The muddied but unbeaten RMB Change a Life Academy duo set a solid tempo as the field of 800 left Heidelberg on the outskirts of Johannesburg and headed towards the Free State border.
Ngcobo and Masango were first onto the floating bridge crossing of the Vaal Dam and maintained that position across the finish line at Wilgerivier High School in Frankfort.
Although the first stage is officially untimed, the pair, who hail from the Valley of a Thousand Hills near Pietermaritzburg, clocked a time of 4:40:22.
They were followed home by Avis Van Rental's Andrew Hill and Tyronne White, with the Altech Autopage Karan Beef team of Pieter Seyffert and Hanco Kachelhoffer third in 4:40:51.
“Today it was our plan to take the stage win because we know the following days are going to be hard! We won't get a chance like this again,” said Masango.
Avis Van Rental mountain bikers Andrew Hill and Tyronne White kicked into high gear as they outsprinted a small lead bunch to claim the second stage of the nine-day Old Mutual joBerg2c through the eastern Free State on Saturday.
Hill and White took the 93km stage from Frankfort to Reitz in a time of 3:26:48, with defending champions Gawie Combrinck and Johann Rabie of EAI Cycling hot on their heels in 3:26:52.
The Altech Autopage Karan Beef pairing of Hanco Kachelhoffer and Pieter Seyffert rounded out the podium in 3:26:57.
The teams occupy the same positions in the general classification after the neutral stage from Heidelberg in Gauteng.
Hill said he and White were happy to take the stage win but that the major contenders in the 900km test of endurance would not be showing their hand too early.
The elites drove the pace on a few of the gradual climbs and had whittled the group down to 14 riders by the first waterpoint on Glen Walton Farm at the 35km mark.
They stayed together over the remainder of the route, including the final 10km stretch of singletrack after the Boerbull Descent and on the short uphill drag leading into the Reitz showgrounds.
Hillcrest-based Hill said he and White, who hails from Ballito, were looking forward to racing their home trails in KwaZulu-Natal in the coming days.
SasolRacing's Yolande de Villiers and British partner Catherine Williamson rode consistently to take the stage win in the women's category in 3:38:28.
Their teammates Leana de Jager and former mixed category winner Johan Labuschagne finished a second behind them for the mixed stage win.
Former elite champion David George and partner Justin Tuck of The Gear Change won the veteran section in 3:27:02, while USN-Cycle Lab masters Chris Brand and Paul Furbank took their category in 3:36:02.
Former roadie Johann Rabie and teammate Gawie Combrinck tore through the open flats and singletrack trails of the eastern Free State to wrest the overall lead on day three of the Old Mutual joBerg2c mountain bike race.
Leaving Reitz, the EAI Cycling duo put the hammer down on the 122km stage - the longest of the nine-day event - to take the win at Sterkfontein Dam near Harrismith in a time of 4:14:05.
Their efforts put the defending champions back at the top of the standings with a combined time of 12:21:19.
Overnight leaders Tyronne White and Andrew Hill of Avis Van Rental finished a distant second on the day in 4:18:09 to slip into the same spot in the general classification in 12:25:19.
The Altech Autopage Karan Beef pairing of Pieter Seyffert and Hanco Kachelhoffer rounded out the day's podium in 4:20:19 to remain third overall in 12:27:38.
After 10km, a large lead bunch had formed, and by the first waterpoint 22km later, it had been whittled down to just the eventual podium finishers and The Gear Change duo of David George and Justin Tuck.
By the second waterpoint at the 58km mark, the four teams had a more than four-minute lead on the chasing riders.
They stayed together and extended the gap to more than six minutes on the riverside Jabulani singletrack around 75km into the stage.
As the major climb of the day, Mount Paul, loomed beyond the final waterpoint, Combrinck and Rabie turned up the heat.
“At the end we still had a bit left in the tank,” said Combrinck.
“And with Johann going super hard in the gutter, we managed to get a gap on everyone else.”
George and Tuck were the first to drop off before the climb started, with Combrinck and Rabie riding away from nearest rivals Kachelhoffer and Seyffert on the ascent.
White and Hill caught up to the latter team on the climb and got away from them on the downhill but it was not enough to catch the leaders.
In the women's race, Catherine Williamson rode hard in the bunches to help secure another stage victory for her and SasolRacing partner Yolande de Villiers in 4:55:46.
The stage win puts them firmly in control of the women's category in 13:14:36.
Overnight leaders Gawie Combrinck and Johann Rabie celebrated Freedom Day by claiming their second stage win on day four of the nine-day Old Mutual joBerg2c mountain bike race on Monday.
Combrinck and Rabie set the tempo on the 121km course from Sterkfontein Dam in the Free State to lead the plunge off the escarpment into KwaZulu-Natal.
The EAI Cycling duo powered into the finish at Winterton Country Club in a time of 4:18:27 to stamp their authority on the race and retain the overall lead in 16:39:46.
The Altech Autopage Karan Beef combination of Hanco Kachelhoffer and Pieter Seyffert rode hard to secure the runner-up spot in 4:19:44 to move up into second in the standings in 16:47:22.
Andrew Hill and Tyronne White of Avis Van Rental were unlucky to puncture twice on the stage. They limped into the finish in 4:22:56 to round out the day's podium and slip into the same position in the general classification in 16:48:15.
Combrinck said the stage had been one of the most exciting of the race so far, with spectacular mountain views as they crossed the provincial border.
As the racing snakes rolled out of the mist-shrouded Sterkfontein resort, Rabie immediately went on the attack, said Combrinck.
The podium finishers, with The Gear Change pairing of David George and Justin Tuck, rolled together as they headed for the edge of the plateau.
Seyffert and White both punctured early on, forcing the two teams to chase back to remain in the break.
The four pairs stayed together until the closing kilometres, when Combrinck and Rabie launched their final attack on Puffadder Pass.
The defending champions broke away over the top of the climb and opened up a gap as Combrinck took the lead into the singletrack.
When Rabie crashed, Hill and White fired up the afterburners to close Combrinck down but they could not narrow the margin.
After his mishap, Rabie rode back up to the Avis riders and was able to bridge over to his partner as the chase continued.
Disaster struck again on the district road when White hit a rock, effectively ending his team's hunt for the stage win.
The KwaZulu-Natal native said the overall time gap was not insurmountable however.
“We know tactically how we can get the better of the other guys, so we'll see what we can do in the coming days.”
There was more drama in the mixed category as leaders Johan Labuschagne and Leana de Jager were forced out of stage contention due to injury.
De Jager crashed heavily around 56km into the route when her pedal clipped an anthill at high speed but managed to complete the stage in 5:08:48.
Despite finishing third on the day, their substantial overnight lead was enough to keep the SasolRacing duo top of the leader board in 18:20:22.
It is unclear whether De Jager will be able to continue the race but the pair are now less than three minutes ahead of stage winners Samantha Sanders and Justin Victor of Valencia Cycling (18:23:08).
Seattle Coffee riders Carmen Buchacher and Billy Stelling, who finished second on the stage, are third overall (18:42:38).
By comparison, De Jager and Labuschagne's squad mates Yolande de Villiers and Catherine Williamson had a near-perfect ride to win in 4:56:09 and tighten their grip on the women's category (18:10:45).
Race leaders Johann Rabie and Gawie Combrinck stamped their authority on the Old Mutual joBerg2c with an unequivocal third stage victory on day five of the nine-day mountain bike race.
The EAI Cycling duo hurtled into the finish at Clifton Preparatory School on Nottingham Road to claim the 112km stage from Winterton in a blistering time of 3:50:01.
Avis Van Rental's Tyronne White and Andrew Hill were the second team to descend out of the surrounding forests and crossed the line in 3:54:55.
After suffering two mechanical setbacks, Pieter Seyffert and Hanco Kachelhoffer of Altech Autopage Karan Beef managed to hold it together to claim the bottom step of the podium in 3:58:34.
Rabie and Combrinck (20:29:47) now have an almost 13-and-a-half-minute overall lead on White and Hill (20:43:10), with Seyffert and Kachelhoffer third in the standings (20:45:56).
The three teams, plus The Gear Change duo of David George and Justin Tuck, rolled together for the first half of the race.
“We went up some of the climbs and saw that the other guys looked like they were suffering while we were still feeling pretty good,” said Rabie.
“So we decided to go a bit harder and see what happens.”
At around the 60km mark, Rabie and Combrinck broke away on the major climb of the day up to Kamberg.
Behind them there was a dice for second place, as Hill and White also got away from Seyffert and Kachelhoffer on the ascent.
In another dominant performance, SasolRacing's Yolande de Villiers and Catherine Williamson tightened their stranglehold on the women's race with an uncontested stage win in 4:23:53 (22:34:38).
With Leana de Jager unable to complete the stage, she and Johan Labuschagne, also of SasolRacing, forfeited their mixed category lead to Samantha Sanders and Justin Victor of Valencia Cycling (23:05:34), who finished second on the day in 4:42:26.
Defending champions Johann Rabie and Gawie Combrinck delivered another workmanlike performance to all but seal their victory on day six of the Old Mutual joBerg2c near Underberg in KwaZulu-Natal on Wednesday.
The EAI Cycling pair took their fourth consecutive stage win on the 97km route from Nottingham Road to Glencairn Farm in the shadow of Sani Pass to extend their overall lead to more than 18 minutes.
Rabie and Combrinck cruised into the finish in a time of 4:17:47, just 38 seconds clear of The Gear Change's David George and Justin Tuck, with Hanco Kachelhoffer and Pieter Seyffert of Altech Autopage Karan Beef third in 4:20:57.
After the mountainous stage, which saw riders ascend Snow Top Mountain - the highest point on the nine-day route - the leaders retained their similarly lofty spot in the standings with an aggregate time of 24:47:34.
Despite crashing heavily, Avis Van Rental's Tyronne White and partner Andrew Hill still managed to place fourth on the stage in 4:22:37 to remain second in the general classification in 25:05:47.
Kachelhoffer and Seyffert round out the overall podium in 25:06:53.
Heavy mist dampened the start of the day's racing from Clifton Preparatory School but after an enforced 10km neutral zone the four teams quickly broke away.
They stayed together as they headed for the foothills of the southern Drakensberg until White crashed with 20km to go on the aptly named Face Plantation stretch.
Their three rival teams initially sat up but then decided to make the most of White and Hill's misfortunes as they headed up the last technical climb on the Red Bull Run.
Rabie lifted the pace on the ascent to shake Kachelhoffer and Seyffert before the final two-team chase towards the finish.
In the mixed category, overnight leaders Samantha Sanders and Justin Victor rode hard all day to catch Billy Stelling and Carmen Buchacher of Seattle Coffee with two kilometres to go.
The Valencia Cycling duo took the stage win in 5:01:06 for an overall time of 28:06:40, which translates into a lead of more than five minutes.
Women's race leaders Catherine Williamson and Yolande de Villiers of SasolRacing lost valuable time after the first waterpoint when Williamson suffered a sidewall puncture.
But they recovered well to claim the stage win in 5:04:24 to remain safely ahead on 27:39:02.
It was a battle of the former roadies as Hanco Kachelhoffer and Pieter Seyffert outsprinted their rivals to take the stage win on day seven of the Old Mutual joBerg2c mountain bike race on Thursday.
The Altech Autopage Karan Beef pair hung on in a tight run into the finish at MacKenzie Club near Ixopo to claim the win over 79km in 2:58:09.
Multiple national time-trial champion David George and teammate Justin Tuck of The Gear Change were second on the day in 2:58:13, while race leaders Johann Rabie and Gawie Combrinck of EAI Cycling came in for third a further second back.
Rabie and Combrinck now take a commanding 19-minute lead (27:45:48) into the penultimate stage of the 900km race.
Kachelhoffer and Seyffert move into second overall (28:05:02) in the absence of overnight runners-up Tyronne White and Andrew Hill. The Avis Van Rental duo was forced out of the race after White sustained a knee injury in a crash on Wednesday.
Third place in the general classification now belongs to George and Tuck (28:10:51).
"This stage is always so fast and I think everyone looks forward to seeing how fast they can go on the flowing singletracks, so we knew it would come down to a bunch sprint," said Kachelhoffer.
"Luckily, today Pieter and I had good legs into the finish."
In the other racing categories, some leads changed hands while others extended their already substantial time gaps.
There was an upset in the mixed category as Seattle Coffee's Billy Stelling and Carmen Buchacher stormed through the singletrack trails ahead of overnight leaders, an under-the-weather Samantha Sanders and teammate Justin Victor of Valencia Cycling.
Stelling and Buchacher finished first on the stage in 3:09:49 to slip into the overall lead in 31:21:43 - a full five-and-a-half minutes ahead of Sanders and Victor.
"I rode with the second group through the Oak Lane dual track and my plan had been to wait for Carmen and give her a hand up the hill on the Red Bull Run," said Stelling.
"But then she came out in front and just rode brilliantly. We were just aiming to consolidate second but she rode so well today that the race is on again."
Former downhill racer Victor said he and Sanders were particularly strong on the technical sections and would be looking to take the lead back on the Umkomaas descent on Friday.
Women's race leaders Catherine Williamson and Yolande de Villiers continued their total domination of their category, with a seventh straight win for SasolRacing in 3:17:16 (30:56:18).
The City Lodge vets and masters categories remain unchanged with HiddenHunger's David de Lima and Sean Henderson topping the former in 3:16:25 (31:11:26) and USN-Cycle Lab's Chris Brand and Paul Furbank claiming the latter in 3:15:16 (30:09:23).
In the dice for the solo category, Timothy Hammond and Nico Pfitzenmaier were awarded the same time of 2:58:36 on the stage to keep Hammond in the overall lead (28:29:41).
Solo woman Paula Hardy kept top spot in the standings (34:24:39) with the stage win in 3:49:48.
Day eight of the nine-day race sees riders descend over 2 163m into the Umkomaas River Valley as they take on the 99km route to Jolivet Farm in the vicinity of Highflats in KwaZulu-Natal.
For the full results and all the highlights from the daily stages, delivered by Avis Van Rental, visit www.joberg2c.co.za. For updates, follow @joberg2c_journo or find the race on Facebook.
Original source: joBerg2c mountain bike race update