The 33.1km long Stage 1 of the 2017 Dryland Traverse saw the 270 trail runners take on a route with 1 480 meters of climbing, of which 1 000 meters came within the opening 7km. After the heat of Thursday afternoon Dryland Event Management decided to shift the starting time earlier to spare the slower runners some of the expected mid-30 degree heat predicted for Friday afternoon.
The climbing started within 100m of the start line and soon it was only the top three men’s teams and the leading solo runner, Michael Bester, able to carry on running when the gradient steepened. The Oudtshoorn 1 team of Gershwill Jacobs & Ettiene Plaatjies set the pace with John April & Francois Massaqua, of Oudtshoorn 2, for much of the climb. Though even they were forced to conserve energy and hike the steepest sections. Once on the plateau, at 1 500m above sea level, the climbing eased from brutal to gradual undulations and the Oudtshoorn teams could exploit their road running pedigree to distance the Team Sabrina Love duo, Robert Rorich & Timothy Chambers, along with Bester.
“We were running as a team, the four of us. But John (April) said Francois Massaqua was suffering a little bit so we must just go. And from there we just pushed” Plaatjies explained after winning the stage alongside Jacobs. The Oudtshoorn 1 combination raced down the Swartberg Pass to extend their lead from 5 minutes at the top to 13 minutes by the finish line at Kobus se Gat. They completed the stage in an impressive time of 2 hours, 57 minutes and 37 seconds, at an average pace of 05:21min/km.
Despite struggling in the heat Massqua hung to April’s heels to secure second position on the stage for Oudtshoorn 2. Rorich and Chambers followed them in to complete the men’s team podium on the day. The leading solo man over the finish line was Michael Bester in a time of 3 hours and 19 minutes. The most impressive run of the day was that of the leading solo woman, Annalise Scholtz. Scholtz was the 11th runner across the line, in total, and the 5th solo runner when she stopped the clock at 3 hours 39 minutes and 17 seconds for the 33.1km course.
The fastest mixed category team through the stage was the Less Bunny More Gazelle team of Chris Walley and Danette Smith, while the Twinzees – Claire van der Nest & Lindi Georgiou – were the fastest women’s team.
Saturday’s Stage 2 is a 23km route with 890m of climbing. The stage features a large ratio of jeep track which should make the average pace faster than it was on the technical Stage 1.
Results | Stage 1:
Results | General Classification after Stage 1:
For all the results from the 2017 Dryland Traverse click here.