Monthly Archives: June 2014

MTN National MTB Series, # 6 Van Gaalen

The 6th round in the MTN National MTB Series took us to the small village of Skeerpoort situated at the foothills of the scenic Magaliesberg Mountains.

Van Gaalen’s Cheese farm played host to the event and with the farm only being about 50km west of Johannesburg it felt as if I was racing ‘close’ to home for a welcome change.

Van Gaalen’s is a well-known mountain bike park in Gauteng and it offers safe riding on trails catering for various levels of skill and fitness. The farm has up to a 100km of routes available extending over 30 private properties. After your ride or hike you can refuel at the farm’s restaurant or buy some local produce to take home.

In the past this venue has featured in the Nissan Trailseeker Series, which is the sister series of the MTN events and takes place in and around Gauteng, but this time around it formed part of the MTN National MTB Series.

The ladies field set off at 7:40am in -2 degrees Celsius to cover the 76km marathon distance ahead. Luckily once you start racing your core temperature quickly rises making the low temperatures much more bearable. Or maybe it was more a case of brain freeze J with the cold just not registering anymore.

From the start the route gradually ascended as we made our way to the first steep climb of the day. The pace being set on the slight incline reduced the field to only three ladies, Ariane Kleinhans (RE:CM), Robyn de Groot (Biogen CycleLab) and myself  (Garmin) as we reached the bottom of “Concrete Collision”. This climb starts with a concrete jeep track strip, continues on very loose rocks and finally it becomes a singletrack as you reach the summit.

I crested the climb in 2nd place behind Robyn with Ariane on my coattails in 3rd place. On the “Dagga Pad” single track section which followed, Robyn and Ariane opened a slight gap on me which left me longing for a bit more confidence on the rocky trail. Once spat out at the bottom of “Dagga Pad”, I had some ground to make up on the two leaders.

With more than half the race left to go I settled into a manageable pace trying to gauge my effort. I knew it would be tough as names like ‘Apollo Hill’, ‘Satellite Hill’ and lastly ‘Oom Piet’s hiking trail’ are not bestowed without reason. The climbs were followed by twisty and rocky downhill single track which made going downhill feel more energy sapping at times than going uphill.

With about 20km to go, Ariane and Robyn missed one of the directional arrows on Oom Piet’s hiking trial and deviated slightly off route. This saw me unwittingly move into the lead which I only realized after crossing the finish line when the race announcer greeted me home as the ladies winner.

Obviously I would have preferred for all the girls to stay on course and the race to be run as intended, but that was out of my control. I offered Ariane the victory as she crossed the line in ‘2nd place’ behind me, but she refused it as she felt that it was her own fault for missing the arrow and that I deserved the victory. Again it was a great show of true mountain biking sportsmanship by Ariane and Robyn on the day and I applaud them for their attitude.

I’ll always have mixed feelings about the result, but it was great to stand on the top spot of the podium at an MTN National event and I appreciate every message I received to congratulate me. On the positive side, I was a fitting representative for my title sponsor and our slogan – “Garmin – you’ll be lost without it 🙂

Van Gaalen’s lived up to its reputation of providing a demanding course, fit enough to appear in the MTN Series of events. I’ll even go so far as to say that it was the most technical and physically demanding course I’ve ridden thus far in the series and I fully enjoyed it. The course continuously offered exciting sections, whether you were climbing, descending, riding on the flats or on single track. It included rocky trails, floating bridges, hiking trails, single track along a ravine, thick sand and plenty more which made for a very hard but very rewarding event. Thanks Advendurance for putting on another great show.

Final Results

1st   Yolandi du Toit         (Garmin)

2nd Ariane Kleinhans       (RE:CM)

3rd Robyn de Groot         (Biogen CycleLab)

4th Yolande Speedy         (ASG)

5th Mariette Hattingh      (Polar)

Van Gaalens

SA National Marathon Championship presented by Stihl

This past weekend saw the SA National Marathon Championships taking place at Cascades MTB Park in Pietermaritzburg.

This popular mountain bike venue is typically used for the short-course formats of cross-country (XC) and downhill (DHI) racing. This time around the park formed the hub of the marathon course which is the endurance side of our sport.

Renowned trail builder Nic Floros, who built the original XC and DHI tracks at Cascades, extended the trails into the surrounding area as the mountain bike park looked to host not only SA Champs but other World Class events at the end of this month.

With the Msunduzi Marathon Challenge (27 June), UCI World Rainbow Challenge (28 June) and the prestigious UCI World Marathon Championships (29 June) taking place at Cascades it was the ideal opportunity for Cycling South Africa to have the SA Championship on the same course as it would serve as a ‘dry run’ for the above mentioned events. This was also beneficial to the riders as we got to pre-race the world marathon course before the actual big day.

All the ladies categories were set off together at 7:15am sharp on a chilly Sunday morning. Ahead lay 70km which included a total of 2116 meters of climbing. From Cascades the course immediately headed upwards as we climbed out of Chase Valley for about 15km to the summit of Monte Verde. From there we headed towards Hilton College where a large part of the route was laid out.

Too many riders relief there was only one way back to Cascades and that was descending back down into Chase Valley. The plunge back to Cascades was mostly on loose dusty single track making for some hair raising moments.

Once back at Cascades our climbing legs got tested for the final time as the route again headed upwards out of the valley to complete the last 20km circuit of the event.

My race didn’t go as planned. I had a rough day out making silly mistakes which at times ended up in silly crashes and a loss of confidence. I battled on but was relieved to finally cross the finish line after more than 4 hours of racing. I was very disappointed in myself, more because I had targeted the race as a goal event and it ended up being one of my worst days out.

At the end of the day you have to accept the bad days to truly enjoy the good days. I’ve had a good year so far so it would be unfair to complain, but sometimes it’s just a bit harder to see it at the timeJ. On the up side, at least I got to race on the 2014 World Championship Marathon course with my super light Merida Big Nine hardtail and know what to expect come the end of June.SA Champs

Robyn de Groot (Biogen CycleLab) on the other hand had a great ride and retained the SA National Championship jersey. Candice Neethling (VeloLife) finished in 2nd place with Samantha Saanders (Valencia Cycles) returning from injury to round out the podium in 3rd spot.


Tour de Maurice

About a week before the Tour de Maurice was set to take place I was offered the wonderful opportunity to take part in this year’s event.  A few quick arrangements later and there I was, the Sunday morning after the MTN Rooiberg event on a plane bound for Mauritius.

I was excited but also nervous for the event. It has been ages since I last raced in a UCI road tour. Furthermore, I would be one of only 3 girls participating in the race as part of the almost 100-rider strong field. For the event you had to enter a minimum of 4 riders per team and the Mauritian outfit of Team Rawat warmly welcomed me as a guest rider on their squad for the duration of the tour.

The 33rd edition of Tour de Maurice took place from the 27th of May to the 1st of June 2014. The six day event consisted of seven stages traversing the tropical Island of Mauritius.

The race started with a 21km team time trial held on the outskirts of Curepipe. The town is situated in the middle of the Island and is also the highest city in Mauritius at 561 meters above sea level.

Stage two’s 113km flat route took riders northwards from the capital and harbour town of Port Louis to finish at the newly built suburb of Goodlands.

Stage three started and finished in Curepipe, with riders completing a 107km circular route laid out in the south-eastern part of the Island.

Day four consisted of two parts. First we had an 18km individual time trial held in the morning followed by a hilly 80km stage five in the afternoon. Both stages were held in the north at Beau Plan and made for a full day of cycling.

The 120km ‘Queen Stage’ of this year’s tour took us from Port Louis along the west coast to finish for the final time in Curepipe. Not only was stage 6 the longest in distance, but it also included to most climbing as it totalled up to 1613m of ascent  on the day as we climbed the steep inclines of Bassan Blanc.

The tour concluded with a circuit race in Beau Bassin on stage seven. We had to complete 12 laps of the course totalling a distance of 103km on the day.

The racing over the 6 consecutive days was incredibly hard for me. Every day I pushed my body over the mental limit I unconsciously set for myself and was left wondering how I would recover from the day’s effort and race again the next day. To my amazement my body responded well, recovering sufficiently to do it all again the following day. This just confirms once again how important it is to keep on pushing boundaries.Yolandi, Kim and Aurelie

Despite the racing being competitive, fast paced and at times scary, as a lady I never felt unwelcome in the bunch but actually the exact opposite. In Mauritius I was just another rider in the bunch – a sentiment I greatly appreciated. At least next time around I’ll definitely be less nervous about the prospect of racing against the guys in Mauritius.

I’ve also learned other valuable lessons from this race which you have keep in mind when competing in the Tour de Maurice.

  1. Always be mentally, physically and logistically (pack extra race food) prepared as the day’s stage can be up to 23km (to be precise) longer than what the organisers announced it to be.
  2. The race marshals are only following and directing the first group during the stage. Therefore, if you feel you are going to drop from the lead bunch, make sure you are with a local rider. You will need the local rider’s knowledge to find your way back to the finish on the small and unfamiliar back roads. It can be quite daunting riding alone on unfamiliar roads – I know this from experience 🙂

At the end the overall victory went to local star Yannick Lincoln who also won the mixed category in this year’s Absa Cape Epic alongside Aurelie Halbwachs. Second and third spot on the podium went to South Africans James Tennent and Ian Pienaar respectively.

I felt privileged to be the first international ladies rider (non-Mauritian) to participate in the event. Along with Aurelie Halbwachs and Kim Le Court we even made news headlines on the Island for racing in “univers d’hommes” (in a men’s world). I hope this will only be the start of more ladies participating at the event in the future. It’s a great race and everyone is welcome.

Team Rawat

Thanks to Team Rawat for having me on your team and for making me feel very welcome, to the Halbwachs and Lincoln families for hosting me and to my title sponsor Garmin – without you this trip wouldn’t have been possible.