Fairtree Capital’s Jennie Stenerhag started the 2020 mountain biking season in the best possible way on Saturday, 18 January. She overcame a formidable elite women’s field to win the Momentum Health Attakwas Extreme presented by Biogen. Depth of competition and the famously difficult course were made more challenging by the unseasonal weather.
In the women’s race Stenerhag made the racing from the first serious climb of the day. The Swedish marathon champion distanced her fellow elite women at the 30-kilometre mark and only Robyn de Groot could bridge across to her. “My chain had dropped just before that climb and when I saw Jennie [Stenerhag] going I knew I had to put in an effort. I started the climb at the back of the group but dug deep to catch her over the summit” De Groot recounted.
“I had hoped that Barbara [Benko] or Yolande [de Villiers] would come with me. But it wasn’t to be. So, Jennie and I pushed on. We raced together for two and a half seasons so we know each other really well” De Groot added. The dormakaba rider was the first women over the Queen of the Mountain climb into the Attakwaskloof, followed closely by Stenerhag.
The Fairtree Capital and dormakaba riders remained together until the finishing straight. “I’ve lost out in a sprint here before” Stenerhag said, reliving the heat-ach of 2019. “Last year I was coming back from an injury and didn’t contest the turn into the cement stripped descent into Pine Creek Resort as fiercely as I could have. This year I made sure to get onto that section first and around the penultimate corner in the lead. Then it was just about keeping the inside line and once I rounded the final bend to kick with everything I had.”
“I’ve tried to win this race 8 times now” Stenerhag smiled. “Each time before this year I’ve come up short, so that makes the victory all the sweeter.” Stenerhag’s winning time was 5 hours, 54 minutes and 23 seconds. De Groot crossed the finish line a single second later. Hungarian cross-country champion Barbara Benko was third, completing the podium in her Momentum Health Attakwas Exreme presented by Biogen debut.
Further back in the field there were big smiles, despite the rain. As the afternoon wore on the precipitation fell with increased intensity and each rider across the Pine Creek Resort finish line was muddier than the last. “One thing you can be guaranteed of at the Atttakwas is that it will be extreme” said Oliver Munnik, who finished in forty sixth position overall.
“Revered for heat, the 2020 edition started the decade off with uncharacteristically cool weather which gave way to drizzle and a stiff breeze” Munnik continued. “Initially the wind was a tail wind before swinging to a lactic acid inducing head wind for the final 50 kilometres. The wet conditions did not dampen our spirits however and the camaraderie was awesome, with everyone suffering together. The challenges of the Momentum Health Attakwas Extreme presented by Biogen made the Spur burger at the finish line, in Groot Brak, better than ever. It is one of those races which hurts at the time, but which you have to come back to every year.”
Momentum Health Attakwas Extreme presented by Biogen | Results:
Jennie Stenerhag, Fairtree Capital (5:54:23)
Robyn de Groot, dormakaba (5:54:24 | +00:01)
Barbara Benko, Ghost Factory Racing (6:03:48 | +09:24)
Yolande de Villiers, Mad Macs (6:07:08 | +12:45)
Laura Stark, TB Werner (6:26:52 | +32:29)
Matt Beers, NAD Pro MTB (4:59:25)
Matthys Beukes, PYGA Euro Steel (5:06:26 | +07:01)
Wessel Botha, NAD Pro MTB (5:08:06 | +08:41)
Michael Olsson, Allerbike (5:10:19 | +10:54)
Gert Heyns, DSV Pro Cycling (5:11:20 | +11:55)
For the full results please visit www.atta.co.za.