#TeamGarminMTB reports on the @NatMTBseries #NatMTB6.

The penultimate round of the Ashburton National MTB Series took riders to Dullstroom, situated on the edge of an escarpment 2000m above sea level. The altitude was a big factor affecting performance but being one of the coldest towns in South Africa, the weather would also have its say.

The venue at Dunkeld Estate was covered in fog as riders lined up for day 1 of the 2 day event. As always the new, shorter format made for aggressive racing from the start as riders jostled for position in the yet to be established pecking order.

As the fog lifted a howling wind came up that made the going difficult on the district roads and jeep track which characterized the 71km route of day 1. Candice Lill (Team Dormakaba) was on a storming ride winning day 1 alone despite suffering a flat. Behind her the ladies bunch had disintegrated and they were all chasing solo with only some ego-driven males stuck to their rear wheels. Sam Sanders (Valencia) finished 2nd on the day with Yolandi in 3rd and still in the hunt for overall honours on the weekend.

In the men’s race the Pyga/Eurosteel boys were duelling with Team NAD leaving the rest of us trailing in their wake. Only Gert Heyns (Ascendis Health) could keep up and he made it count escaping in the final singletrack to win ahead of Nico Bell and Philip Buys.

I was in a 4-man group battling for 5th spot when my pedal came apart at the top of a lo

ng technical descent. Luckily for me the one and only tech zone was at the bottom of said descent, but unlucky for me none of the mechanics had a compatible spare pedal. Despite some help from Team NAD’s Nadia Bell, I reluctantly decided to call it a day and loaded my bike in their team bus. As we waited to cheer for Yolandi who would pass by shortly, Bradley Potgieter from Team Road Cover pulled into the tech zone with a flat tire. His race was done, but his pedals were intact…

Queue a quick pedal swap and I was back in the game doing my best to salvage some sort of result. I snuck in 20th, but just finishing was a moral victory!

Day 2 dawned clear but ice cold as a layer of frost covered anything and everything unlucky enough to be situated in the shade. Although shivering at the start we were up to race speed in no time, warming up quickly as we tackled day two’s 51km course. The route was much faster and much more fun than day 1 with plenty of singletrack and well ridden trails making for easy going with only the relentless pace responsible for the perpetual discomfort!

In the ladies race Samantha and Candice stuck together all day with Sam winning the stage in a sprint, but Candice taking overall honours for the weekend by crossing


the line only seconds behind Sam. Yolandi only just didn’t have the legs to go with them at the start, but she continued her consistent showing by finishing 3rd again despite riding alone for most of the day and claiming 3rd overall for the weekend.

The men’s race was once again dominated by Team’s NAD and PYG

A/Eurosteel with Matthys Beukes coming back from a puncture on day 1 to win ahead of Philip Buys and Nico Bell. This changed the overall standings for the weekend with Philip Buys taking overall honours ahead of Nico Bell and Gert Heyns in 3rd.

I managed to keep my bike in one piece and with a loan pedal from Andrew Grobler I battled with Tim Hammond, Dylan Rebello and Wessel Botha for 6th place out on trail. I just lost contact with this group at a water crossing/road underpass – a mistake which cost me dearly as I was left to chase about 1 min behind them for the second half of the race. I never caught them and finished in 9th place on the day, but only a minute off the pace giving me some measure of redemption for day 1 with a 12th place overall for the weekend.

Next up for us the Crater Cruise and we look forward to racing on the Free State flatlands!

Here is some reading for the weekend. #TeamGarminMTB recalls their adventure at the recent @EcoBoundMTB #Transbaviaans2017:

The Trans Baviaans derives its name from the route it traces through the Baviaanskloof as it links Willowmore and Jeffrey’s Bay via 230km of stunningly beautiful, but challenging roads.

This is not your typical mountain bike race, but rather an endurance event testing man and machine, teamwork and determination. Starting at 10am on Saturday morning riders had 24 hours to complete the route in 2, 3 or 4-man teams.

My dad did the event last year and enjoyed it so much that he just had to do it again in 2017. We don’t get the opportunity to ride together that often, but this was the perfect chance to team up and relive days gone by. Splitting Team Garmin MTB for a change Melt teamed up with another Free State resident as he joined our friend Raymond Odendaal for the adventure.

The freezing weather that swept over the country in the lead up to the event was on everyone’s lips and people were preparing for a cold race, but as it turned out conditions were optimal on race day. Despite snow covering the surrounding mountaintops, it was sunny and cool with only a slight headwind to contend with come Saturday morning.

The opening 100km to checkpoint 1 is mainly on open, district roads where everyone tries to save as much energy as possible while staying close to the front of events. This year it went by in a blur, not so much because of the speed but rather due to the heavily corrugated roads which made everyone shake until their eyeballs touched the insides of their dust covered glasses!

Getting only slightly carried away with ‘race fever’, my dad and I stayed in a strong group making life as easy as possible for ourselves. Melt and Raymond was with the front bunch when Raymond had to slow down while feeling ill. Raymond had been sick in the lead up to the event and by the time we passed them he was standing still, paralyzed with cramp. Not a good sign when there is still about 170km left to go.

Just before checkpoint 2 things got more interesting as we entered the Baviaanskloof Reserve itself rolling on to smaller roads littered with river crossings. My dad started paying the price for a fast start (and about a hundred cappuccinos the day before!), so we slowed down in an attempt to aid recovery. By checkpoint 2 Raymond and Melt had caught back up to us (which was a relief) and we left the waterpoint together encouraging each other as we slowly picked up the pace.

Melt and Raymond forged ahead gaining some momentum over the Baviaans Back climb into checkpoint 3 while my dad and I kept it steady to consolidate our good start.

Next up was the aptly named ‘Fangs’ climbs which served as a warm-up for the MAC (Mother Of All) climb. This beast reared its ugly head just after the halfway mark leading up to the infamous checkpoint 4 at Bergplaas. All of us made the most of the hot soup at this waterpoint as dusk slowly brought on the cold of night.

The descent that followed off Bergplaas was a nice break in proceedings giving some momentum for the 50 km stretch that followed to checkpoint 5 at Komdomo. The big pack house, generous crowd and chip buns on offer were just what the doctor ordered before we faced the final challenge.

Neverender is a 26km drag, relentlessly ramping up just as the race distance started gnawing at our legs. Unmanned checkpoint 6 signalled the end of this slow death after which we descended to our final checkpoint 7 at Zuurbron. The hot jaffles served here revived us and with only the mini MAC climb and 25km left to ride to the finish at Fountains Mall in Jeffrey’s Bay we knew we could make it.

After 10hours, 56minutes and 17 seconds Raymond and Melt made a fantastic recovery riding into 11th place overall, a mere 4 minutes off of a top 10 placing.

My dad and I got more value for our money spending 12hours 14minutes and 31seconds out on route to finish 40th overall and 8th Mixed team.

In sports timing and results are used to measure success, but for once I can honestly say that being in the privileged position of facing this challenge in the company of my dad made everything else seem insignificant. It was a fantastic weekend spent in wonderful company making memories to last us a lifetime!

#TeamGarminMTB reports on the #CloverTour2017. @GarminSA

It’s been a while since Team Garmin dabbled in some road racing but this year’s Clover Lowveld Tour fit nicely in our calendar to build some fitness while getting some exposure at the same time.

With a calendar jam-packed full of events one can’t be at one’s best for every event, but that shouldn’t stop participation! Instead it should be seen as an opportunity to compete without the usual self induced pressure and a chance to push limits and grow as an athlete.

With that mindset we teamed up with the NAD Pro MTB Team and headed to the Forever Resort at Swadini which hosted the Clover Lowveld Tour. Sharing a house with the current SA MTB Marathon Champion Nico Bell, his teammate Gawie Combrinck, their sidekick Declan Sidey and our manager,

Nohan van Tonder made for a relaxed but focussed atmosphere where racing was as important as recovery off the bike.

As there wasn’t a lady’s category, Yolandi entered the Open category pitting herself against a mixed bunch of ladies, Masters men (over 50), Under 17 boys and (racing) unlicensed men. This made for an interesting dynamic as people were racing races within races, trying to win the category as well as beat the opposition in their age group. Yolandi did not let this faze her, attacking where she felt good and pushing hard to train her weaknesses.

I lined up in the Elite men’s category where the competition was sure to come from the 2 strongest teams in SA – Team Road Cover and Team BCX. As a bunch of mountain bikers we would do what we could to help Nico for the overall classification, while looking to take any opportunities for stage results should they arise.

We faced 5 stages, the first a rolling stage of 135km followed by a 126km stage in the mountains. Day 3 was a double header with a 20km Time Trial in the morning and a criterium race in the afternoon.

The final day was a fast 126km stage on an out and back route. The open category riders faced the same challenge with the exception being shorter distances for their stages.


Yolandi punched well above her weight finishing 3rd overall and with it the first lady. The organizers gave Yolandi a pink winner’s jersey to celebrate her ‘victory’ in the lady’s category and hopefully as a sign that there will be a separate category for the ladies in the near future.

Our category was the expected back and forth between the strong teams with Team Road Cover winning 3 stages and the overall honours courtesy of Willie Smit, while Team BCX’s Nolan Hoffman won stage 1 along with the criterium.

The Nad Pro MTB Team/Garmin house delivered another podium result as Nico Bell finished 3rd overall with Gawie in 10th, me in 19th and Declan in 22nd. Although the results were encouraging it was all about getting in the hard miles and despite some rain on stage 2 we all managed to stay upright and finish the tour tired but not broken. Now for some rest and the training block will kick in, giving us a boost in fitness needed for the second half of the season.

Next up for us will be the Trans Baviaans (2) which Yolandi will ride with her dad and I will team up with my friend Raymo

nd Odendaal. Beyond the obvious adventure of traversing the Baviaanskloof in one go, it will also be a great opportunity for us to test our brand new Garmin Varia UT 800 lights.




Read the #TeamGarminMTB report on @kalchalmtb here:

The Kalahari Challenge is Botswana’s premier mountain bike stage race, taking place just outside the capitol Gaborone. One would think the mostly flat and geographically featureless landscape would make for lacklustre riding, but an active mountain bike community and some very accommodating cattle delivered surprisingly fun biking for the 3rd leg of our #AfricanMTBSeries!

The race start in the shade of a rollercoaster at the Lion Park just South of Gaborone was a premonition of sorts and symbolic of what we were about to face over the next 3 days of racing.

Case in point – the warm hospitality from our luxurious pre race accommodation at the Avani hotel was in stark contrast to the frosty start of each day almost as much as the rugged and unforgiving terrain was dissimilar to the comfy, blanket stacked beds in our roomy campsite tents.

According to the race book 235km lie in wait for us with ‘a mere’ 2000m of elevation gain over the 3 days of racing. What wasn’t published (but was forewarned) was that there would be plenty of Botswana hills, i.e. deep sandy patches, and a bunch of thorns acting as traffic police making sure we kept our speed in check.

A big challenge was navigating while racing but we soon found the balance between following the map on our Garmin EDGE 1000, the neon green stickers which marked the course and the slight difference between the two. Every now and then one could use initiative to avoid deep sand or thorns but you had to keep your wits about you to stay on track which added an interesting dimension to the event.

Day’s 1 and 3 had loads of manmade and natural singletrack which saw plenty of kilometres fly by, but day 2 was a challenge which had everyone thankful to finish the stage despite some striking landscapes along the way. We were determined to continue our recent run of good form and after 3 days of tough racing we took home the title in the Mixed Category along with a 6th place overall.

For now our #AfricanMTBSeries is on hold until the Rift Valley Odyssey in September, but that doesn’t mean we stop racing our bikes. Winter means there are slightly less events and we’ll use the time to pause, reboot and ensure we tackle the second half of the season with renewed vigour.

#TeamGarminMTB reports on their 2nd event in the #AfricanMTBSeries, @1ZambiaMTB. @GarminSA

About 90 brave souls started the 4th edition of the 1Zambia last week Friday, setting off on a true African adventure. The event was hosted at Lilayi Lodge just outside Lusaka, spending 2 days at the stunning venue before the final stage took riders to Kiambi Lodge on the banks of the mighty Zambesi River.

This event was the 2nd in our Team Garmin #AfricanMTBSeries, coming a week after our exploits at the Namib Quest. With six days of racing in our legs and quite a bit of travel we were apprehensive of our form come race day, but a pre race spin around Lilayi Lodge soon pushed thoughts of racing back as we totally immersed ourselves in Bushveld camping life amongst the Giraffe, Eland, Waterbuck and other wildlife that roamed the game park.

Reality struck soon enough as people filtered into the race village on Thursday to complete registration and race briefing made it clear we were in for a challenge. Two stages of 70km dropping down the adjacent escarpment and back up followed by a final monster 108km transition stage down to Lower Zambesi would have to be self navigated in order to conquer the 1Zambia.

The terrain was exactly as we had pictured Africa with animal and man-made trails criss-crossing some harsh but beautiful lush savannah, expertly connected by race director Owen Green. Where no trails were available, singletrack was hand cut and built to make sure riders had the best experience possible getting from A to B.

With a trail network spread out like the Okavango delta, it was inevitable to take the incorrect option here and there, especially while trying to go at race speed, but each time our Garmin Edge 1000 devices had us back on track in no time. We raced as smart as we could often backing off the pace in order to focus on navigation and helping each other to negotiate the tough terrain while keeping track of the course. This netted us 3 stage wins and the overall title in the Mixed category, and a whole lot of fun along the way!

In between stages our tented camp overlooking a waterhole made for some of the best ever post stage recovery afternoons punctuated by some proper catering to fuel our fun.

The scenery, extensive trails and African experience at the event were all highlights which would bring any mountain biker back, but the most significant feature of the event was the organizers commitment to their undertaking. Owen, Ilke and their team of committed volunteers left no stone unturned to make everyone feel welcome and get the most from their participation at the event. That alone is enough reason to put the 1 Zambia on your Bike-it list.

#TeamGarminMTB reports on their first event in the #AfricanMTBSeries, @NamibQuest

Last week we finally embarked on our African MTB Series where we will be taking part in 5 mountain bike stage races across Sub-Saharan Africa, but outside of our South African borders. After a busy few months on home soil we were excited to finally get the ball rolling on our ‘international’ campaign.

The Namib Quest is a 6 day mountain bike stage race which starts in the Namibian capital, Windhoek, and finishes 480km later at the coastal town of Swakopmund.  It would serve as the first step of our journey and what a step it was!

Our largely westward route meant we would be traversing the semi desert Komas Hochland by loosely following the C28 dirt road but frequently diverting on to adjacent farms for some proper mountain biking.  Eventually we dropped down through the transitional plateau and into the Namib Desert, crossing the Namib Naukluft Park and finally popping out on to the Atlantic coast at Swakopmund.

The route itself offered a fascinating balance of  loose rocky sections and sandy stretches, which got quite technical when the terrain was uneven, connected by open district roads.

This unique course combined with the unfamiliar terrain proved to be extremely challenging but very rewarding once conquered. Although we started at  1700m above sea level and finished at the coast, there was the small matter of conquering  5,296 meters of ascent along the way with most of that climbing (and descending) to be done on some of Namibia’s harshest terrain.

Obviously nothing new to Namibians, but camping was also taken to a whole new level for us South Africans. The camping equipment was proper gear and campsites were erected in beautiful, remote places where phone signal was as scarce as water! This meant the day post stage was spent in the company of nature, fellow riders and race staff rather than staring at our mobile devices. It was refreshing to spend time watching the sun set while sharing war stories about the day’s stage. The race atmosphere is peaceful and to keep it this way the race organisers limit the event to 75 entrants which meant we all knew each other by the time we rolled into Swakopmund.

The only part of the day which had some intensity was the racing as we all battled away to reach the best possible result. We had a fantastic run with no mechanical or other issues allowing us to concentrate on the job at hand.We managed to win 4 stages, the mixed category as well as the overall title ahead of Irene Steyn and Xavier Papo (Mannie’s Bike Mecca) in 2nd and ON Travel Services’ Pedro Campos and Jorge Padrones in 3rd. For us the most striking thing amongst competitors was the camaraderie with Irene often sharing her local knowledge and experience with us despite us being the closest of competitors. It was refreshing and indicative of the ethos of the event.

Although it is billed as a ‘Boutique event’ and riders’ needs are all catered for, the Namib Quest is a challenge not to be underestimated. You still have to pedal your own bike and look after it to make sure it survives all that the desert can through at it, but few journeys will be as rewarding as conquering this quest!

#TeamGarminMTB embarks on the African MTB Series. @GarminSA

The African MTB series is a collection of 5 mountain bike races in Sub Saharan Africa chosen to highlight mountain biking in Africa and the involvement of Garmin in these events and countries.

In a twist of fate the African Series will commence with a trilogy of events starting in Namibia, heading to Zambia and concluding (temporarily) in Botswana. Come September the African Series will resume in Kenya before the grand finale in Mauritius.

This coming weekend Team Garmin will be heading to Namibia for the Namib Quest stage race which starts on the 21st of May in Windhoek and finishes in Swakopmund on the 26th of May. More importantly, this event marks the inaugural stage race in our Africa Series Campaign and we are excited to finally embark on this novel adventure.

From the arid Namib Quest we will head straight to fertile Zambia to participate at the 1-Zambia MTB Challenge. This event starts In Lusaka on the 2nd of June and finishes at the lower Zambezi on the 4th of June. It promises 3 days and 230km of pure African adventure!

From Zambia our journey continues south to Botswana where the Kalahari Challenge awaits us from 9-11 June. The event follows a circular route starting and finishing at the Lion Park just outside of Gabarone with plenty of singletrack through the bushveld and Kalahari Mountains on offer.

The next three weeks is sure to be an unforgettable experience for a myriad of reasons and we will make sure to share more details of the events and our experiences through our various media platforms.  So keep an eye out for Team Garmin as we’ll be out to #BeatYesterday!


#TeamGarminMTB reports on the inaugural @CradleTraverse. @GarminSA

It’s not often that we get the opportunity to be part of a race or event for the fun of it without having to worry about our performance. With that in mind we jumped at the opportunity when race organizers Dryland invited us to partake at the inaugural Cradle Traverse. The invitation came on condition that we just ride and enjoy the event in line with its raison d’être.

Along with its sister event the Stormsriver Traverse, the Cradle Traverse is focussed on a family orientated, fun filled weekend based around some mountain biking. Like most stage races there were various accommodation options for the 3 day event ranging from tents, to luxury tents and hotel rooms at Avianto – the race venue elect.

Along with the comfortable lodgings, the food and entertainment on offer over the 3 days were top class often to blame for some of the toughest decisions to be made – do I eat more of the delicious main course or save more space for the delectable dessert..?

There was also a ‘kiddie’s service’ on offer whereby kids could play under adult supervision while the adults were out on their bikes playing like kids!

On that note the trails laid out by the Dryland crew and Richard Beswick were surprisingly fun considering the geo-restrictions of designing a race course in a highly populated area. Each of the 3 stages were unique with enough singletrack to keep you engaged, sufficient distance and climbing to challenge you and plenty of variation to keep you smiling while testing your skill.

Team Garmin made the most of every opportunity to ride easy, mix with the pack and soak up the relaxed atmosphere while getting in some trail time with fellow mountain bikers. (In fact, it was so much fun that we had to remind ourselves to get back into training by the time the weekend was done!)?

Some teams raced hard, but the majority of participants were there to have a good time and share trail with likeminded people while taking in trails and views which aren’t always accessible. Suffice to say that everyone involved got what they wanted from the weekend which made it a huge success surely to become a permanent fixture on the MTB calendar.

We are proud to have been part of the inaugural Cradle Traverse and look forward to more of these fun events!

#TeamGarminMTB reports on @joBerg2c_ @GarminSA

The Old Mutual Joberg2C – Ride the Beloved Country

It’s all in the name – this event takes participants from Heidelberg (just South of Johannesburg) on the Highveld, through the Free State, down into Natal and finishes on the beach at Scottburgh with Indian Ocean waves crashing in the background. The race slogan is as significant as the name with this event definitely focused on the experience along the way. Don’t get us wrong – there is a very definite racing element, but it is confined to the hours spent on the bike with everything else focussed on this unique journey.

In keeping with their theme, Joberg2C has always made the first stage a neutral day with everyone getting the same time affording all the opportunity to appreciate the scenery while getting to know one another en route. This year the final stage was also neutral and aptly named a champagne stage where riders could soak up the final day atmosphere after a concluding prize giving the night before which was longer for some than for others regardless of results…

Stages 2 to 8 were the ‘racing stages’ where we battled for stage and overall honours. Barring the Elite Men’s field, the Mixed Category was by far the strongest category assembled. This is fantastic as it grows a significant facet of the sport by allowing ladies a less intimidating entry point into mountain bike racing.

Being a GPS navigated event, Joberg2C is a perfect opportunity to showcase our fantastic Garmin equipment with the Garmin EDGE 1000 literally taking centre stage. With its big screen and GPS accuracy we bombed along on the stages safe in the knowledge that a simple glance at our handlebars was all that was needed to keep us on track.

Even with a neutral stage to start and finish with, nine days and 900km on a mountain bike takes its toll. We were really lucky with the weather which made our journey easier, but this is how Joberg2C 2017 unfolded:

Stage 1 Heidelberg (Karan Beef) to Frankfort School (116km, 862m ascent)

Despite being neutral this was a long day in the saddle with the boat crossing of the Vaal Dam being a particularly fun innovation along the way. Good thing we weren’t racing as someone might have been drowned in a stampede 😉

Stage 2 Frankfort School to Reitz Show Grounds (93km, 1001m ascent)

Quoting the Joberg2C website: “This is where racing begins for some and the journey continues for most”. This stage went deep into rural Free State via sections of singletrack divided by stretches of district road and finished with the fun Boerbull Descent leading to the Husky Romi Wolf Sanctuary where you didn’t want to get left behind…

Stage 3 Reitz Show Grounds to Sterkfontein Dam (122km, 1188m ascent)

This was another long stage where the Jabulani singletrack came at just the right time to break the monotony of district road riding. The stage finish up and over Mount Paul was as hard as it was spectacular with views of Sterkfontein Dam and the Drakensberg Mountains signalling the stage finish.

Stage 4 Sterkfontein Dam to Emseni Camp (93km, 1100m)

This was the day we left the mielie (maize) fields behind and descended off the escarpment into Natal Bushveld, home of the Berg&Bush event. The iconic Great Wall my China, Solly’s Great Traverse and Bezuidenhout’s Pass set the tone for the day with the ‘Long Drop’ trail putting the cherry on top as we descended to the Emseni with a smile.

Stage 5 Emseni Camp to Clifton Nottingham Road (123km, 1900m ascent)

This was a leg breaker with huge distance and lots of climbing to be conquered after the halfway stage of the event. With 3 distinct characteristics we raced from the Natal Bushveld, skirted the Maloti Mountains and finally on to the dairy farmlands and Clifton School for some hard earned rest.

Stage 6 Clifton Nottingham Road to Glencairn Farm at Sani Pass Road (98km, 1821m ascent)

After a welcome start on tar roads we were straight at it up Gumtree climb which sorted the men from the boys. A surprisingly hard day made harder by the Slow Poison climb, but made bearable by spectacular scenery and the descents down Harrison’s pass and Rock and Roll midway through the stage as well as SO Sappi and Never Ender close to the finish.

Stage 7 Glencairn Farm to MacKenzie Club (82km, 1000m ascent)

This stage is famous as it’s also the first day of the Sani2C event – one of the longest standing stage races in South Africa. A fast flowing day punctuated by well established singletrack , floating bridges and purpose built rest camps.

Stage 8 MacKenzie Club to Jolivet Farm (96km, 1521m ascent)

This was the final racing stage and what a tough way to end the race albeit not the journey. The spectacular descent into the Umkomaas was as good as it gets and we made the most of it before riding next to the mighty Umkomaas river and finally up the new ‘Iconic climb’ to get back to the high country where the finish awaited.

After 7 days of racing there was no doubt about the results. The mixed teams were ridiculously consistent finishing in their respective positions daily, making the final overall result a direct reflection of the daily results. Darren and Candice Lill (Dormakaba) retained their title from last year with Grant Usher and Amy Macdougall finishing in 2nd. Johann Labuschagne and Catherine Williamson edged us out for 3rd, but to put matters in perspective all the mixed teams finished in the top 17 overall and top 13 overall results if you exclude solo riders. In a field of almost 400 teams that takes some doing!

Stage 9 Jolivet to Scottburgh The Old Mutual Wealth “Champagne Stage” (84km, 854m ascent)

Another neutral stage and an opportunity to spin out the legs, meet those we hadn’t met yet and enjoy the scenery while riding with other mountain bikers. This initiative was a hit with most riders and sure to become a favourite way to conclude this fantastic journey.

Although we only really got to enjoy them on the first and last stages, the waterpoints along the way were fantastic. They seemed to be opportunities for the locals to spoil the Joberg2C riders, each of them trying to outdo the others with us being the beneficiaries. On that note it was fantastic to see how land owners embraced the event, allowing us access to remote areas often by trails specifically built and maintained for this event. It is a credit to organizers and their vision that the local communities got so involved making the experience truly unique.

Craig Wapnick, Gary Green and Glen Haw’s vision with this event was to provide a journey where the destination is less important than the experience along the way and boy did they succeed! It was a true privilege to be part of this journey made exceptional by the passion of all those involved in bringing it to us and Team Garmin MTB is already making plans to be back next year. After all, it’s good to be reminded why we started to ride our mountain bikes in the first place!

#TeamGarminMTB reports on the @AshburtonInvest @NatMTBseries #3, Clarens. @GarminSA

Charismatic Clarens has become a regular stop of the National Mountain Bike Series, and with good reason. The town generously opens its doors to mountain bikers for race weekend, hosting the event from the town square and offering up a variety of routes with the gorgeous Free State landscape as backdrop.

It’s been exactly one year since we last took part in a series event and we were excited to be back racing at the country’s premier Marathon MTB series. With the series now boasting a new two-day stage racing format, there was even more reason to look
forward to a weekend of racing with double the fun!

The first stage was held on Saturday with70km and 1044m of elevation gain to be traversed in the foothills of the Maluti Mountains. Sunday’s second stage covered 50km with 835m of elevation gain finishing with a descent of the technical Porcupine Trail down into town to conclude proceedings.

With challenging routes and professional organization, the National MTB Series always draws a strong field. As if that doesn’t make for enough nervous start line excitement, most of the contenders were coming off a Cape Epic which finished less than 2 weeks ago and would affect each rider differently.

We set off in near perfect autumn conditions on stage 1, heading straight up a hill and out of town to begin our journey. Initially we were on wide open, fast roads but soon we encountered some singletrack climbing which stretched the field. With such a relatively short race distance everyone was going flat out, willing to play their hand and unafraid of ‘blowing up’. This made for exciting, tactical racing and small time gaps.

On open roads the saving and making of efforts had to be carefully judged while everywhere else each rider was trying to maximise his/her strengths and hide their weaknesses.

Day 2 was fairly similar just a more condensed version albeit on tired legs from stage 1’s racing.

Yolandi had a solid weekend finishing alongside Cape Epic partner Theresa Ralph (Galileo Risk/Navworld) in 6th place on stage 1 and 5th on stage 2 giving her 5th place overall for the stage race. Still riding her strong cape Epic form, Robyn de Groot (Ascendis Health) took top honours with the dormakaba girls Candice Lill and Vera Adrian rounding out the top 3.

Ben Melt finished a respectable 16th on stage 1 and 17th on stage 2 for a combined 16th place for the weekend in a deep field where less than 15 minutes covered the top 17 places after 2 days of racing. African Jersey winners at the Cape Epic Matthys Beukes and Phillip Buys (Pyga/Euro Steel) stood on the first and 3rd step of the podium with HB Kruger (Team BCX) splitting the pair in 2nd place.

The new 2 day format seems to be a winner and will grow the sport in leaps and bounds, pushing everyone to maximise each advantage to gain that vital edge needed to win a race. It is also more spectator friendly and will make for some exciting racing. We say, bring it on!