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.
1st Yolandi du Toit (Garmin)
2nd Ariane Kleinhans (RE:CM)
3rd Robyn de Groot (Biogen CycleLab)
4th Yolande Speedy (ASG)
5th Mariette Hattingh (Polar)