Ashburton Investments National MTB Series #3 – Clarens
If there is one event in the Ashburton Series that I wouldn’t want to miss, it would surely be the one taking place in and around the artistic hamlet of Clarens. Every race has its own appeal and for Clarens the breathtaking surroundings are what defines this specific leg in the series.
Rumours of a wet and cold weekend circulated but come race day, we were blessed with dry weather even if it was rather ‘fresh’. When you expect rain and not a single drop falls, then even the chilly, cloudy conditions we had was an absolutely treat.
The Ashburton Series is the biggest and toughest mountain bike series in the country and for this reason always attracts a strong ladies and men’s field with both local and international riders toeing the start.
The 70km circular route was laid out on the western side of Clarens and included a rich mixture of challenging terrain. The highlight of the course is the final 15km single track on slick rock which descends back to the finish in the town square.
I was very pleased with how my legs felt on the day but not so much with my technical skills. Fortunately I seemed to warm to the task and my skill improved as the race progressed albeit too little too late. During the opening kilometres I kept losing ground on the short technical sections and this forced me to chase back to the leading quartet. This unfortunate sequence was repeated three or four times until finally I failed to get back to the leaders, riding in solo to finish in 5th place on the day.
Arianne Kleinhans had another great ride to take the victory with teammate Cherise Stander in 2nd place. Jennie Stennerhag finished in 3rd place and Vera Adrian in 4th. Upon reflection finishing on the podium in one of these intensely contested events is something to be proud of, but at the same time I know where I can improve.
MTN Panorama Road Tour
The MTN Panorama Tour was the first ever road stage race for teams of two and they celebrated their 10th birthday this year proving the success of the concept.
As a rule professional athletes may only team up with amateur cyclist at the event in order to retain the fun element of competition. This also gives participants of all levels an opportunity to race and mingle with some of the country’s top cyclists.
All the stages start and finish at Casterbridge Boutique Shopping centre in White River and riders completes a total of 343km over the 4 consecutive days which includes a total of 6119m of ascent.
This year was my 3rd time competing at the event and for the 2015 edition I teamed up with my good friend Francois Lourens. Francois and I have raced several mountain bike stage races together and we work well as a team. Francois and I rode very consistently throughout the tour, placing 2nd each day and finally securing 2nd place overall in the mixed category. Stefan Oberholzer and his wife Carla had a very strong ride to take the overall victory with Patsy Hime and Justin Behrendt rounding out the podium in 3rd place.
The MTN Panorama Tour is definitely a bucket list event as it promotes friendly racing (or that is the idea) in the picturesque surrounds of the Lowveld. Thanks Francois for being a great teammate and to the entire Lourens family for all the support and warm hospitality during the tour.