Race Report – Ashburton Series #1, Meerendal @GarminSA

Over its 12 years of existence the National MTB series has grown into the biggest and most prestigious mountain bike race series in South Africa. In 2015 the series took on a new title sponsor with Ashburton Investments taking over from MTN in the 7 round series.

The first leg of this year’s National MTB series took place at Meerendal Wine Estate on the outskirts of Cape Town on Saturday the 31st of January. This event along with 2 others (round 2 in Sabie and round 3 in Clarens) are UCI sanctioned events, meaning there are valuable UCI points up for grabs.

With acclimatisation in mind I flew to Cape Town 3 days prior to the race, arriving just in time to experience a bout of the region’s searing heat and humidity which is the norm during the summer months. There is no denying that Cape Town and its surrounds are beautiful but the warm weather gave me an appreciation for the milder climates we have at home on the Highveld. Fortunately on race day fine rain during the early morning hours made for much cooler and enjoyable weather conditions.

At UCI sanctioned events there are a lot more rules and regulations that event organisers have to adhere to and one of them was calling out the licensed riders individually to line up for the start 15 minutes prior to departure. After a tense wait the gates finally opened and the girls set off like race horses to cover the 70km distance that lay ahead. If I had packed different legs for the race, the start might have felt more like the beginning of a mountain bike race rather than a never ending sprint. I pushed hard on the pedals in an attempt to stay with the leading ladies but my heavy legs would have nothing of it and I was dispatched from the lead group despite my best efforts.

I told myself it was only the opening kilometres and I just had to keep on riding so that my legs would loosen up and I could make up some lost ground. Unfurtuanelty my poor state only regressed and instead of improving I was left fighting a deep, inner battle. My heart wanted to put an end to it all by stopping but my head was telling me to continue and that learning the route and getting in the training hours will be beneficial sometime in the near future.

After a 4 hour slog I crossed the finish line relieved to get the race over and done with. If I managed to escape my predators at the USN Cup event the week before, this time around I was served on a platter.

We all have our good days and our bad days but what matters more is what we make of it so I am doing my best to see the positive lessons learned from a less than ideal outcome.

Swiss star Esther Süss went on the take victory at the first round of the Ashburton National MTB series while Ariane Kleinhans and Robyn de Groot completed the podium in 2nd and 3rd place respectively.

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Photo courtesy of SnapSport Media