Tag Archives: Yolandi du Toit Mountain Biking

My race report of the DU TOIT tankwa TREK @tankwatrek @GarminSA

The DU TOIT tankwa Trek is fast becoming one of South Africa’s premier 3 day mountain bike stage races. It is hosted at Kaleo Guest Farm and takes place in the beautiful Koue Bokkeveld region of the Western Cape Province.

As the race is held a mere 4 weeks prior to the Absa Cape Epic and offers similar riding conditions to what one will encounter at the Epic, it has become an almost compulsory preparation event for the Epic.

As such, it only made sense to team up with my 2016 Epic partner Theresa Ralph for this year’s edition of the DU TOIT tankwa TREK. Our main goal was to get familiar with each other’s riding styles and to develop an effective team strategy.

The total 265km route included 5250m of climbing and challenged riders in all aspects of the sport thanks to the varied terrain. The course consisted of loose and rocky gradients, some ridiculously steep ascents, winding trails through spectacular rocky outcrops and some meandering through succulent fruit orchards. The demanding terrain left its mark and it was actually quite comical to hear mountain bikers (myself included) complaining about cramping arms and hands instead of just the usual feet and legs.

I’ve raced against Theresa on countless occasions but this was our first outing as a team. Standing 183cm (6 feet) tall and with fiery red hair, Theresa always left the impression of “don’t mess with me”, but I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Theresa is actually a “Gentle Giant” and one of the kindest ladies on the mountain bike circuit. I can only say that it was truly a pleasure to race alongside her and spend time in her company.

Theresa and I had a consistent ride from beginning to end and kept on learning from each other as the kilometres ticked by. By day 3 we both felt like we’d managed to find our groove and now we are looking forward to our next stage race as a team.

Robyn de Groot and Jennie Stenerhag won the DU TOIT tankwa Trek overall with Bianca Haw and Candice Neethling in 2nd place. Theresa and I finished in 3rd place on all 3 stages to secure the final step on the podium.

Event organisers, Dryland, have a winning recipe with the DU TOIT tankwa Trek as it caters for a limited field of riders, offers tough but very rewarding riding, a stunning venue, delicious food and a warm, local atmosphere. If you are as fortunate as me to make it to the event and find a very kind partner to ride with, you are guaranteed to have an unforgettable experience!

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My race report of the Du Toit @tankwatrek @GarminSA

After the national road championships in the Lowveld, it was a quick travel home to unpack, repack and swap skinny tyres for fat ones before travelling to the Boland for the Tankwa Trek 3 day mountain bike stage race.

The event took place just above the beautiful Ceres Valley which is well known for its fruit production.  Kaleo Guest farm was the hub from where each of the three stages started and finished. Here riders camped and got treated to delicious farmers food as they rested their weary legs after a hard day’s ride.

Each stage was designed by different local farmers whose land we traversed on that particular day. This intimate knowledge ensured that we got to see the best trails and scenery the Koue Bokkeveld has to offer. Over the three days of racing we covered about 250km which included 5305 m of climbing for good measure.

At stage races I usually participate in the ladies category, but this time around I decided to give mixed racing a go and partnered with fellow coach and mentor, Dr Mike Posthumus. This category has a completely different dynamic compared to the other categories. As expected the male participant would generally be much stronger than the female and teamwork is the deciding factor in getting the team across the line in the shortest possible time.

Mike and I are both quite inexperienced at mixed racing and to make the best of whatever happened, we decided to see it as a learning experience if nothing else. It was actually quite astonishing to witness, but from the moment we set off for the first 85km stage Mike’s knowledge and background of professional sport became apparent. He immediately grasped, and taught me along the way, what it required to get the best out of our partnership in order to do well in the race.

At 90kg of lean muscle, Mike is an extremely powerful cyclist and a very thoughtful teammate. When he wasn’t pulling or pushing me, he sheltered me from the wind. He continually made sure that I was eating and drinking enough, even stopping to fill our water bottles at the water points while I kept on riding and kept me motivated to push hard on the pedals.

I finished every stage completely exhausted, but riding with someone that gave 100% to the partnership made the suffering very worthwhile.

In the end we gained a lot more than just experience in the mixed category. We finished 2nd on stages one and two and took the win on the third and final stage.

The pairing of Candice Neethling and Craig Boyes (Team Asrin) took overall honours with Mike and me (Team Garmin) placing 2nd overall with Leana De Jager and Johan Labuschagne (Team Sasol) in 3rd place.

The weather and a partnership at a stage race has one thing in common – it can make or break your experience of the event and I left Tankwa Trek with a big smile on my face. Thanks Mike for being a great teammate and I look forward to more stage racing together in the near future.

 

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Race Report -South African National Road Championships @GarminSA

The annual South African National Road, Time Trial and Para-cycling Championships were held around Mbombela stadium on the outskirts of Nelspruit. This prestigious event ran from the 2nd until the 8th of February and promised to showcase the top South African athletes battling for the coveted national titles.

After my performance at Meerendal I was a bit apprehensive about my participation at SA Champs, but every cloud has a silver lining and with the advice and unwavering support of my back-up team I regained the courage to start the elite ladies event.

The undulating 14km road race lap contained 3 hills followed by steep descents which we would cover 8 times for a total of 112km with 1896m of climbing. At the bottom of each descent a traffic circle would steer the course in a new direction and the sweeping bends were the highlight of my race. With full road closure, newly tarred roads and the accumulated speed from the descent, one could really dive into the corners without reservation.

The elite ladies set off at 1pm on Saturday afternoon and if the racing wasn’t going to be aggressive the route and soaring temperature would definitely make it a race of attrition.

The undisputed favourite in our race was world class cyclist Ashleigh Moolman Passio. The moment we left the start line she was marked so closely that some riders would literally be following her around in the bunch, pulling brakes to make sure they could stay behind her.

Despite this Ashleigh kept her head and actually lay her cards on the table every time we hit an incline. She would attack from the bottom of the steepest drag out on course and keep the pace high until reaching the summit. Doing this repeatedly, she sapped the field’s energy and on the final lap she put this blue print in ink by breaking clear from the field to solo in for a well-deserved victory.

I went into the race knowing that I’m not fully prepared for a road race. You can carry your fitness across from mountain biking, but the race intensity is quite different. In a mountain bike race you ride at a constant high tempo whereas in a road race there are a lot of surges. With this in mind I made my goal to go out, give my best and race positively. For this reason my emphasis wasn’t on Ashleigh but on the racing that lay ahead of us.

I tried to animate the race as best as I could and paid for it at times by getting dropped and having to chase back to the leaders. In contrast to the previous week, my body embraced the suffering this time around and I was able to get back to the front each time. On the final lap I was still in the front group of eight riders and by just being there, it meant I had exceeded all my expectations. I crossed the finish line in eighth place, while An-Li Kacheloffer went on the finish in 2nd place with Lynette Pieterse in 3rd.

I’ve been to a few South African National Road Championships albeit a couple of years ago and the 2015 edition was definitely one of the better ones. A big thanks to the organisers for doing an excellent job in hosting the event and even more so for having it in the beautiful Lowveld region.

SA Champs

Dairy: Omnicane Southern Tropical Challenge @GarminSA @Merida_SA @STCmauritius

For four consecutive years I’ve been fortunate enough to complete my racing season at the Omnicane Southern Tropical Challenge – a 4 day mountain bike stage race on the Tropical Island of Mauritius, traversing the southern part of the Island.

After a short flight across the Indian Ocean I arrived on the Island two days prior to event.  With a late flight and a 2 hour time difference, I had just enough time to have dinner and assemble my bike before it was “bed time”. The following day was filled with a short mountain bike ride in and around Curepipe, a press conference in Port Louis and finally registration and race briefing at the Dodo Club back in Curepipe.

Since my maiden participation at the event I’ve been teaming up with local star and good friend Aurelie Halbwachs. This time would be no different and I was looking forward to the challenge ahead whilst racing alongside Aurelie.

Day one:  8, 2 km and 182 m of climbing

The prologue started and finished at the Dodo Club in Curepipe. Aurelie and I had strong competition in the pairing of Germany’s Nadine Reeder and Mauritian Kim Le Court. Nadine is well known for her podium places on the World Cup Eliminator circuit and Kim is currently riding for the South African VeloLife road team with a recent victory at the Amashova Classic.

In the prologue Aurelie and I set a good time despite my untimely detour in the Botanical Gardens close to the finish. We still managed to place 2nd on the day, only 2 seconds off stage winners Nadine Reeder and Kim Le Court.

Day two: 67 km and 1200m ascent.

Like the previous day, stage 1 started and finished at the Dodo Club in Curepipe.  With rain falling throughout the night and intermittent showers during the stage, riders had to deal with a wet and muddy course.

The first section of the race consisted of jeep track littered with volcanic rocks. Last year on a similar trail I crashed quite badly and had to abandon the race with a heavy cut on my elbow which required stitching. While riding this particular section harsh memories came flooding back causing my body to tense up – exactly what you want to avoid!

On the newly built singletrack at Domaine De Lagrave something had to give and before I knew what happened, I was lying on the ground… The rain made the tracks at Lagrave especially slippery and most riders dismounted to walk the tricky sections. At that stage Aurelie and I were fighting for the lead position and pushed a little harder. I slipped on some tree roots and landed awkwardly on my shoulder. Although nothing was broken, I knew the damage was pretty severe forcing me to abandon the race. At the hospital in Curepipe it was confirmed that I had indeed torn some shoulder ligaments.

I couldn’t believe my ill luck. It was massively disappointing to abandon the race, but it hurt a lot more letting Aurelie down for a second time in a row.

Like someone once told me, it’s not what happens to you but what you make of it…. Despite it being emotionally hard to continue travelling with the event as a non-competitor, I decided to stay on and support those who could ride. In the end it turned out to be the best decision as the people on the island are very hospitable, caring and appreciative of my efforts to lend (1) helping hand. I would have missed out on a lot of good memories if I had left the race.

Day three took riders from the Dodo Club in Curepipe to finish at the famous tea plantation of Bois Chéri 65km later. Here riders camped for the night before departing for the final 60km stage which was set to finish on the beach at Point d’Esny. Waiting in anticipation at the finish line on the arrival of the first team home, I had plenty of time to soak up the atmosphere. I also had time to savour the detail organizers had thought of to make the finish special.

Once a rider crossed the finish line for the final time they received a true Island style straw hat and a freshly cut coconut , a glass filled with traditional spicy fruit salad, a chicken Kebab and finally a dip in the ocean if you were so inclined. One thing is for sure, you would be hard pushed to find such an exotic stage finish anywhere else.

Well done to the entire OSTC team for putting on a unique stage race, especially considering the limited resources available.

Juliette Halbwachs (Aurelie’s mother) had been my private ambulance for both incidents (2013&2014) and my private tour guide during this year’s event post injury. Juliette, thanks so much for making my OSTC experience truly special. Also a big thanks to the entire Halbwachs family and Yannick Lincoln for warmly hosting me during my time in Mauritius.

Obviously, it’s not the way I would have liked my 2014 racing season to end but I really can’t complain as I had a great year on and off the bike thanks to wonderful sponsors and an unwavering support team. Without you guys, I won’t be able to do what I love dong the most- so thank you so much!

Aurelie & Yolandi

FNB Wines2Whales MTB stage race, @GarminSA @Merida_SA @enduren

The 6th edition of the Wines2Whales mountain bike stage race took place in the beautiful surroundings of the Overberg region in the Western Cape.

This popular event has grown immensely and currently has three versions on offer known as the Adventure, the Trail and the Race. The first to set off are the Adventure riders and once they have completed their 3 day journey, they are followed by the Trail participants. The Race entrants are the last to cover the exact same 212km long route which includes a total elevation gain of 4,124m.

Lately professional road cyclist Anriette Schoeman has been swapping her skinny tires for fat ones at a few events, and she invited me to team up with her for the Wines2Whales Race. In the past we’ve been teammates on the National Road Cycling team, but this would be our first outing as partners in the dirt.

The event started at Lourensford Winery in Somerset West and finished at the whale watching town of Hermanus, hence the name Wines to Whales. Along the way we stopped over for two nights at the Oak Valley sports ground just outside of Grabouw.

Every mountain bike stage event has its own unique charm and attraction. While traversing the Overberg region there were a couple of things that stood out for me. As mountain bikers we simply love single track and not only was there an abundance of it, it was also laid out in a very picturesque setting. We also negotiated plenty of wooden bridges, hiked up the Gantouw Pass and played in what seemed like a trail park constructed of apple carts and scaffolding. All of this gave the event its own character and allure.

Portable ablutions and tented accommodation can be challenging at the best of times, but I found camping in one place to be a lot more comfortable compared to daily trekking to a new camp site. It saves participants a lot of energy not having to pack, load and unpack bags and race organisers can spend all their energy, time and budget on one race village instead of spreading it over a few locations. The W2W crew did just that and made our stay at Oak Valley very pleasant indeed.

Not only has Wines2Whales grown in numbers, but the depth of the field has also increased dramatically. The 6th edition had the most competitive ladies field taking part in the event’s history which surely bodes well for ladies mountain biking.

After 3 days of hard racing Anriette and I were both very pleased with the outcome of our race. We worked well together as a team and rode consistently throughout the event to place 3rd overall in the ladies category. The pairing of Robyn de Groot and Catherine Williamson took the overall victory with Jennie Stenerhag and Candice Neethling finishing in 2nd place.

Wines2Whales is a challenging event but gives as much as it takes. It’s definitely worth adding to one’s bucket list of races.

Final Overall Results:

1st        Robyn de Groot & Catherine Williamson

2nd`      Jennie Stenerhag & Candice Neethling

3rd        Anriette Schoeman & Yolandi du Toit

4th        Carla Van Huyssteen & Ashleigh  Moffat

5th        Michelle Lombardi & Hanlie Booyens

Wines2Whales