Focus on mountain biking for start of sani2c

2009-02-23 00:00

All the national mountain biking focus will fall into KZN this week when the Subaru sani2c starts in Underberg tomorrow. Now in its fifth year, the Subaru sani2c has become the biggest, most sought after mountain bike stage race in Africa, if not the world.

Fourteen hundred teams will take on the three-day challenge over the two events; the Subaru sani2c Adventure and the Subaru sani2c Race. The first event — the Adventure, which runs from tomorrow to Friday — is designed for the more social riders, while the top competitive teams will be decided from the race that starts on Thursday in Underberg and finishes in Scottburgh on Saturday. Spectators are encouraged to attend the finish festivities at Scottburgh High School.

Expect the big names of SA endurance racing to battle it out for the hefty prize purse. Defending champions Mannie Heymans and Ben Melt Swanepoel have split, with Heymans now riding with Marc Bassingthwaighte (Garmin) and Swanepoel teaming up with Jacques Janse van Rensburg (DCM Chrome). Together with Pietermaritzburg’s Brandon Stewart and Max Knox, DCM Chrome have a strong force and will no doubt work together for the honours. Francois Theron and rising star Philip Buys (Garmin) will help to strengthen the Heymans and Bassingthwaighte squad.

Arno Viljoen, third last year with Bassingthwaighte, will pair up with Renay Groustra — who placed second last year. An interesting combination is that of U23 World Cup Champion Burry Stander with former Xterra World Champion Conrad Stolz, both of whom fall under the prestigious Specialised banner. Expect to see local teams Roan Exelby and David Leiman (Fullimput/Morewood) and Craig Paul and Peter Smith (Team Jeep) mixing it up at the front of the field.

Two of last year’s podium-placed women’s teams are back in contention. Cape Town’s multisport talents Michelle Lombardi and Hanlie Booyens (Giant/Jeep) will be out to defend their title. Tania Raats, second last year, will team up with Carla Rowley (Bell Equipment) while the ever consistent Robyn Adendorf and Sarah van Heerden (SMS), third in 2008, will be in good form ahead of their Absa Cape Epic quest next month.

The mixed team category is always highly competitive. Last year’s winning team (Yolande de Villiers and Johan Labuschagne) placed 16th overall. In their absence, Yolande Speedy and Paul Cordes (IMC Reaction) look to be the team to beat having taken second last year, but will face opposition from the new combination of Yolandi du Toit and Adriaan Louw (DCM Chrome).

Andrew Mclean and Shan Wilson will be out to take the honours in the Veteran Men, while the Master Men’s category looks wide open with all of last year’s top three either not competing or with new partners.

The oldest team is that of Clive Crawley (77) and Peter Collier (79), aka the ‘Underberg Oldies’, who overshadow their nearest junior counterparts – Howick’s Arthur Duncan (74) and partner Mike Pallett by a combined age of nineteen years.

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