Monthly Archives: March 2014

MTN National MTB Series #3, Tulbagh

The picturesque little town of Tulbagh played host to the 3rd leg in the MTN National MTB Series. It is the only event in the 8-race series which takes place in the Cape and the timing couldn’t have been better. Coming from Gauteng the warm, clear weather proved to be a welcome respite from the continuous rain we’ve had of late on the Highveld.

Tulbagh town is found at the northern end of the Tulbagh valley and is surrounded by majestic mountains. The 74km marathon route stayed within the boundaries of the Tulbagh valley, and although the course never made its way outside of the valley, there was no shortage of hills to contend with on the day.

The course snaked several times up and down the lower slopes of the bordering mountains, making it difficult to find a good rhythm.  At times, the inclines got so steep and loose that dismounting and pushing your bike was the only option.

The tough and rocky terrain also added to the unique character of the race. It required a specific skill and confidence to navigate your way through and over rocks of different shapes and sizes. Fortunately I brought my Merida Big Ninety Nine full suspension bike along for the challenge and it more than made up for whatever skill I was lacking on the day.

With the Epic just around the corner, a lot of the international riders used the event to familiarise themselves with African soil and weather conditions. They couldn’t have asked for a better experience as Tulbagh usually features as a stage location in the Epic.

To hear several different languages amongst the girls as we toed the start line brought back memories of my time racing in Europe. In bike racing terms I knew from past experiences this could only mean one thing – Ouch, this is going to hurt! And it did!

Sadly I seemed to have packed the wrong legs for the day and didn’t make the winning break when it went clear in the opening kilometres. From there on it was a lonely ride for me all the way to the beautiful finishing venue at Saronsberg Wine Estate, just managing to sneak into the top 10. I guess we need days like these to make us appreciate the good ones when they come around.

Up front Arianne Kleinhans proved her world class status as she took the win over English star Sally Bigham and Swedish champion Jennie Stenerhag in 2nd and 3rd places respectively.

Next up I’ll be taking part in the Absa Cape Epic with former teammate and good friend Leana de Jager.  My new pair of legs is on order, so hopefully they will arrive in time for the Epic prologue this coming Sunday.

You can follow the link below to see the profile of the 74km Marathon event at Tulbagh, recorded by my trusty Garmin Edge 810:

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/463294889

Tulbagh

Provincial XC Mankele, 1 March 2014

After the MTN Sabie Classic I stayed on in the Lowveld for a training camp at one of my favourite biking destinations – Mankele Bike Park. The 2nd round of the Mpumulanga Provincial XC series took place at Mankele and with the event being held “on my training doorstep” it was time to put my cross country skills to the test.

Although cross country and marathon racing are both mountain biking disciplines, there is a big difference between the two. Cross country racing involves lap racing on a fairly technical course, where riders complete 4-6 laps in under 2hours. This means cross country racing calls for lots of power and superb bike handling skills.

It was also a refreshing experience to be at a provincial race as these events are a bit smaller, drawing mainly locals.  In keeping with the relaxed atmosphere we had a mass start which saw all the ladies and men categories set off together. At first I was a bit nervous lining up alongside all the men, but it turned out to be great fun.

When it comes to Cross Country racing my biggest rival is normally the course, and if I am able to ride everything including the Bull runs (technical sections on the course which can be avoided by taking the longer and easier way around called the Chicken run) then I’ve came out on top and am happy with the result.

After 5 laps of the winding course and no crashes, I am pleased to say that I am happy with my resultJ. The race was a good training exercise forcing me out of my comfort zone which inevitably leads to improvement and will stand me in good stead. Winning the race was a great way to end off my stay in the Lowveld and I already look forward to my next visit.

Mark Meyer & Yolandi du Toit

It was also very encouraging seeing so many under 23 ladies taking part as it bodes well for

the future of woman’s mountain biking. That is exactly what these races are about and long may they prosper under the guidance of passionate people like the team at Mankele.

Upcoming events at Mankele:

22 March         Sappi Mankele MTB Challenge

9-12 April         Lowveld Quest Stage Race