Enduren Athletes - Ben-Melt & Yolandi both win at Garmin MTB Classic!
Yolandi joined Garmin in 2013 and has become synonymous with the brand. I joined her as a brand ambassador in 2015 and in 2016 I graduated to full Garmin colours when we formed Team Garmin MTB. Ever since then we have been competing as a team under the auspices of Garmin, providing us with the perfect platform to share our passion for cycling. This might not seem like a long time, but in sporting terms it may as well be an eternity. It is not often one gets a world leading brand like Garmin showing such faith in, and loyalty to individuals and we are proud to be some of the athletes they choose to support.
With all this as background you can imagine how much it means to us when Garmin sees fit to organise a mountain bike event and instead of us visiting the office, the office comes to us! It was really cool to see the whole gang come out to support the inaugural Garmin MTB Classic this past Saturday. Some took part in the race, some worked on the sidelines, but we all enjoyed a hugely successful first running of the event.
To get as many people as possible to join in the fun and make the race really accessible, the entry fee was a mere R50 with the excess being subsidised by Garmin. So for the same money you would normally spend on entry at a bike park, you got entry to the race complete with goodie bag and all the other regular trimmings of a Velocourse organized event.
The one factor no one can control is weather and as luck would have it a big storm blew in on Friday night and we feared the worst. Luckily just enough rain fell to turn the dusty trails into ‘hero dirt’ making a really fun course even more enjoyable. The cool temperatures might have had a few fans shivering in the early hours, but it was perfect for cyclists who worked up a sweat criss-crossing the Big Red Barn trails.
Team Garmin was seeded at the head of affairs and we did all we could to maintain our positions as the race started 7:30am sharp. Not knowing who was behind or what might happen out on course Yolandi pushed hard all the way around the 55km course, ultimately winning the ladies race in a time of 2h17min.
Constant pressure on the front of the race soon dwindled the leading pack to a trio of riders in the opening 15km. Jan Withaar punctured in the most unfortunate of circumstances leaving me to do battle with Kyle Brummer for the win. I got away from him with a bout 20km left to race and went on to record a very proud double win for Team Garmin MTB in ‘our’ race.
Last week we said how nice it was to be part of the inaugural running of an event, so you can imagine the pride we felt competing in and taking the spoils at the first ever Garmin MTB Classic. We couldn’t ask for more and even the sun came out as we spent the rest of the day hanging out with everyone that came to support the event. It was really cool to see Garmin’s vision for the event unfold as friends and families united around a bike race making for a fun day out for everyone!
Bank Gabarone Quest
The inaugural Bank Gaborone Quest was held this past weekend and Team Garmin MTB packed our bags and headed to Botswana for our first ‘international event’ of 2019 ;) Granted, it’s only a car drive away but it sure feels adventurous crossing the border to get to a bike race.
Two stages of about 60km each awaited us in and around Gaborone, the capitol of Botswana. The typically flat terrain was fun to ride but as a race course it presented its own challenge requiring constant pressure on the pedals to stay in the game. Straying from the abundant singletrack was at your own risk with plenty of thorns lying in wait meaning equipment, skill and a bit of luck was crucial. Although there were a few sandy patches (aka Botswana hills), the trails flowed very nicely considering we were at the back end of a dry winter.
The race is called a ‘Quest’ and with good reason... The route was very well marked with little green markers, but following them while racing flat out proved quite a challenge. As soon as you lost concentration you would miss a turn requiring only a small correction, but a big effort to get back up to speed. After a while it became apparent that the best way was to stay calm and focus rather than go for the all out, guns blazing approach. Following the locals who knew the trails and using the markers as confirmation also helped a lot.
Talking about locals, Tim Hammond was on fire leading from the front. Like last weekend, Melt and Tim rode together for most of the way on both days but Tim proved stronger powering away at the end of each stage to win both stages and the overall with Melt in second on both days and on the General Classification.
I made life difficult for myself by missing a turn on day 1 and inadvertently following the green markers from another race. Luckily I could use my Garmin 1030 to get back on the correct route and chased back to the leaders. I managed to win both stages and the overall in the ladies category completing a successful weekend for Team Garmin.
Apart from the racing the event offered a variety of entertainment with bands playing live music, Dylan Victor wowing the crowd with his trials riding, an assortment of food stalls and a kid’s play park. It is not often a 2 day stage race is hosted in and around a country’s capitol making off the bike activities all the more important to keep non riders and fans engaged.
The icing on the cake for us was being hosted by the local Garmin distributor and race organiser. They took us into their homes and looked after us like we were VIP’s making it very hard to head home after 2 days of fantastic hospitality.
Being part of the inaugural edition of any event is special as it becomes the reference point for all that follows. We look forward to growing with this event and being back in Botswana soon for another Team Garmin adventure!
Next up is our very own Garmin MTB Classic to be held this Saturday at the Big Red Barn in Midrand. If you can, come and join in all the family fun!
Team Garmin saddled up for the 230km Trans Baviaans this past weekend. Like last year Yolandi teamed up with her dad for the journey from Willowmore to Jeffrey’s Bay through the Baviaanskloof (canyon). All around nice guy, multiple former champion and record holder at the event Tim Hammond accepted my invitation and we finally got our opportunity to team up for an event. As if riding 230km off road wasn’t hard enough we faced stiff competition from Team DSV’s Gert Heyns & Arno du Toit as well as the William Simpson pairing of Mike Posthumus and Derrin Smith.
Weather conditions were perfect in the aftermath of a cold front with bright blue skies, cool temperatures and a light tailwind blowing us steadily South East towards the coast.
Learning from the mistakes they made last year Yolandi and her dad rode conservatively in the flat, opening 100km saving energy for the second half of the event. Unfortunately luck wasn’t on their side and barely halfway into the race an injury her dad sustained in a crash the week prior to the event started flaring up forcing him to pedal with just one leg. To add insult to injury the pain medication he took had an adverse effect on his stomach making him extremely nauseous. Luckily blood is thicker than water (and everything else he couldn’t keep down) and Yolandi nursed him home in 12 hours 30 minutes. In my opinion stories of camaraderie like this embody an ultra-marathon event and are the main reason why people keep coming back to tackle this iconic event.
Talking of teamwork, Tim and I were forced on the back foot when Arno and Gert launched a surprise attack very early on in the race taking one other team with them. The four riders worked well together building up a solid advantage while we sat patiently in the chasing group of about 6 teams. As we entered Checkpoint 2 (km 104), we saw Team DSV depart and knew we were still in with a chance.
I can go into a lot more detail (with expletives) but suffice to say that for the next 100km a VERY painful pursuit ensued with the gap between us always staying within 30seconds to 1min30seconds. Tim was a beast pacing most of the way with me hanging on as we did all we could to stay in touch. Tim’s folks were our back up team and they did a perfect job of keeping us motivated and fed at the checkpoints. At the final checkpoint with only 25km left to race the first few teams were misdirected by barriers which were erected for another race held the week before. Even after 200km of racing Tim was calm as a cucumber and his experience at the event helped us find our way back to the correct route reasonably quickly.
We saw tracks on the road and assumed team DSV were still ahead so we emptied the tank in pursuit of them but they were out of sight. After 7 hours and 51 minutes we rolled into the finish at Jeffrey’s Bay with the announcer saying we had won. We were surprised and then only realised that we weren’t the only ones to have been misdirected. Gert, Arno, Mike and Derrin came in a few minutes later and despite all 3 teams riding a few extra kilometres we all dipped under the 8 hour mark and well within the old record.
Posts by various Enduren Athletes and other authors will appear in this Blog.