Monthly Archives: May 2014

MTN National MTB Series, # 5 Rooiberg

Rooiberg is a peaceful Bushveld village about 50km West of Warmbad. The town’s Golf Club played host to the 5th round in the MTN National MTB Series.

The Bushveld is a sub-tropical woodland region and has a variety of landscapes and magnificent wildlife to boast about. As such, this semi-arid area is very popular for game watching especially in winter when the bush is not so dense.

As nice as that sounds, we were here for a race and the game viewing would have to take a back seat for a while. The ladies race started at 7:40am in chilly weather conditions and ahead of us lay 78km which included a total of 1342m of climbing.

Rooiberg’s terrain is fairly rocky and loose making for a hard and also quite technical course as sliding around slippery corners became the norm on the day.  I was very impressed with my continental tires as they never let me down on a route that truly puts one’s equipment to the test.7

It was my 2nd time competing at Rooiberg and I enjoyed it as much as the first time. The route and surface constantly keeps on changing making for an exciting challenge from start to finish.

In our race the pace was set high from the word go. Within the first 5km a group of three riders formed up front which included Arianne Kleinhans (RE:CM), Robyn de Groot (Biogen CycleLab) and myself (Garmin). It seemed as though the race was run in 3 parts and in the opening act, the 3 of us rode together and shared the workload.

After the Queen of the Mountain prime Arianne opened a small gap as we were all forced to walk the final steep inclines of Butcher’s hill. From there Arianne was in the lead with Robyn and me in hot pursuit.

The final third turned into an individual time trial with Arianne, Robyn and myself trailing each other by a few minutes in 1st, 2nd and 3rd place respectively.   Behind us the same individual pattern was followed by the other ladies in the race.  It just goes to show how demanding the course was.

Just before the finish line lone leader Arianne missed a turn somewhere which saw her crossing the finish line behind Robyn, but Robyn showed true mountain biking sportsmanship and was happy for Arianne to take the win on the day while she settled for 2nd place.  I managed to keep my position, finishing in 3rd place ahead of Amy Macdougall.

I am very happy with my first top three placing at a MTN National event for this year and hope it bodes well for some big races coming up in June (SA Champs and World Champs).

For one day races it’s mostly just a quick one Rooibergnight stopover in the race town or area before heading back home again after the event. Still no matter how short the visit, I always enjoy spending time in the beautiful areas that the MTN National series takes us to. The landscape, the people, the weather and of course the race route makes every event unique and this time around was no different. Thanks to the Advendurance team for always putting on great events.

Nedbank sani2C

The three day Nedbank Sani2C stage race celebrated its 10’th birthday this year. This event needs no introduction in the mountain biking scene in South Africa, as the race has been completed; or is on the bucket list; of every mountain biker in this country and for good reason!

Over the period of ten years the event has grown from a “one race and one event” to today’s “three races and one event”. The three races are known as Trail, Adventure and Race. Each of these start a day apart with the Race version being the last to start it’s journey from Underberg to Scottburgh.

For this year’s event, I teamed up with someone who also doesn’t require any introduction as she has added almost every title there is to her palmarès in South Africa. I’ve always wanted to partner up with Yolande Speedy and was very happy when the opportunity presented itself.

The event started in the dairy and cattle community of Underberg situated at the foothills of the Southern Drakensberg in Kwazulu-Natal.

Stage one,82 km and 1230m of climbing

This year the weather was in our favour and we set off in very bearable winter weather conditions from Underberg Primary School. The first day’s 82km stage took us through the grassy hills of the Midlands area to our overnight camping village at MacKenzie Club in Ixopo.

The club saw a few new wonderful upgrades in the shower facilities and coffee “barn” area making our camping experience all the more pleasant.

In the race Yolande and I had a great and problem-free day and finished in 2nd place. We were both very happy with the result as we were aiming to make the podium but placing 2nd in the ladies category was a great bonus.

Stage two, 99km and 1600m of climbing

Day two was the queen stage of this year’s edition as it was the longest in distance and included the most climbing. The early 6:15 am start at dawn also made for an interesting start given the minimum light we had to navigate by for the first few kilometres.Yolande & Yolandi

En route riders we were treated with spectacular views of the country side especially as we made our way down into the legendary Umkomaas Valley. The day’s scenic route led us through the Ixopo region to our race village for the night at Jolivet Farm in the Highflats.

It seemed Yolande and my luck ran out on the second day. Our racing rhythm got broken by a quick mechanical stop followed by Yolande crashing on a slippery wooden bridge. I gained so much respect and admiration for Yolande that day: we were approximately 50km into the race when she fell and received quite a deep cut on her chin. She stood up and gathered herself quickly, got back onto the bike and kept on riding. By the time we reached the water aid station at 68km into the event the cut had stopped bleeding as it dried up from the wind. At the station Yolande made the call to keep on riding and keep on racing hard! She decided her chin could be attended to at the finish. For safety’s sake I decided to ride behind Yolande and keep an eye on her in case she started feeling dizzy again. I needed have worried. To my astonishment Yolande often turned around to ask me if I was okay!? Not only did she not once shed a tear; she was completely selfless when she had all the right to pity herself. I learned a lot from her that day and hope to apply it in my own life going forward.

Back to the race, Yolande and I played yo-yo with the 3rd ladies team as they passed us while we were sorting out the mechanical hick-up and then again during the crash. Each time we caught up to them and pushed open a slight time gap over them to finish in 2nd place on the stage.

Stage 3,84km and 910m of climbing

Yolande started the day with a double row of stitches (inside and outside) and once again proved how tough she is and was ready to race on the 3rd and final stage.

The 84km rolling course was very fast as it gradually descended to the finish line on the beach front at the resort town of Scottburgh on the south coast of Kwazulu-Natal.

Yolande and I (both Garmin) were very happy with our results at the end of the race as we managed to place 2nd on all of the stages; and so secured us an overall 2nd place finish in the ladies category. The pairing of SA national champion Robyn de Groot (Biogen CycleLab) and Swedish national champion Jennie Stenerhag (Cape Brewing Company) proved to be very successful as they took the overall win with the pairing of veteran world cross country champion Natalie Bergstrom and Tammy Visagie (both Coffeeberry Cafe/ Momsen Bikes) rounding out the podium in 3rd place.

I really enjoyed riding with Yolande. Not only is she the toughest chick in mountain biking but also one of the most thoughtful ones. Thanks so much to my title sponsor, Garmin for giving us the opportunity to race together and thanks Yolande for being who you are.

Sani2C is a unique event; apart from the riding being spectacular, it’s the team behind it (farmer Glen, his family and friends) that makes the event. These people do all the “behind the scenes” planning and organisation of putting on a world class event. Added to that – you’ll find them supporting riders out on the course during the stages and mingling with the riders in the evening. They are truly passionate about the sport and are set on making a positive difference to both the communities they touch and the participants whose lives are that much enriched. Long may Farmer Glen’s legend continue.

Final Podium

 

MTN National MTB Series, # 4 Clarens

Clarens, situated in the foothills of the Maluti Mountains hosted the 4th leg of the MTN National MTB Series on the 3rd of May 2014.

Since my teenage years, the “Jewel of the Free State” has held a special place in my heart. Growing up I spent countless weekends with my dad and friends cycling in the beautiful surroundings of Clarens. To me, the town will always be more than just a quaint little tourist village with famous art galleries and coffee shops lining it streets.

The event, now in its 5th year, forms part of the Marathon World Series which means that MTN National Clarensthere are valuable UCI points up for grabs as well as the qualifying spots for Marathon World Championships in June. This always seems to draw a strong local field as riders vie for a spot on the national team, as well as international riders looking to boost their UCI ranking. This time it was no different and I lined up as part of a strong ladies field in the town square as morning temperatures hovered just above freezing.

This year’s 75km marathon course took us on a new circular route with only the final 15km following the familiar Porcupine single trail back into town. The saying, “a change is as good as a holiday” held true and although demanding, I enjoyed the new route. Being on a full suspension bike added to my experience and I can’t imagine racing this course on anything other than my Merida Big Ninety Nine full suspension bike. I breezed over the slick rock formations, grassy patches and rough trail which littered the route.

The challenging course and fierce pace meant the field split up and spread out very early in the race. These gaps steadily increased as the race progressed as there was no respite from either the course or the competition. In the final kilometres of the race a group of six ladies were still at the sharp end of the field, all trailing lone leader Robyn de Groot who had built up a substantial lead. Sadly Robyn missed a turn somewhere which saw her 1st place fading into a 3rd place finish. Theresa Ralph who had been in 2nd place was happy to take the win on the day; with Candice Neethling finishing in 2nd place.MTN National Clarens

I was pleased with my performance on the day being one of the six ladies still in contention towards the end of the race, and finishing in 5th place only seconds behind Jenny Stenerhag.

After the race we duly refuelled at a coffee shop situated in Clarens’ well-known Town Square. To my surprise we stumbled upon my first pot of “moer koffie” (traditional Boer coffee) served with homemade rusks and the obligatory full cream milk. All this whilst sitting next to my dad and reminiscing about the day’s big battle! Clarens just seems to have a way of always inspiring not only artists but fond memories as well.

Final Results:

1st       Theresa Ralph

2nd      Candice Neethling  (VeloLife)

3rd      Robyn de Groot (CycleLab)

4th      Jennie Stenerhag (Cape Brewing Company)

5th      Yolandi du Toit (Garmin)

MTN Panorama Road Tour

The 4 day MTN Panorama road tour has become a favourite amongst road cyclist and for good reason. It has a very unique format as it is the only road event in the country where teams of two riders race together. This means you and your partner must start, stay and finish every stage together. The concept is very similar to that used in mountain bike stage events except that it is on tar.Time trail

What also adds to the character of the event is the lovely scenery in which the race takes place. The Lowveld is a beautiful region of the country with its green forests all year round and mountainous terrain. So no matter how much you suffer at least the “Panorama” views make it all worthwhile.

I partnered up with local cyclist Dalene van der Leek for the event after my original partner, Marinda Engelbreght sadly had to withdraw due to an injury sustained a few weeks before the event. I am happy to report that Marinda is back on her bike and if all goes well we will reunite at the Double Century in November later this year.

The 9th edition of the MTN Panorama Tour ran from 26th – 29th of April with all four  stages starting and finishing at the Casterbridge Lifestyle Centre in White river. The centre with its tranquil gardens, hotel and restaurants created a relaxing atmosphere after every stage where riders could replenish empty glycogen stores and share their stage stories.

But before indulging in a slice of carrot cake and a warm cappuccino there was some racing to deal with first…. J

Day ones’ stage (107km and 1825m of ascent) was on an out and back route taking riders on the Lydenberg road all the way to the turnaround point at Sudwala Caves before heading back to Casterbridge

The circular route of stage two (85km and 1192m of ascent) saw riders mainly descending towards Nelspruit before making their way back up to White River via the painfully steep hills close to Nelspruit airport.

Yolandi & Dalene

Day 3 was the queen stage (113km and 2055m of ascend) of this year’s edition as it was the longest in distance and included the most climbing of all the days.  The circular route led riders towards Sabie, up Long Tom Pass before finally heading back to that deserving slice of carrot cake at the finish.

The fourth and final stage (38km and 372m of climbing) was an out and back time trail on the same road which led us to Sabie on the previous days stage.

Dalene (Bell’s Cycling) and I (Garmin) couldn’t have asked for a better experience from the event. Apart from truly enjoying every day at the tour, we managed to win all four stages, of which two were decided in exciting sprint finishes, to secure an overall win by more than 10minutes.  The pairing of An-li Kachelhoffer ( Activate) and Anli Smith ( Cycle Lab) kept us on our toes throughout the event finishing in 2nd place overall with the pairing of Andrea Steyn (Cycle Lab) and Marlene Mathey (Cycle Lab) rounding out the podium in 3rd place.

Podium

The MTN Panorama Tour is a road event that every cyclist must add to their bucket list regardless of the discipline they prefer. I’ll definitely be keeping my calendar open for this unique event in the foreseeable future.