Crater Cruise, 13 September 2014

The eighth and final event in the MTN National MTB Series took riders to the popular weekend traveller’s destination of Parys. This peaceful little town is situated on the banks of the beautiful Vaal River in the Free State province.

Crater Cruise has always been quite a special event for me as the race includes a bit of history.  A very, very long time ago a meteorite hit the earth just outside of Parys and created an enormous impact crater. The original crater has eroded, but the inner circle is still visible in the surrounding hills just outside of Parys. As participants, we are very fortunate to cruise through the crater annually during the aptly named Crater Cruise event.

This year the event had two new distances on offer. The 80km marathon- and the 115km ultra marathon event.

Despite this usual distance differential being the blueprint of the MTN events, I couldn’t help but be slightly disappointed when the new routes were unveiled. The charm of Crater Cruise has always been that everyone (elite men & ladies) completed an identical 106km route through some of the area of the impact crater.

I guess things can’t always stay the same and in the end the new 80km route which included a total of 660m of climbing proved to be a positive modification.

The race started and finished at the Anatomic Clothing factory in town and the ladies field was set off at 8:15am to cover the new 80km route. The majority of the course was laid out on corrugated district roads broken up by some jeep track, the short and steep rocky climb of ‘new’ Suikerbossie, the Sorrie-berg climb and Baskop Farm’s fun single track on the banks of the Vaal River.

Theresa Ralph made her intentions clear from the word go and set a furious pace on the first section of jeep track which led us to the Venterskroon gravel road. Barely 22km into the race and we were only 5 ladies left at the front – Theresa Ralph, Candice Neethling, Vanessa Bell, Lise Olivier and myself.

We took turns to keep the speed up and after sprinting for the Queen of the Mountain spot prize at kilometre 30 it was only Candice, Theresa and me in the lead. We shared the workload under a scorching sun as temperatures climbed into the 40 degrees Celsius. Around 50km in, I had finished my 2 bottles and could only hope that Candice and Theresa were in the same boat forcing them to also stop at the 60km water-point.

When we finally reached the refreshment table it was only Candice and myself who stopped for water. I decided to fill up my bottle and was the last to get going.

Theresa was now out in front on her own, Candice in the middle and myself a couple of seconds back in 3rd. Theresa is a strong rider, especially on flat terrain and with the following section being a 10km flat district road I knew I had to get back to her if I still wanted to compete for 1st place. My short 3 km all out-effort saw me passing Candice and making contact with Theresa on my own. The two of us worked together until we entered the final 10km grassy jeep track section of Koedoeslaagte which would take us back to the finish. Just as we made our way onto Koedoeslaagte my body didn’t want to go anymore and Theresa slowly started riding away from me.

The final kilometres hurt a LOT but was quickly forgotten when I crossed the finish line in 2nd place behind Theresa Ralph who took a deserving victory on the day. Candice Neethling rounded out the podium in 3rd spot.

I couldn’t have asked to end the 2014 MTN series on a better note. As a bonus I also secured 3rd place overall in the MTN National MTB series behind Ariane Kleinhans and Robyn de Groot who finished in 1st and 2nd places respectively.

Thanks to the Advendurance and Ride Magazine Team for putting together a great event on Parys’s own Champs Èlyseés.

With Crater Cruise being the last event in the 2014 MTN National MTB series, I want to thank the Advendurance Team for hosting the country’s biggest mountain bike series. The series creates a wonderful opportunity for the countries best mountain bikers to measure up against each other at venues all across South Africa.

May the series only grow from strength to strength.

Final ladies results

1st           Theresa Ralph

2nd          Yolandi du Toit

3rd           Candice Neethling

4th           Vanessa Bell

5th           Lise Olivier

Crater Cruise