Nature throws everything but the kitchen sink at MTB Festival riders

2016-05-03 09:39
In enduro, riders make their way to the top of the course on their bikes before racing downhill. As can be seen, the discipline is very sociable.

In enduro, riders make their way to the top of the course on their bikes before racing downhill. As can be seen, the discipline is very sociable. (Darren Goddard, The Witness)

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Pietermaritzburg - Mud, rain, sunshine, cold, heat — participants were tested by a wide variety of conditions in the second annual Pietermaritzburg MTB Festival, which came to a close on Monday after three days of varied competition, from the development to elite levels.

Saturday’s competitors in the elite hors catégorie cross-country (XCO) races had to deal with very challenging cold, muddy conditions, with the riders in the junior men’s World Series race having to cope with the worst of it, which meant running more than riding, as mud played havoc with the mechanics of their bikes.

The Austrian duo of Gregor Raggl and Karl Markt, more familiar than the majority of the field with the conditions, made it count by claiming the top two steps of the men’s elite podium, while Philip Buys flew the South African flag in third place.

In the women’s race, Mariske Strauss secured a home victory, taking the win ahead of Cherie Redecker, the highest ranked South African in the UCI world rankings, with Kargo Pro MTB’s Frankie du Toit continuing her education in the pro ranks with a third place finish.

The most dramatic competition happened in the men’s Junior World Series race with the mud reducing the bikes to weights that had to be carried for much of each lap. Again, it was an overseas-based riders who shone, with Alexander Benn of Germany breaking away on the second lap to win by 10 minutes over KZN rider Reinhard Zellhuber, with Antonie Joubert ending third, nine minutes down on Zellhuber.

Danielle Strydom, the South African road and MTB champion, dominated the junior women’s World Series race, and despite taking two tumbles in the slippery conditions won by more than four minutes over Christie-Leigh Hearder. Third went to Sabrina van Wyk.

Pietermaritzburg local Jeannie Dreyer stormed to an impressive overall victory in Sunday’s SA Masters Marathon Championships, forcing the pace from the start to open up a gap that no one was able to close down.

Competing in the 35-39 age group, she was first across the finishing line in 3:01:30, more than nine minutes faster than the second fastest rider, Theresa Ralph, who topped the 40-44 category.

“Having done the World Champs here two years ago, it was nice having a bit of insight into the course layout,” Dreyer reflected afterwards.

“It started with a big gradual climb straight away onto some district road and through some sugar cane. We had some portage sections too, so a little bit of everything, but what a wonderful day it was, and we were so lucky that the weather turned for us. I feel super blessed that we had a beautiful day to ride.”

Brandon Stewart, also competing in the 35-39 age group, held off 30-34 winner Derrin Smith for the overall win, with Gerrie Beukes, in the 45-49 category, finishing third, a little ahead of 40-44 winner Warren Price.

“The track was really good today. I think it’s been so dry out there that the rain made the course really grippy and it was nowhere near as wet as I thought it would be,” said Stewart.

“It was a little chilly this morning and warmed up quite quickly and made for a really fun track. There were some slippery sections on the downhill sections in the shady parts, which is where I managed to get my gap in the end, as I think Derren slipped a bit on a bridge and I got 10 seconds on him.

“I had earmarked this race as a race I would’ve liked to have done well in. There were parts today where I really battled, but overall it was pretty good.”

Sunday’s competition also featured the finals of KwaZulu-Natal Cycling’s District Development Series, with 125 riders representing each of the 11 district municipalities of KZN on single-speed racers or BMX bikes in a series of knockout races.

KwaZulu-Natal Sport and Recreation’s deputy manager of monitoring and evaluation Duncan Pool said he felt pride in seeing a programme like the District Development Series come together: “We’ve seen it grow and certainly, aside from the skills development that we’ve seen on the bicycles, there is also the life skills development.

“On the racetrack, the level of competition is high. It’s a successful programme and obviously there are limitations in terms of funding and finance and how far it can go, but it is really important to sustain it.”

Pool said the department had high hopes for the programme: “We’re clearly using this as a talent identification process to find somebody to be on those podiums at the Olympic Games, never mind the Commonwealth Games.”

KZN, he added, was showing the rest of South Africa the way forward: “We’ve got to boast, we’re trendsetters in this province in many fields, and this programme is certainly one of them.”

The competition wrapped up yesterday with the enduro event, which combines the best of the social aspect of MTB cycling and a tamer version of downhill, and Primary and High Schools competition. Mother Nature was at her finest as participants and moms and dads enjoyed a fine day out on the public holiday.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg

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