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.
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.