Clarens has become a regular stop on the National MTB Series and for good reason. This pretty little village has a very unique character and atmosphere which lures people from far and wide to come and experience all it has to offer.
Once a year mountain bikers get Clarens and its surrounding trails all to themselves during the Ashburton Investments National MTB Series event which also hosted the South African Marathon National Championships this year, elevating the importance of the race substantially. Perfect autumn weather made for cool starts and warm days as riders battled each other for the coveted green and gold stripes at altitudes in excess of 1700metres above sea level.
It goes without saying that National Championships draw strong competition and this year was no exception with riders converging from all over the country to contest the titles. This made for fast racing from the start as last year’s champion Gawie Combrinck (NAD Pro MTB Team) forced the pace at the King of the Mountain prime not even 30km into the 112km event. About 15 of us survived this opening salvo and we stayed together until Max Knox attacked just after the halfway point.
Nobody could match Max and he sailed to his 2nd National Champion’s jersey with Gawie finishing 2nd after dropping Waylon Woolcock (USN Purefit) in the final singletrack. Despite working tirelessly to keep his team mate Gawie in contention Nico Bell finished 4th to take the lead in the National MTB series.
I just kept on keeping on while others didn’t, sneaking on to the podium with 10th place which was a pleasant surprise albeit one I am proud of. Persistence pays off.
1.Max Knox 04:10:00
2.Gawie Combrinck 04:11:35 Nad Pro MTB Team
3.Waylon Woolcock 04:13:29 USN Purefit
4.Nico Bell 04:15:24 Nad Pro MTB Team
5.Darren Lill 04:24:01 USN Purefit
6.Hendrik (HB) Kruger 04:25:37 Team Telkom
7.Matthew Beers 04:25:40 Cannondale Red-E
8.Timothy Hammond 04:27:31
9.Pieter Seyffert 04:28:42 Alltech Autopage
10.Ben Melt Swanepoel 04:29:20 Squirtlube
From the dizzying heights of Clarens we now head to the Lowveld for the Panorama Tour, Sabie Experience and Forest to Falls.
Until next time, happy trails!
The DU TOIT tankwa Trek is fast becoming one of South Africa’s premier 3 day mountain bike stage races. It is hosted at Kaleo Guest Farm and takes place in the beautiful Koue Bokkeveld region of the Western Cape Province.
As the race is held a mere 4 weeks prior to the Absa Cape Epic and offers similar riding conditions to what one will encounter at the Epic, it has become an almost compulsory preparation event for the Epic.
As such, it only made sense to team up with my 2016 Epic partner Theresa Ralph for this year’s edition of the DU TOIT tankwa TREK. Our main goal was to get familiar with each other’s riding styles and to develop an effective team strategy.
The total 265km route included 5250m of climbing and challenged riders in all aspects of the sport thanks to the varied terrain. The course consisted of loose and rocky gradients, some ridiculously steep ascents, winding trails through spectacular rocky outcrops and some meandering through succulent fruit orchards. The demanding terrain left its mark and it was actually quite comical to hear mountain bikers (myself included) complaining about cramping arms and hands instead of just the usual feet and legs.
I’ve raced against Theresa on countless occasions but this was our first outing as a team. Standing 183cm (6 feet) tall and with fiery red hair, Theresa always left the impression of "don’t mess with me", but I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Theresa is actually a "Gentle Giant" and one of the kindest ladies on the mountain bike circuit. I can only say that it was truly a pleasure to race alongside her and spend time in her company.
Theresa and I had a consistent ride from beginning to end and kept on learning from each other as the kilometres ticked by. By day 3 we both felt like we’d managed to find our groove and now we are looking forward to our next stage race as a team.
Robyn de Groot and Jennie Stenerhag won the DU TOIT tankwa Trek overall with Bianca Haw and Candice Neethling in 2nd place. Theresa and I finished in 3rd place on all 3 stages to secure the final step on the podium.
Event organisers, Dryland, have a winning recipe with the DU TOIT tankwa Trek as it caters for a limited field of riders, offers tough but very rewarding riding, a stunning venue, delicious food and a warm, local atmosphere. If you are as fortunate as me to make it to the event and find a very kind partner to ride with, you are guaranteed to have an unforgettable experience!
As I was making my way to OR Tambo International Airport for the Cape Town Cycle Tour event, the news came through that I would be competing at this year’s Absa Cape Epic. Obviously at the time it was surreal to think that in less than 2 weeks’ time I’d be standing on the start line of an 8 day stage race, ready to take on the 739 kilometres and 16 000m of climbing which lay ahead. In stark contrast, the excitement that suddenly started to grow in me was undeniable!
This opportunity came about when two of the girls on the Sasol Ladies Racing Team had to pull out of the Epic for different reasons. Sasol asked me to step in as a reserve rider and with the blessing from Garmin, I grabbed the opportunity with both hands.
For the 12th edition of the event I was paired with my Epic partner from last year, Leana de Jager. Leana and I have completed several stage races together and have a very good understanding of one another both on and off the bike. Consequently all our focus and energy could be spent on the challenges the route, the terrain and the weather conditions threw at us.
From the 21km prologue that traversed Table Mountain to the final finishing line that awaited us at Meerendal Wine Estate, we barely changed our racing rhythm and strategy. The aim was to ride consistently and cautiously throughout the Epic and this approach saw us moving up from 10th place on day one to finally placing 7th overall in the ladies category by the end, and the 3rd all South African ladies duo.
The Epic is very demanding on your body, mind and equipment and getting through the Epic without any hassle is a rarity. Like the team we were, Leana and I shared in the little hiccups as Leana punctured on day 2 and had a small tumble on day 3, whereas I contributed with a broken chain on day 4. Taking into account that we spent 42 hours and 50 minutes on our bikes over eight consecutive days of racing, you’ll agree that it truly was just minor setbacks.
The Absa Cape Epic’s mobile race village is quite an impressive setup as it is able to cater for all the needs of the riders, supporters and staff members over a period of 8 days. The organisers provide daily meals, a bike wash service, laundry service, tented accommodation and ablution. On top of this you can get your bike serviced at various bike shop stands, get any bike part that you might need, get food and much more from vendors albeit at your own cost. Despite being able to get whatever you required at the campsite I couldn’t help but miss the warm hospitality you find at some of the other events in South Africa. I guess its kind off the same as visiting a capital city compared to a small town in the countryside. You might not always find what you need in a small town but the hospitality surely makes up for a lot and vice versa. Obviously it’s great to be able to experience both city and town but some people are just more attracted to the one and some to the other.
The Absa Cape Epic is surely one of the toughest stage races in the world as it takes you way out of your comfort zone in so many ways. For me this year’s edition was more a mental challenge than a physical one as the daily routes were very long and tedious. Spending most of the day on the bike didn't leave much time to run errands such as washing clothes, bottles, shoes, helmets, preparing nutrition for the following day etc. and eventually you have to give up some of that much needed sleeping hours to be able to get everything ready for the next day.
Having said that, we still had it 'easy' compared to most riders and especially the heroes at the back end of the field. Sasol provided us with lovely accommodation during the Epic, our bikes got looked after by Morne Greyling and the rest of the Cycle Lab Lynnwood crew and our broken bodies got put back together daily by two Physiotherapist that travelled with us the entire way. Sasol is doing a lot for ladies cycling and should be commended for their efforts to establish equality between men's and ladies cycling.
As there is so much that happens, it’s impossible to write about my entire Absa Cape Epic experience in one newsletter, but If I can sum it up I would definitely say I would do it all again tomorrow….
A big thanks to the Sasol Racing team, my teammate Leana de Jager and my Garmin Team for giving me the opportunity to be a part of this year’s Absa Cape Epic.
Race report by Enduren's Adriaan Louw
Jurgens Uys of Team PSG asked me to race PE<Plett with him and I jumped at the opportunity as it is perfect prep for Pioneer and it's great to race at these new events.
It is a four day stage race from Plett to PE (changes direction every year) dubbed the 'tough one' and the organisers work hard at making the route really tough. This is a unique approach but a great opportunity for riders that are preparing for tough events such as Pioneer or Epic to test their abilities. As a second year event they still have to fine tune a few things but the race certainly has a lot of potential.
Stage one - 126km, 2500m
Stage two - 91km, 1800m
Stage three - 72km, 2000m
Stage four - 72km, 1600m
Total ride time - 15:50 hours
Jurgens was a great partner and we fought as hard as we possibly could for a stage win but the Kargo team of Rourke and Travis gave us limited opportunities to work with. Jurgens is a young rider with a lot of potential but as a full time student it was a tall order to race against two pro riders but I am extremely proud of how deep he dug and how hard he pushed right to the last km of every stage.
We finished 2nd overall and 2nd every day, and on the grueling first stage we were a mere 100 seconds off the two leaders. Perhaps we pushed a bit too hard on day one but it was the only real shot we had as Jurgens can handle the long distances very well. I am really happy with my form and recovery on each stage as I gave my all on the front every day to make sure that I take as much punch as possible to simulate what Pioneer will have in store come October.
I also used the event to test the SWIFT D'Vore Hardtail as a option for Pioneer but I am quite sure that I will go with the brand new SWIFT dual suspension bike (The Evil Twin) rather.
Lourens Luus and I will be going on a Karoo training camp from 27 Sept - 1st Oct to test equipment, train hard and scout the route. After that we will race the Seweweekspoort MTB race in Ladismith before resting up in the final week before Pioneer.
I also want to thank Schalk Louw from PSG for the opportunity and for respecting my sponsors by making custom kit just for the event.
I am currently in Knysna where I will be starting the PE2Plett with young Jurgens Uys (Team PSG) Saturday until Tuesday. I am sending a quick report on my experience at the York Enduro experience last weekend.
The York Enduro is a corporate event that invites 20 pro riders from South Africa to come partake in a charity event that they organise for all their clients. York is based in Sabie and put simply they supply the whole of Southern Africa with plywood.
The corporates bid on the riders and you then ride with a group of 4 guys from the respective companies. I rode with a young team of York employees. Other companies that were there were; Avis, Alexanders Forbes, RBS, PWC, to name a few.
The teams are all on very different fitness but that is not the point of the event. The aim is to ride with these guys, exchange knowledge on all fronts and enjoy the amazing trails. The three day event consist of 40km stages and each stage has 3/4 special stages of about 10min downhill segments and two hill climbs over the three days.
I took the new SWIFT Carbon dual suspension prototype for it's comfort and speed and because it is a great marketing opportunity.
You start with your team, basically pushing and pulling them up the climbs haha, and then when you reach the special stages the pro rider goes down first to race the clock for prize money and then waits for the rest at the bottom. At the finish (every day on a different location in the forests) you have lunch with everyone and wait for the last team before the pro's race each other on specially made tracks.
Day 0 was a downhill event fpr the pros only, day two a once off lap race, day three a dual slalom eliminator and on the last day there was a XC race. All these events had quite a lot of prize money up for grabs so the racing was hot up front.
Over the 4 days I had a few podiums and lots of fun. We rode for 15 hours in total with 17 flat box 10min efforts over the 4 days and about 40 30sec laps on the dual slalom course. Needles to say I was quite tired on Monday.
Overall it was a great event and even better to meet big corporates that are really interested in the sport of mountain biking.
PE2Plett (For PSG)
Seweweeks Classic (solo)
Cape Pioneer Trek (Team Fairview with Lourens Luus)
Sabie, the ‘Sleepy Hollow’ of the Lowveld, was awakened by the York Timbers Enduro MTB Rally over the past weekend. 24 Corporate teams descended on the little town for 3 days of mountain biking, socializing and fun in general, all with the aim of raising funds to be used for York Timbers initiated community projects in the area.
As one of the biggest employment providers in the region, York Timbers has a strong sense of social responsibility and this was one way for them to give something back to the local community.
During a silent auction on Thursday evening, two dozen 4-man Corporate teams each ‘bought’ a pro rider who would then accompany them for 2 days of Enduro racing as well as a half marathon. The Enduro stages each had 4 timed sections (3 downhill and 1 uphill) which would count towards the overall team standings by the end of the weekend.
Day 1 was all about seeding as the Corporate teams raced each other on a newly built Cross Country course at the York Timbers office park, to determine starting positions for the first Enduro stage. In the afternoon the professional riders raced each other on a 3,4km downhill course to show off their skills to potential bidders at that night’s silent auction. Arno du Toit (ASG/Epic Sports Academy) was the fastest of the men, taking revenge for his second place from last year in spectacular fashion.
On Friday the event started with a 40km stage which included plenty of climbing. The reward for all this toil was some fast, flowing singletrack descents. I rode with the Timrite team and the boys (Kevin Bentley, Philip Cox, Pieter Le Roux and Theunis Bester) made the time fly by as we hammered the timed sections and rode comfortably everywhere else, chatting up a storm when the gradients would allow it.
Day 2 was a little shorter (35km) but not much easier as the Sabie mountains still took their toll before we had the relative luxury of racing the downhill sections back into town. In the afternoon there was also a spectator friendly dual eliminator race just to make sure we stayed on our toes.
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy and in the evenings we enjoyed dinner while well known artists such as the Blues Broers and Jakkie Louw entertained everyone. This was a great opportunity for the professional riders and the corporate cycling enthusiasts to mingle and share ideas in a very relaxed environment.
Sunday morning dawned with a half marathon event which was also open to the public and finally a pro’s only Cross Country race straight afterwards. The XC race was good fun and a spectacular way to end proceedings with us busting a lung and the crowds able to see almost every minute of our painful effort.
All said and done this unique and innovative event is a great success in no small part due to the organizing team who did everything they could to make the weekend as enjoyable as possible. From the hand built trails to the food and accommodation at the Floreat Lodge, no effort was spared in pursuit of the finest hospitality.
Long may the York Timbers Enduro MTB Rally live and I look forward to being part of this ground breaking event as it evolves to reach its full potential.
Until next time, happy trails!
People rushed to the mining hub of Burgersfort this past weekend, not for platinum but for the annual Wildevy festival. This winter festival includes activities such as a 4x4 show, a flea–market and a mountain bike race to name but a few.
Burgersfort lies on the northern edge of Mpumulanga and enjoys a mild climate during the winter months. This made the event even more attractive for those (myself included) longing for a break from the cold winter temperatures back home on the Highveld.
It would be my first time competing at the event and I always look forward to discovering new races and new places. Race organisers Pieter and Driekie Heyns warmly hosted riders at their lovely guesthouse, Kusile, the evening before the race. This made for a very enjoyable dinner among family, friends and other participants.
The race started and finished just outside of Burgersfort at one of the local schools. The 70km circular route mainly weaved alongside the Watervalsrivier and through the surrounding orange plantations. The highlight of the course was the super fun single track sections - a lot of it running right next to the river itself. I was pleasantly surprised by the finely manicured trails as the Wildevy is the sole mountain bike event held in Burgersfort and the race is only in its 3rd year of existence.
The route was fairly flat and included a mere 690m of climbing. When it comes to terrain the word ‘flat’ might sound easy but it’s actually quite the opposite. It only means you’re going to pedal your heart out from start to finish without those precious moments of respite offered by the downhills.
The short rest period after Marathon World Championships proved to be the right decision as I had fresh legs on race day. This helped me to take the win at the Wildevy ahead of local star Samantha Saanders and Santie van der Westhuizen in 3rd place. It’s always great to finish on the top step of the podium at any event and even more so if it was one you’ve been looking forward to.
I’ve only heard good things about the event but it surpassed all my expectations. The route was great fun, the event very well organised and the hospitality as warm as its climate. Come next winter, I’ll definitely be migrating to a milder climate again
To see my race data captured my Garmin Edge 810, please see here:
The most prestigious marathon MTB event on the international calendar visited African shores for the first time in its eleven year history. South Africa played host to the 2014 Mountain Bike Marathon World Championships which took place at Cascades in Pietermaritzburg on the 29th of June. 136 men and women from 31 nations and 6 continents took to the start, all in search of the coveted UCI rainbow striped world champion jersey.
The weekend’s action got underway with the Rainbow Challenge (age categories) on the Saturday followed by the Elite World Championships on Sunday. This made for a full and fun weekend of MTB racing.
Two weeks before the event was set to take place, Cycling South Africa announced the team which would represent our country at the World Championships. I was honoured to be part of the 6 rider national ladies team alongside Robyn de Groot, Candice Neethling, Jeannie Dreyer, Ashleigh Moffatt and Amy McDougall.
In the past I have participated in 4 World Championships but they were all road racing events so this would be my first time toeing the start of a MTB World Champs. For this reason I didn’t know what to expect, yet I was very excited to line up alongside the best in the World and was determined to make the best of the opportunity.
The event started and finished at Cascade MTB Park and in our race we were to cover a total distance of 74km which included 2159m of climbing. During SA champs a fortnight ago, I got to see most of the Worlds course only missing out on a ‘new’ 24km loop laid out in the Umgeni Valley Nature Reserve.
To sum up the course it basically consisted of 3 long and at times steep ascents followed directly by equally steep, technical descents. This also helped with navigation because if you weren’t going up or down you were definitely going the wrong way.
According to my short route description it might sound simple, but it was far from it. The climbs and downhills had tricky single track stretches to test your technical skills and to make sure your estimated maximum heart rate is correct.
For course designer Nic Floros, portaging is part of mountain biking and therefore he included a 450m portage section down into the Umgeni Valley. This would also be his ‘signature’ on the course, but it was my least favourite part of the route as carrying my bike down a steep rocky trail with wooden stairs to counter the incline, left my hamstrings on the edge of cramping. Luckily it was the same for all the competitors and it made for some good stories afterwards.
During my race I had good company in one of my best friends and my regular stage race partner Aurelie Halbwachs (Mauritius). We have a habit of motivating each other during a race and strangely enough it’s much more bearable to suffer in the company of a good friend rather than suffering alone.
With the event being my first World Championships on fat tyres, I didn’t aim for a specific placing as I didn’t want to set an unrealistic goal for myself. I simply wanted to learn as much as possible from the experience, which I did and placing 15th at the end was a bonus.
Hard to believe but the long anticipated World Championships taking place in our own country has come and gone. It was a great experience, some valuable lessons were learned and a very sore body gained from it. Well done to everyone who participated over the weekend, it was a very demanding (and super muddy for the Rainbow Challenge) course and just suffering through it to reach the finish line was a huge achievement.
Next up is a small break from competition (yeah) before building up for the second half of the racing season which will be upon us before we know it.
Until then, keep safe and warm.
To see my race data on the day captured by my Garmin 810, visit the link below:
Dusi2C. There is really not much more I have to say than wow!
It was an amazing experience. This two day event took us from the PMB Dusi Canoe club all the way along the river tot the Blue Lagoon Canoe Club in Durban the following day. It is a short event, with our total race time set at under 5 hours but the experience was unbelievable.
I am sure all of you have ridden a very nice flowing single track and thought; 'imagine a race that only has single track like this all the way', well that was exactly what Dusi2C was, a trail riding heaven all the way.
Andrew Hill invited me to do it for TiB this year after he won the inaugural event last year and because it is a difficult event to get into I was not going to give it a miss. Also with world champs coming up this coming weekend I decided to make an calculated choice in skipping the very hard MTN Hilton Marathon in a bid to save myself for what I am sure will be a incredibly hard world champs on Sunday. You have to be fresh for a race such as world champs and a five hour marathon won't help with that process.
Andrew and I did not have any real competition at the event but because the race is mostly downhill getting any sort of gap is quite hard so we did have to work quite a bit. We went hard from the gun every day which resulted in gaps forming early on both days but because the race is unmarked and you race via GPS routes you do take a few wrong turns which allows the chasers to catch up and then the breakaway process starts again.
The '2C' group always put a lot of effort into ensuring that the rides have a great experience on and off the trail and if there is any event that you have to put on your calendar it will have to be this one.
This coming week is about resting, resting, resting and making sure all my equipment is ready to roll on Sunday. I am very excited for this big event on home soil. For live updates follow the following accounts on twitter:
Bronwyn Hill - @bronniehill
Team RECM - @Team_RECM
Bruce Diesel - @BruceDiesel
Cycling SA - @Cycling_SA
Also see some cool pics from this weekend attached.
Posts by various Enduren Athletes and other authors will appear in this Blog.