Stewart turns on the afterburners

2012-07-21 00:00

MOUNTAIN BIKING

HILTON-based MTB pro Brandon Stewart turned on the afterburners to claim his maiden victory in the Kia Walkerville Mountain Bike Classic in sub-zero conditions in Johannesburg last weekend. Stewart made an early break in the 60 km main event and was later joined by Waylon Woolcock.

They matched each other all the way to the Walkerville Showgrounds, where the 15th edition of Gauteng’s largest and coldest winter race finished on the slippery speedway circuit.

Stewart duly out-dragged his breakaway companion to take line honours three seconds ahead of Woolcock.

The latter’s team-mate, Neil MacDonald, completed the podium.

The women’s race was won by Nicci Grobler, followed by Carolyn Smith and Nataly Barbosa.

Walkerville was the first of five mountain bike races in the new Kia series. The next is the Kia Val de Vie Classic near Paarl on September 15.

MTB action will be focused in Mpumalanga at Mankele MTB Park this weekend as the country’s top cross-country and downhill riders compete for national championship titles.

Attention towards this year’s championship event is at an all-time high with the return to South Africa of our three Olympic representatives — Burry Stander, Philip Buys and Candice Neethling.

The course designer and owner at Mankele MTB Park, Mark Meyer, has prepared a 5,4 km XCO course with 120 m ascent and a 1,8 km DHI track with the usual technicalities and thrills that can be expected at Mankele.

Stander, the 2011 national champion and London Olympic XCO medal contender, is optimistic ahead of the race.

“The national championship is always important for me every year.

“The racing is getting very tough now, with Phil Buys riding very strong and the U23 riders racing really well, so there are some big challenges,” he said.

The women’s defending national champion, Yolande Speedy, who is making a comeback to mountain bike racing after breaking her wrist earlier this year, is looking forward to getting back into the action at this weekend’s nationals.

“I have raced in a number of marathon races and my wrist is holding up well. Now it’s time for some XCO,” said Speedy.

For more information about the 2012 SA XCO and DHI National Championship call Cycling SA MTB director Brett Coates at 082 774 5821.

The International Cycling Union (UCI) released the 2013 Mountain Bike World Cup calendar last week and a noticeable absence from the March/April slot was Pietermaritzburg’s already familiar kick-off to the global cross-country and downhill season.

South African mountain biking fans need not be disheartened though, because an even bigger prize waits in the form of the once-off MTB World Championship, scheduled for August 26-September 1, 2013.

Furthermore, South Africa will also play host to the annual UCI MTB Masters World Championships, scheduled a week prior to the elite event from August 21-25, 2013. The Masters event is open to all non-elite XCO and DHI participants and proves a hot favourite with the team mechanics and support crews of the elite teams that will be racing a week later.

Event organiser Alec Lenferna says that this is an opportunity that will take many years before it repeats itself again. “The mountain bike world championship event is a very big deal,” said Lenferna. “This is the second biggest UCI event after the Road World Champs, and an opportunity like this does not come around often.”

Unlike the previous three years, where the UCI Masters Worlds was held in Brazil, the Masters will now be held in the same country as the host of the elite world cup events going forward.

“Masters” refers to all non-elite riders from any of the 30+ age categories, including sub-veterans, veterans, masters and grand masters.

No qualification criteria are needed to enter, but the best way to test your skills in the XCO and DHI disciplines is to participate in your local provincial and national events.

Lenferna also confirmed that Pietermaritzburg would host the UCI MTB World Cup opening rounds once again in 2014 and 2015.

The third event in the MiWay Big 5 Series is the Hluhluwe Rhino Challenge, which takes place from Hluhluwe Club in Zululand tomorrow. Three race distances on offer: 50 km, 25 km and 10 km. Registration is open from 6-8.30 am.

CYCLING

THE Pietermarizburg cycle track came alive with action last Friday as rider’s enjoyed warm conditions ahead of the predicted cold front.

Local riders Mike de Villiers and Sean Fortman dominated the results, taking six and three wins respectively. Siobhan Walker and Lorna Carlstein dominated the women’s racing. Durban is hosting the next track meeting at 2.30 pm this afternoon.

MULTISPORT

THE second event in the Varsity College Multisport Series takes place at Shongweni Dam tomorrow morning.

Participants should note that this series is not only for the multisport athletes, as it now offers a 15 km and five kilometre trail run and the 40km and 20 km MTB races, as well as the regular long- and short-course Multisport and MultiX events.

Event details at www.maxcluer.com

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