Injury does star in

2014-05-29 00:00

THE race for the women’s title at the 2014 Sappi Howick MTB Classic was thrown wide open just days before the event is set to get under way on Sunday when women’s defending champion Eszter Erdelyi confirmed she has been ruled out of this year’s action due to the return of a mysterious and crippling knee injury.

Erdelyi, who obliterated the women’s field in 2013 to finish over 10 minutes ahead of her nearest competitor, recently underwent keyhole surgery to establish the cause of major swelling and discomfort around her right knee and frustratingly is unsure just how long she will be out of action for.

“My knee just keeps swelling up. It doesn’t matter whether I ride or not, it just swells up and then the only way to get it back down again is to have it drained,” explained the Time Freight VELOLife rider.

“It’s very frustrating not being able to ride my bike and I’m very disappointed to be missing this year’s race.”

Erdelyi and her team-mates regularly traverse the region’s trails, and so the former Hungarian national athlete knows the characteristics and features of the course well, aiding in the enjoyment of taking part on the annual Howick event.

“We train on those trails at least once a week, and a lot of races in the area use bits and pieces of the trails in their courses, so I know the trails really well,” said Erdelyi.

“Even though we ride the trails quite often, the race makes things even more fun.

“I really love that race.”

The 2014 Sappi Howick MTB Classic begins a bumper four weeks of marathon mountain biking action in Pietermaritzburg and surrounds as this weekend’s race is closely followed by SA MTB Marathon Championships on June 8, and then the inaugural edition of the Rainbow Challenge and UCI MTB Marathon World Championships on June 28 and June 29 respectively.

Erdelyi is hardly surprised by the region’s jam-packed schedule as she believes the area offers tremendous trails, MTB adventure and scenery.

“I absolutely love the area. The trails are almost certainly the best in KZN and some of the best in the country,” exclaimed Erdelyi.

The defending champion’s absence from Sunday’s race now opens the door for Erdelyi’s fellow Time Freight VELOLife rider, 17-year-old Alexandra Mapstone, who will look to clinch a rare senior title after showing some solid form at the recent Sappi Karkloof Classic MTB Festival where she finished in an impressive 10th overall and was the third junior woman across the line.

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