Stander, Neethling tops in NY

2012-07-07 00:00

THE South Coast can be proud of its Olympic mountain bike contenders. Burry Stander and Candice Neethling both claimed podium positions at last weekend’s sixth round of the UCI Olympic Cross-Country World Cup in Windham, New York.

Stander did South Africa proud as he claimed the victory in the Elite Men’s race. Currently eighth on the International Cycling Union world rankings, Stander has been touted as a possible medal winner at the Olympic Games in London next month.

His victory last weekend, which pushed him up to sixth in the World Cup Series rankings, served as confirmation that he’s firmly on track to challenge for that coveted podium place at the Games.

“It was quite a nice surprise to win today. It was very hot, but coming from South Africa I’m used to the heat,” Stander said afterwards.

One of Stander’s main rivals, Germany’s Manuel Fumic, punctured while at the front, with Stander eliminating him from a shot at the podium, while Czech World Champion Jaroslav Kulhavy faded early on.

With one-and-a-half laps remaining Stander attacked with an intensity that his two nearest rivals at the time, Spain’s Sergio Mantecon and Italy’s Marco Fontana, were unable to counter.

The 26-year-old South African then extended his lead to claim his second World Cup victory. Stander pointed out the importance of nutrition in the extreme heat. He has been fine-tuning his nutrition and supplementation in the build-up to the Olympic Games in conjunction with his coach, sports scientist Dr Jeroen Swart.

Stander is now just 12 points behind the World Cup Series leader, Switzerland’s Nino Schurter.

With one round remaining, in France on July 28, the world’s most prestigious mountain bike series is set for an exciting finale. Stander’s highest finish in the World Cup Series was third in 2009.

Neethling achieved her best result to date on the international circuit when she claimed third in the U23 Women behind Swiss rider Jolanda Neff and second placed Rebecca Henderson from Australia.

It was an outstanding achievement for the former Pietermaritzburg Girls’ High pupil, whose career as a professional mountain biker is showing tremendous promise.

With Neethling’s third place at Windam, she is now ranked in the top 10 U23 women in the 2012 Rocky Roads UCI Mountain Bike World Cup. The last race is on July 28-29 in Val d’Isere in Italy, before SA’s Olympians Stander, Neethling and Philip Buys depart for the 2012 Olympic Games in London, to race on August 11-12.

The ROAG Series continues this weekend with the John Dory’s Golovane MTB Classic taking place at Holla Trails tomorrow morning.

With five of the 10 events in the series completed, the leading contenders will be vying for points at tomorrow’s race, which promises to be a fair test of mountain biking skills and fitness. The cane and jeep track trails use the natural features of the land to create some testing climbs, while the sections of district road will reward the faster riders.

There will be 50 km, 20 km and six kilometre races to provide some mountain biking for just about all members of the family. Late entries will be taken at registration between 6 am and 8 am at Collisheen Estate.

Currently in line to win in the men’s overall category is Carl Calverley and in the women’s overall category, Natalie Bergstrom.

Elsewhere on the MTB circuit, Mankele Mountain Bike Park, situated near Sudwala Caves on the outskirts of Nelspruit, is preparing to host the SA National cross-country and downhill championships on July 21-22.

With the Olympics just around the corner and with mountain biking holding a trump medal card in the person of Burry Stander, excitement is growing for the upcoming Championships.

KZN Mountain bikers have performed consistently throughout the SA MTB Cup Series and are sure to bring back a bounty of medals.

KZN riders at the top of the log include Sabine Thies (Nipper girls), Tiffany Keep (Sprog girls) and Cameron Wright (Sprog boys), Thomas Jessop (Sub-Junior boys), Mikaela Jonsson and Kayla Edwards (Sub-Junior girls), Alan Hatherly (Youth men), Patrick Belton and Kyle Dorkin (Junior men), Angela Egeland and Ashleigh Parker-Moffatt (U23 women), Natalie Bergstrom (Sub-Vet women), Rob Hamlyn, Gary Neethling and Con Malherbe (Master Men) and Charles Stander (Grand Master men).

It will be the first time that Mankele hosts the national championships, although the popular mountain biking destination is well known as a prime destination for the country’s top off-road racers, and in its short four years it has already hosted a number of National Cup Series events as well as an African Continental Championship.

MULTISPORT

THE second event in the Varsity College Multisport Series takes place at Shongweni Dam on July 22. This series now also offers a 15km and five kilometre Trail Run and the 40 km and 20 km MTB races, as well as the regular long and short course Multisport and MultiX events. The third event, on August 19, is at Albert Falls Dam.

Further event details may be found on www.maxcluer.com and entries are at www.roag.co.za.

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