• Venue: Rhens, Germany
  • Date: 18 June 2017
  • Distance: 80km
  • Climbing: 2200m
  • Position: 2nd
  • Time: 3h03

During my three week stay in Koblenz, it just so happened that I was lucky enough with a Canyon sponsored MTB race in Rhens. The Canyon Rhens Hunsruck MTB was not to far away and only a 15km cycle away next to the Rhein River. It offered me a super opportunity to stretch the legs and support one of our team sponsors before heading to World XCM Champs in Singen during the week.

It’s always great if one of your team sponsors is also a partner of an event so the only admin was an email and everything was organised, thanks Julian!

I must admit, I somehow did not feel that motivated for the race with lots of busy days in the body with so much to see and such great weather here in Rheinland-Germany making you just want to ride your bike and be outside the whole day long, but once on the start-line you give in to the nervous feeling and just focus on giving it your best!

The race started through a narrow street out of town central and I got a bit sucked into the bunch as everyone sprinted to get through first, and once hitting the first climb, I had to overtake a few riders and missed the Soren Nissen (Den) and Roel Verhoeven break (NED), and even though I passed them both at least once later in the race, never got any slipstream out of this 3h03 race! 

After the gap went out to 50seconds, it just stayed steady, even managed to pull it slightly closer on my self-made-time-checks, then with 15km to go I overtook Nissen who had to stop to inflate a tire, I hoped I could maybe grab the win, but he had a good pump-action, caught me on the next climb and smashed it up the last steep vertical meters to beat me into 2nd by more than a minute. Verhoeven finished 3rd with the Robert Mennen and Sebastian Breuer combo from another Canyon team, Embrace The World, in 4th and 5th.

What a lovely race with 1000 participants racing through the Hunsruck Mountains with fast trails, vineyards, Rhein views and filling the quaint Marktplatz afterwards for pasta, snacks and plenty of beer as expected from a German bike race!

At the end I was happy with my performance and how the body felt going to World Champs next weekend where I will at least try and improve on my 29th position from last year on a very fast and non-technical course that makes me a bit scared of the possible bunch racing chaos with wide handlebars! But mostly holding thumbs for teammates Alban and Kris for a cracker!

With winter approaching in the Cape, I decided to book my flights a little early for a visit to our team home base, Koblenz. RTI is the company behind Team Topeak Ergon that writes the cheques and signs the contracts and also the importers of Topeak into Germany and the designers of top class Ergon products. While Canyon needs no introduction as the team equipment supplier.

Since arriving in Koblenz I was treated with so much care and love it just reminded me again why I love this incredible team so much! Boss-man, Dirk Juckwer, had me all settled in and soon after arriving I got a tour of the RTI building. Most of their products works on an import and distribution basis, like I got to know while working for Omnico in SA, but I have to admit, on a much smoother and German precision scale with no room for error or any miss-counts. 

What stood out for me was the Ergon products, from the sport-scientists to the industrial designers that all have an influence to get the best ergonomic product out to the consumer. Also the machinery to “cut/build” products for testing before finalising designs to manufacture moulds for production. It used to take weeks to get test products from the East, but now all those can be made in house and reduce big time making testing and getting the optimum product ready much sooner. They are excited to launch a new women-range of saddles and grips.

Canyon on the other hand grew so fast over the last years with more than 800 full-time employees at the moment in the head office and factories together. I needed two days to experience it all starting with a tour through the head office and spectacular showroom.

Canyon is much more than just an online shop! You can get real special treatment if you take the trip to their showroom where you can test ride any of their bikes. They have every size from every single model built and ready to ride, I saw them all standing there! Once decided on a bike they give you a full setup and before one of the many mechanics will get it ready for you while you have a complimentary coffee in the bistro.

You can also send your bike to Canyon for a service or warrantee or what ever, they have a warehouse full of top mechanics that work on customer bikes from all over Europe. This massive workshop was incredible to see with 20, if not more mechanics, in a super kitted out and clean warehouse.

Needless to say, the R&D department was super interesting, but nothing I can share here with you! Even more so the testing area where all forks and stems get X-rayed to make sure there are not even the slightest fractures after production to risk your safety. So do not think you will get away with sending your fork back claiming a fault… they have an x-ray on file from every last one to confirm your claim ;) Also the fatigue tests on all their products gave me so much comfort to see, with the assurance that it will be save going down a pass at 100km/h and even hitting a bump.

Then there is the sales building with stacks of people on the phone and mail helping customers, media department with some photographers and videographer I knew from the Epic, marketing and social media, all the different product managers, and at the end the online boys, everything stop with them, pictures of final products, finely displayed so you can drool over them and just ‘add-to-basket’ as many times as you like!

Another day was needed to test ride an all new racing machine that will be launched around the beginning of next year. Man, that bike was so fast and smooth, I had a big smile on my face for the full 2h30 ride, cannot wait! And to visit their new factory in the afternoon. That was so impressive to see! This incredible big, black building that gave me goosebumps. Inside the storage was incredible, stacked so high and just narrow enough that the forklifts get steered manually down the alleys to get product as high as 20meters. 

The organisation of all the products arriving from all over the world to use for building the bikes is still something I cannot understand how they get it right. From sorting it to getting the right parts to  the right station where the bikes get built, 20 at a time, moving from station to station where at each one a person is responsible for only one task. Starting with the frame and cockpit till it ends up at a complete bike with final testers riding the bikes up and down this magnificent warehouse, setting everything perfect before it goes into a box ready for a customer order.

Thank you Julian and Johannes for this amazing experience at Canyon! Thank you Andy, DIrk and all at RTI for making me feel right at home! And Andy, Julian, Johannes, Sebastian and everyone that was so kind taking me out for a ride or greeting me along the roads that works for one of these two amazing companies!

 

 

 

  • Venue: Malmesbury
  • Date: 20 May 2017
  • Distance: 163km
  • Climbing: 2400m
  • Position: 1st
  • Time: 5h33

I really enjoy these 100-Mile events in SA and the AMA Rider presented by BikeHub in its 9th year is probably the oldest around. I won the first edition in the most brutal weather I've ever raced in, and since then I always try to line up for especially this one!

For this year the weather was near perfect and the Swartland offered us the most amazing views of open roads, open lands and beautiful mountains in the distance as a contrast. The route is almost all on gravel roads, just a handful of kilometres on smaller farm roads, which makes for some interesting racing. The road condition plays a big time on time, and even though the weather was great, I think the route was a bit more sandy than last year.

With a strong field of Madmacs/Hazz team riders on the start line, I wasn't sure if they could use their numbers against me, but once again realised on a race like this, the winner is usually the one with some more in the tank. Etnart Louw, Max Sullivan and William Simpson joined me in a four rider pursuit for the finish, but I found myself isolated after the toughest climb of the day after 50-kilometers and I decided to push on and get some hurt in the legs for a solo 110-kilometers!

I put a target on for myself trying to get the average speed above 30 to break 5h30, it looked good for a moment, but the final 25-kilometers is where the boys gets separated from the men, and I just did not have it ;) If we skip the tea-party earlier in the race it is for sure a possibility!

I raced my Canyon Exceed Gravel Grinder, even though it is basically a hardtail with drop bars, it was the perfect choice for this race! It gives you so many hand positions for a long race like this and especially helps with getting you comfortably in an earo position since it is need all the time.

Thank you Dirtopia and AMA Rider for another lovely and well organised event!

Side Note - Regarding SA Marathon Champs: This is the first time since I took marathon racing serious that I have opted to miss our National XCM Champs. It was a hard decision, but I am still happy that I have chosen the AMA 100-miler that I knew would be well organised and have good media with BikeHub as a media partner and it is something that I really doing. I was pretty disappointed in the Federation and organisers of our National Champs with really bad communication and organising. So little information about the race and my first decision to skip it came when a press release that the race will only be the bare minimum for a XCM race of 60km, which doesn't suit me anymore. When I returned from another week-long event, I heard the made the race 80-kilometre by bumping into someone in the street five days before the Champs. I did my research and found out it is true but the 80km race had 3000m of climbing. Still feeling the race do not suit me, I opted on the AMA 100-miler instead just to find out the race ended up being only 1700m of climbing on a course that now figured out would have suited me. I am really happy for former teammate Nico Bell to win after many close calls! But thought the organisation and planning of such a special and most important XCM event in SA was an absolute joke. Better luck next time CSA, maybe I can help you organise it.

News | Bike Hub

Pictures | Chris Hitchcock

  • Venue: Breedekloof / Goudini Spa
  • Date: 5-7 May 2017
  • Distance: 186km
  • Climbing: 3300m
  • Position: 1st (2 stage wins)
  • Time: 7h57

Two weekends in a row, two hidden gems! Thank you Iqela Events for the invite and another well organised event. Most striking I could not believe the amazing trails all over the Breedekloof! Even though we had to start and often finish the stages with some sandy roads through the vineyards, it was nothing compared to some great fun on the bikes!

Like the end of last year, I teamed up again with Red-E racer, Matt Beers for the third edition of the Gravel and Grape. We stayed in the Goudini Spa Chalets which made logistics so easy with all the stages starting and finishing at the venue, except for the start of the first day which was hardly a 40-minute commute away on the bike (or you could take a shuttle).

Matt and I had our fair share of problems with thorns causing having with our tires on stage one costing us some time to inflate and having to chase back. A crash and a broken sale on day two had us chasing again after searching for missing parts. But we managed to get the win on both those stages! The last day was full of amazing trails and we rode it a little more easy with second place finishers, Robert and CP from Breedenet, and gifted them the stage win at the end.

A lovely weekend of racing! Nice to take the overall victory! Now off to the Tour de Braai!

Pictures | Chris Hitchcock

 

  • Venue: George - Swellendam
  • Date: 8-12 May 2017
  • Distance: 400km
  • Climbing: 6000m
  • Position: Social
  • Time: 20h00

What an incredible week! Some experiences just make me feel alive, and this is as good as it gets! The Tour de Braai had it all, the food was great with some of the best braiders and chefs making our tastebuds work overtime. The Karoo in all its splendour and open spaces. Getting my Canyon semi-gravel-bike ready for the adventure was part of the journey, as well as the strict dress code made you feel like you are part of the early Tour de France legends. The riding was no work in the park, with Jan Braai making sure Leonardo and I chase every Strava segment that comes our way.

Thank you Jan Braai and Dave Moseley for making sure I take part in one hell of an adventure! All the other riders for making me enjoy every pedal stroke of the way. The crew for a relaxed and smooth event, and oh-my-incredible-greatness, everyone for the laughs!

Pictures | Craig Koleski

  • Venue: Clanwilliam - Kaleo
  • Date: 23 April 2017
  • Distance: 160km
  • Climbing: 3070m
  • Position: 1st
  • Time: 6h36

Every so often you get a weekend where everything just feel so perfect! A lot probably to do that I've always been a nature-man that likes to get outside and experience small little towns, heartwarming people and the Cederberg Wilderness Area are one of the most perfect spots for that.

It was great to have the Krieks join for the weekend, Carel to drive taxi and support, while Christiaan threw himself in the game to try and finish this bad-boy! We've done many mtb tours and trips like this together when Christiaan was still racing, and their companionship has always been so relaxing as we all love the same things and crave the same experiences out of these journeys: good people, good coffee, gravel roads, open spaces, braai, padstal and much laughter.

I've had my time as a lap-racer, now I am a marathon racer. 100-Mile racing might be right at the end of the scale of what I am willing to push at the moment, but with our National Marathon series barely over 60km these days, I became eager to look for some new challenges and really happy for events like the Masgcor Cederberg 100-miler on our race calendar. Thank you Iqela Events for a well organised race and for a reason to visit the lovely town of Clanwilliam and the Cederberg.

This is a special race! Many of you would know the route through the Cederberg Mountains since it is a favourite destination for getaway weekend vibes. From Clanwilliam it is all the way uphill from the coastal side to Uitkyk-Pass at 1000m, then the short side of the Kromrivier Pass before the Grootrivierhoogte Pass that looks incredibly daunting when spotted from a distance and the Blinkberg Pass heading out of the Cederberg to the Koue Bokkeveld. Pointing the front tyre towards the finish at Kaleo Farm, the last 60-kilometers of flat riding was the toughest, a mind game to keep on going in the heat, constant pedalling and that damn ever annoying slight headwind. 

This race is a challenge! A great goal for a mountain biker. Maybe try it out in the 2-day Trek option first, sold out this year, so make sure you get your entry fast!

On the racing front it seemed as if I was the only serious rider who wanted to start of a bit more cautiously, but luckily I'm not scared of a sufferfest! Chris Cronje tried a murderous early break which lasted the first two hours, while triathlete, Jean de Villiers, and Charles Mcfall kept me company longest before riding the second half of the race on my own. Well, by that time everyone was on a solo mission to get to a CBC beer at Kaleo as soon as possible! 6h36 for me to conquer the Cederberg, with Jean in second and Chris in third.

Route  | Strava

Pictures  |  Sam Clarke

  • Venue: Stilbaai
  • Date: 15 April 2017
  • Distance: 61km
  • Climbing: 900m
  • Position: 1st
  • Time: 2h21

Three weeks after the Cape Epic and for me it somehow always seems to take rather long to get the body going again (or mind...). So packing the Subaru and heading to Stilbaai had a duel purpose, even though it is 300km away, the Amana Properties Stilbaai MTB Challenge was the closest CSA sanctioned race to Stellenbosch and it just so happened to be in this relaxed holiday town over a long weekend so there can be some quality relaxing before the training/racing get a bit more serious again.

I love doing these smaller events! Since our arrival it felt like we were just accepted into the Stilbaai family with everybody giving advice regarding where to eat, where to ride and what to do for entertainment over the weekend. The race village was so simple but it felt so comfortable with a beer garden, some stalls where PVB Knives in particular caught my attention making knives from recycled steel and beautiful wood so I had to purchase a souvenir, a family making pancakes to pay for their son's University fees, a school making burgers and hotdogs still priced liked the good old days at R15 each and a few more.

The racing was surprisingly tough... CP van Wyk, Stellenbosch student and rider for Team Mad Macs / Hazz lined up next to me so it was clear from the start there will be some hard pedal strokes, and the route was either on smooth district roads or really rough, sandy and rocky fynbos terrain. Man, it was proper hard during certain sections that the fast district roads were a real blessing! But it kept us on our toes. CP and I rode together for most of the way, but I just managed to build a gap on the toughest hill of the day to win by a bit more than 2-minutes. Yet another fellow Stellenboscher, Leonardo van Onselen, filled the podium. Thank you everyone especially Elza and Adolf for a fun day out!

Whenever I travel to these small towns I always see the potential. With so many gravel roads it can make for a real good MTB training camp and even more so if you enjoy coffee-shop-surfing as much as I do! Do not however expect fine dining, but do go and enjoy the fish restaurants on the coast, but nothing beats a braai or pizza by the beach anyhow. There are more than enough to keep yourself busy with hiking, beach-time or the Inverroche Gin tasting that was another highlight. Maybe we were also lucky to end up with the friendliest AirB&B hosts in Stilbaai,  they even planned and booked possible options for us before we even arrived, thank you Diane and Pieter for the great time at Villa Giverny!

News  | Suid Kaap Forum

Images  |  Madri van Rensburg

  • Venue: Western Cape
  • Date: 19-26 March 2017
  • Distance: 691km
  • Climbing: 15400m
  • Position: 14th (8th for team leaders)
  • Time: 28h21

This race. Always so special. Always so tough. Always untamed. Always a dream to do well. Always a challenge to do so!

For team Topeak Ergon it was not the most successful outcome for the eight days of racing. With Kristian winning the event in 2014 and Alban a few time podium finisher, the goal is only to stand on the top step of the podium. Things could have gone better for Alban with the extreme heat and allergies not working in his favour, but with a disappointing outcome there is just higher motivation for the future!

There were plenty of positives however with especially the unbelievable bond we have as a team coming to the fore in times like these, not just the riders, but all the team staff, sponsors and media crew. It was a great few weeks and months having some team members around for quite some time!

Thank you Jeremiah for another stage race in the bag, with hardly a mishap, now for the next big one at Trans Alps!

 

Video  |  Brady & Stefan  | Canyon - Road to the Cape Epic

Video  |  Sascha Bam-berg  | Teazer  | Prologue  | Stage 1  | Stage 2  | Stage 3  | Stage 4  | Stage 5  | Stage 6  | Stage 7

Pictures  |  Andy Eyring 

 

  • Venue: Kayamandi, Stellenbosch
  • Date: 15 March 2017
  • Distance: 19km
  • Climbing: 437m
  • Position: In the crowds
  • Time: 0h48

This event is always a little highlight of the year for me, and I am sure also for most of the riders and spectators. It takes place in Kayamandi, the informal settlement outside of Stellenbosch, and the home of the Songo.info charity.

Songo.info grew to so much more these days than just a small BMX track and putting kids on bikes, now with a Clubhouse, lecturers and coaches, it must be one of the coolest projects to be involved with as a child with less opportunities to help you getting set-up for a better and constructive future.

The race is a short one, just a showcase of the top racers around before the start of the Cape Epic. For the riders it is not just an opportunity to show their support to a great project, it also offers a leaker leg loosener doing some laps past the Clubhouse, BMX-track and houses of Kayamandi.

For our Topeak Ergon Racing Team this event is never important results wise for the team, but we all love going there and supporting. Kristian did however had a god showing against some short course specialist finishing sixth, while the rest of us enjoyed the vibe mid pack.

Video  |  Andy Eyring  | 1-lap behind Erik

Pictures  |  Brady & Stefan

  • Venue: Boland and Cape Town
  • Date: 6-12 March 2017
  • Distance: +/- 400km
  • Climbing: +/- 4000m
  • Position: Training
  • Time: 13h00

I really enjoyed this week of racing on the road bike! Last year I did not take part in the Tour and only did the CT Cycle Tour on the MTB right in the middle of the masses for the fun, mostly due to the fact that I did not have a road bike at that time, but boy, was this week cool racing with a whole different group of guys, interesting tactics, faster speeds, some argy-bargy and back where it all started for me on the road bike!

The Tour of Good Hope was my last block of training before the Cape Epic. In the past it always worked well for me to race the Tour de Boland as it is not that hard on the body, not very long days, but with the great benefit of getting some speed in the legs. The feeling of racing, getting up early, going to bed late is an added bonus to get use to the schedule I will also follow during the Cape Epic.

After a hard block of training with the Flying Czech, Kristian Hynek, I was glad to get three days of rest before the Tour, but definitely felt good to have a first day not being too hard, just a really fast motor pacing kind of day with 43km/h average speed for the 101km stage. The Individual TT I took as another full-on rest day, riding and managed to sneak in second last by a close 45-seconds! Stage 3 was going to be a real test and walked away very happy with the shape feeling super comfortable on Frranschhoek Pass, spending 40-minutes after that in and out of breakaways, and still could keep a hard tempo up Du Toits Kloof Pass finishing not to far off the pace at the top. The last day was once again super fast except for one lovely crosswind section and the final climb up Taal Monument where my mojo was lost a bit.

The CT Cycle Tour was sadly a bit of wasted energy... Andy Eyring (our team social media guru and ex racer) joined Kristian and me for what normally is a great pedal around the Cape Peninsula, but crazy wind, protest action and a sad fire in Houtbay caused the organisers to cancel the event. A sad day for the event and Cape Town, and also an unfortunate experience for us, not getting the training as hoped, waking up damned early and many hours of standing. It is all part of the game and at least we had houses to go to not like the 15000 people in Houtbay affected by the fire.

Looking forward to this block of road racing again next year! But now we are in the final stretch for the Cape Epic! All the team riders and staff are arriving soon ;)

Page 1 of 4