Mountain bike stars line up for Meerdendal showdown

Meerendal Wine Estate (ZC Marketing Consulting)
Meerendal Wine Estate (ZC Marketing Consulting)

Cape Town - The 2016 Ashburton Investments National MTB Series, South Africa’s National marathon mountain biking gets underway on Saturday when a number of international stars will line up at Meerendal Wine Estate, near Cape Town.

Germany’s four-time Absa Cape Epic winner, Karl Platt, will be joined by Team Bulls team-mate, Tim Bohme for the 101km race, which has an accumulated elevation of 2 200 metres, starting and finishing at Meerendal, a mountain bike-friendly wine estate nestled in the Durbanville hills.

Other German riders in the mix are Simon Stiebjahn (German Federation) and Manual Fumic (Cannondale), a multiple German XCO champion and world championship medalist. Fumic is currently ranked fifth on the International Cycling Union’s world rankings and, like most in the field, training for the 2016 Cape Epic, which will finish at the same venue in late March.

Olympian and Absa Cape Epic legend Christoph Sauser and Konny Looser, a Swiss racer who competes regularly in South Africa, will also be on the start line on Saturday. Looser was the runner up in the 2015 National Marathon Series and fourth at Meerendal last year.

Erik Kleinhans, runner up at Meerendal last year, will head up the South African charge in the men’s race. He will be eager to impress in his first outing for new team, Topeak Ergon; and the Team USN Purefit pair of Darren Lill and Waylon Woolcock, will be aiming to be in the hunt for a podium finish.

Other notable South Africans on the start list include Gert Heyns (SCOTT LCB Factory Racing), the NAD team of Nico Bell and Gawie Combrinck, the Telkom pairing of Johann Rabie and HB Kruger, Matt Beers, Timothy Hammond, Dylan Rebello (Momsen Bikes) and Adriaan Louw (Contego).

The women will race over a shorter distance, 70km, with 1317 metres of vertical gain. But their race will be no less intense. Multiple Cape Epic winner, Ariane Kleinhans (Team Spur), heads up the strong field. Kleinhans was the runner up at Meerendal last year and will be out to go one place better on Saturday as she prepares to get her national series title defence off to a perfect start.

But it will be formidable challenge for the Swiss racer as the Ascendis Health team of Robyn de Groot and Jennie Stenerhag, the South African and Swedish national champions respectively, confirmed they’re in superb form with a one-two finish at the Fairview Attakwas ultra-marathon a fortnight ago.

Other prominent names on the start list for the women’s race include multiple Namibian champion, Vera Adrian, Cape Epic podium finisher, Theresa Ralph (Galileo Risk) and multiple singlespeed world champion, Amy McDougall (Valencia).

“It’s great to start the Ashburton Investments National MTB Series with such a strong field again. It confirms that the level of the events in the series are of the highest international standard,” said Fritz Pienaar of Advendurance, the company that organises the Ashburton Investments National MTB Series.

“Last year we were treated to a fascinating battle for first place in both the men and women’s races and it’s likely we’ll have a similar race this year. The course may not seem that long, but the terrain here is rough and loose and the gradients are steep, all of which really wears the riders down. There’s also a high percentage of singletrack, which makes it more technical than most of the other events in the series. It’s a tough route and it will be a true allround mountain bike test,” added Pienaar.

In addition to the ultra marathon and marathon, there is a half-marathon over 42km with 1 108 metres of ascent, an 18km fun race and a 10km fun ride. Online entries have closed, but line entries, with a late fee, are still available.

Ashburton Investments National MTB Series 2016

Round 1, Meerendal Wine Estate, Durbanville, Western Cape:

Saturday, January 30, 2016:

06:00-08:30: Registration and late entries

06:15: Rider briefing

06:30: Start Ultra-marathon Pro/Elite men

06:40: Start Marathon Elite women

06:50: Start Ultra-marathon Amateur men

07:00: Start Marathon A Batch + 3 min intervals other batches

07:35: Start Half-marathon A Batch + 5 min intervals other batches

08:15: Start Fun Race A Batch + 5 min intervals other batches

09:05: Start Fun Ride

12:00: Prizegiving

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