Marathon mudbath a race of sheer survival

2009-08-08 00:00

IT had to happen sometime! The last rains in the Eston district fell in March, and the farmers have been doing all kinds of rain dances. They could have waited a day or two as the 30 mm that fell the night before the Illovo Eston MTB Challenge changed the event from a mountain bike challenge to a matter of sheer survival.

Despite the mud, South Africa’s leading bikers turned up in full force last weekend to challenge for the 60 km Illovo Marathon title. With R10 000 up for grabs, racing was always going to be intense.

Pietermaritzburg’s Brandon Stewart (DCM Chrome) and Kevin Evans (MTN Energade) set the early pace before Stewart made a tactical error, choosing to wait for team-mate Max Knox, who was in the chasing pack about 15 seconds adrift. Unfortunately, Knox, who has been a strong lieutenant for Stewart all season, couldn’t close the gap.

Evans raced away to take another well-deserved Illovo Eston title. Stewart toiled skilfully for second, and Philip Buys (Garmin Adidas) won the end sprint to take third from Knox and Melt Swanepoel.

The women’s race started off with an early mudbath as a fall in the front of the pack left the leading contenders wearing Eston mud within 300 metres of the start line. Samantha Oosthuysen was the first to recover, and she raced away to the title.

Beijing Olympian Yolande Speedy was the pre-race favourite and chased hard until she suffered her first of two punctures. Yolandi du Toit was third with Shale Exelby, making a welcome return to top- flight racing, fourth.

The 40-km aQuelle Classic came down to a sprint, with James Reid just getting his wheel over the line ahead of Travis Walker, while Brendon Davids took third.

In the women’s junior category, Candice Neethling cruised to victory and placed fifth overall.

Seasoned campaigners Jackie Church and Amy-Jane Mundy revelled in the muddy conditions and took second and third.

In addition to the serious racing, over 1 000 enthusiastic riders took to the mud and slush of Eston in the 18 km and 10 km fun rides.


60 km ILLOVO MARATHON. Men: K Evans 2h32.12, B Stewart 2h35.46, P Buys 2h46.34, M Knox 2h46.57, B Melt 2h47.07. Women: Y Speedy 3h16.23, S Oosthuysen 3h20.34, Y Du Toit 3h30.53, S Exelby 3h50.30, S Thunder 3h53.15.

40 km AQUELLE CLASSIC. Men: J Reid 1h54.56, T Walker 1h54.57, B Davids 2h01.28. Women: C Neethling 2h16.02, J Church 3h02.48, A Mundy 3h02.48.


The fourth annual Steel and Pipes Midlands Vets’ and Women’s Tour took place from July 31 to August 2 in Nottingham Road.

Day one, stage one, took the riders along the short, but very hilly 58 km route along Loteni Road.

Stage one was followed by a time trial in the afternoon with top honours going to David Garret (30+), Gary Beneke (40+), Paul Furbank (50+), Anriette Schoeman (Elite women) and Isabel Moolman (Women 35+).

On day two, stage three, the weather turned nasty. A decision was made to turn the riders before the second climb of the day.

On day three, stage four, the weather was worse. The plan was to shorten the final stage, but with all the winners already decided, the riders elected to call it a day. Final results on


The second event in the Jeep Apparel Multisport Series takes place at Shongweni Dam tomorrow.

The man to watch is experienced Xterra athlete Dan Hugo of Stellenbosch. Pietermaritzburg’s young talent Andrew Birkett will be in action after missing the first event due to a clash with the Berg Canoe Marathon.

Other contenders entered so far in the long course multisport include Justin Porteous, Andre Booyens, JP van der Linde and the Carter-Brown brothers, Craig and Greg.

The Change a Life Team athletes under the coaching of Martin Dreyer will be back and hungry for a podium, with Lucas Mthalane having placed fourth at Albert Falls.

EVENTS: multisport long course (five kilometre trail run, 20 km mountain bike, five kilometre paddle), multisport short course (2,5 km trail run, 10 km MTB, 2,5 km paddle), MultiX long course (five kilometre run, 20 km MTB, 2,5 km run), MultiX short course (2,5 km run, 10 km MTB, 1,25 km run) and the kiddies multisport dash at 12 pm.

Registration opens at 7 am at the new Umzinyathi clubhouse, where pre-entrants will also be required to collect race numbers prior to the 9 am start. Further information on


One of KwaZulu-Natal’s best- loved mountain bike races, the Cowan House Super Classic, takes place next Sunday.

Great single track riding on both the 40 km classic and the 20 km intermediate. Enter online on

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