helene Wigget and Wilmarie Jacobs and Heidi Niewoudt and Natalie Hayward had to be content with 13th and 14th spots overall in times of 36:31:14 and 33:19:38 respectively.
The second Namib Quest once again proved that it has the potential to become one of the most sought-after stage races in the world with growing interest from America, Southern Africa and Europe.