• Venue: Mankele Bike Park, Nelspruit
  • Date: 30-2 october 2016
  • Distance: 160km
  • Climbing: 3500m
  • Position: 2nd [1 stage win]
  • Time: 7h27

In my younger days I use to race XCO races quite often at the Mankele Bike Park, they hosted National and African Championships and it was always such a pleasurable experience, in the mountains, awesome trails, friendly people, swimming-pool and just an all round kwaai experience!

Since I rode my 1st Isuzu 3-Towers race a few years ago the enjoyment of this fun and relaxed event just appealed to me and I made an effort to come back every year. Thanks Mark and everyone involved for making sure this event keeps it’s authentic character and the trails super fun as always!

This race fall part of such a cool time of racing for me in SA, the end of season races where one are still serious, but with a pinch of relaxation in the spirit and everyone is just out there to enjoy the riding. After the York Timbers Enduro, it was a pleasure to visit old teammate, Nico Bell, in Nelspruit, and now after this race and a few days in Pretoria, heading a bit south for the Berg and Bush stage race.

I teamed up with fellow Cape resident, Matt Beers, for the two races on the opposite side of the country. He’s from Knysna, use to be a motocross racer and yes, you guessed it, super chilled! He is a big guy and we matched really well in our strengths as riders.

Stage 1 (66km, 1250m) played in our favour and Matt and I were super happy to get the stage win on our first race together and with that the leaders jerseys. 

Stage 2 (66km, 1450m) the pace was hot once again, but this time we had to look as Team NAD pulled a gap on us close to the end of the big climb of the day, we chased, but could not close the gap through the second half of the stage. 

Stage 3 (48km, 1050m) we had to do our share to keep the pace up and try to at least grab another stage win in the short stage. But it ended up being a sprint for the 4-cross track before the finish between three teams with Team Telkom getting the edge on us to win the last stage.

Loved my ten days in the Lowveld! And happy to head to the next adventure with some good memories and a second overall in the Isuzu 3-Towers!

 

Pics | Memories 4 U Photography | Show me Nelspruit

 

 

 

 

  • Venue: Sabie, Mpumalanga
  • Date: 22-25 September 2016
  • Distance: DH, XCO & 15 Enduro stages
  • Climbing: 3500m
  • Position: Social
  • Time: 10h00 

Unquestionably still one of my favourite events on the calendar and I always get excited to pack my bags for this trip, which usually includes the Isuzu 3-Towers the weekend after and this year also the Berg&Bush stage race the weekend after that.

The format with corporate teams getting the chance to line up with some of the best mountain bikers in the country, gives both parties the chance to connect with specialists in their respective fields. I got teamed up with an invitational team including Andrew McClean, who is best known for his part in SuperCycling, Arrie Rautenbach, the CEO of Absa bank, Deon Wilkins, a fruit farmer in the Tulbagh Valley and Elmari de Wet, a student and fellow road racer.

Each and everyone in our team lives an exciting life, their jobs and activities makes for interesting discussions, and while I might not get the chance to connect with these types of individuals on a regular basis is what make this event so special!

Apart from the 15 Enduro stages split up over 3 days, almost 100km and 3500m of climbing, there were also a downhill, XCO race and dual slalom eliminator. For sure there is a slight racing competitive angle, but it is mostly about enjoying the day out with mountain biking and experiencing the fantastic trails built by York Timbers through their plantations that are the real winners!

Through the 4 years it is so great to see how the event improved, definitely the trails got better, more and hard-packed, but the water-points and support along the way was the biggest improvement through the years. The final dinner and showdown, yet again with the legend Kurt Darren, at the lovely new venue of Maggsleigh Dam, was another great new addition.

I do not go to this event for the racing, sure I get into the spirit of it all and give it a slight bash, but I do not take risks or go all out, for me it creates the atmosphere of being free, in nature and enjoying the soul of riding your bike with your friends.

Every year it is so great to see the passion of York CEO Piet van Zyl for what they created, also his family, Odette and the rest of the employees excitement is contagious. Thank you everyone from York Timbers, the corporate teams, professional and invited riders for making yet another weekend special!

 

 

 

 

  • Venue: Meerendal Wine Estate
  • Date: 4 September 2016
  • Distance: 61km
  • Climbing: 1600m
  • Position: 1st
  • Time: 2h36

The Fedhealth MTB Challenge is only in its second year, but already a famous one with 1300 participants enjoying the Meerendal and Tygerberg trail network. With Spring showing itself big-time on this past Sunday, it surely was a lovely day for mountain biking!

After racing in the east-coast and then the south-coast the past weekends, it is always a pleasure to only have a 30-minute drive from home to the start of a race. Meerendal has become a really popular venue for MTB events and one that I seem to love with always an entertaining route on offer, loads of flowing trails and punchy climbs that got you in full concentration mode for as long as the event goes on.

It was never going to be an easy race with a whole stack of fast Western Cape youngsters on the start line, not to mention the serious campaigners, Adriaan Louw, Konny Looser and James Reid.

James was the early aggressor, and managed to create a small split with Konny and myself joining him up front, the three of us worked well together to extend our lead, but the final kilometres was where the real racing started with especially the Dorsberg and Quarry climb in the final.

I pushed the pace to see what happens on Dorsberg, only Konny yo-yo’ed a bit and over the top James attacked to get a small gap. It was a drag-race to the start of the last climb, the biggest of the day, I saved my strength well as I knew this bugger and managed to overtake James and build a comfortable lead to enjoy the stairway-to-heaven trail down to the finish.

Stillwater never seems to disappoint when they put their races together, always well organised , well marked, great media and the highlight with Oliver Munnik doing his live tweeting magic! Till next year

Report  |  Bike Hub
Images  |  Volume Photography
Video  | Newsport Media:

 

 

Photo Credit: Stillwater Sports | Tobias Ginsberg

 

 

  • Venue: Arendsrus & George Showgrounds
  • Date: 27 August 2016
  • Distance: 64km
  • Climbing: 1000m
  • Position: 1st
  • Time: 2h24

For 38-years my folks have lived in George, in the same house, and both my sisters and I waere raised there. I do not go to George that often, only when there is a race close by and I need a bed to sleep in, but this time it was the other way around and I was glad to join the local at the Jakhals MTB Challenge!

Strangely, every time I go to George I am just so ecstatic about the options for bike riding in the town. They have the mountains, the weather and quiet roads for a gravel or mountain bike. Not sure why I do not go there more often for a training camp.

The Jakhals MTB Challenge started at the Arendsrus Lodge. Yet another spectacular spot on the foothills of the Outeniqua Mountains with views all the way to the ocean made even more special with the fantastic weather on the day, clear skies and 30deg.

The race started pretty hard with 3 or 4 riders pushing the pace while I just gave my coffee some more time to digest, but when the climbs got longer and steeper, eventually rode away and tried to keep the pace hard for some good race simulation training.

There wasn’t really any singletrack in the route, but the first two thirds of the race was all rubbing shoulders with the big mountains, up and down on the lovely forest jeep-track, with a fast final third to lift the average speed.

Another trip down memory lane for me was the George Festival where the race finished. It was pretty damn cool to do a lap of the Oval Track, mostly used for car races, made me feel like Tommeke around the Roubaix velodrome!

My family was there to also enjoy the vibe and a boereworsrol! There were dresage competitions, every Afrikaans snack you can thing of, beer tents and we watched the provincial “Toutrek” team dominate an old tractor at first, then two… just want to know who will fix the grass after that ordeal. 

What a fun weekend! Thank you Corne and George

Video | Hartland TV:

 

Images | Thomas Snell

 

 

  • Venue: iSimangaliso Wetland Park
  • Date: 18-21 August 2016
  • Distance: 550km
  • Climbing: 1843m
  • Position: 1st
  • Time: 11h10

Not a day goes by that I do not somehow thank my lucky stars for the opportunities that came my way and how my life path have rewarded me. Not many people get the chance to experience something as fantastic as a five day stay at the &Beyond Phinda Game Reserve.

I met Kevin Pretorius at the RECM200 where we rode through the field in a social exercise, we were shooting the breeze through the trails and he invited me as an ambassador to Phinda and for nature conservation to the iSimangaliso 4day MTB.

Just like last year, I teamed up with Gordon Gilbert, now retired but still a soccer legend in SA. He finished his career with the famous Kaizer Chiefs, and it is especially exciting to move around with him in communities were soccer is king to appreciate peoples excitement when he makes time to chat to every one of them!

For me the best part of making this journey to the east-coast is without a doubt the incredible experience at the Phinda Game Reserve. This place is a little piece of soul refreshing heaven! Not many places can match the service, rooms, food, and, and, and…

We get our wake-up call very early in the morning and soon after collected by a ranger as you are not allowed to walk alone in the dark, each room is separate alone in the bush and there is a very real reality of wild animals in the resort. Followed by a quick coffee and breakfast before heading to the race.

As soon as race time is over, Bongani, our ranger driver took us back to camp for lunch and a quick refresh before tea-time at 3pm and game drive after! Dumisani, our game ranger, and Zakhile, our tracker, then got our full attention for a good four hours of wildlife searching. We tried our best, followed tracks, spotted all the big five and what not, except the stunning, sneaky leopard!

My favourite time is always the sundowners during the game drive, it is so quiet, it gets dark while you enjoy a drink on a hill overlooking nothing but how things were all over a few hundred years ago in the bushveld.

Dinner was a treat every night, especially outside in the boma, with the chef preparing food over hot coals, while candles, lanterns and a fire light the tables and the bush around us.

It was great to race with Gordy again and win the race for second year in a row! Not that winning is the most important at this event, creating awareness for conservation in this amazing heritage areas and enjoying the freedom it offers.

Day one was around St Lucia, mostly on hippo paths with a fare share of sandy riding. Day two around the St Lucia estuary, where a flat, headwind day made it really tough for the riders. Day three through Phinda was stunning full with wild animal trails and over the Lebombo mountains. Day four took us through the communities, cattle trails, before the day ended at Mkuzi Reserve.

Thank you &Beyond, Phinda Game Reserve, iSimangaliso MTB, Kevin, Reinette, Gordy, Lariza, Dumi, Zakhi and Bongi for another five day life experience I will always be incredibly grateful for!

Pictures: Peter Kirk Media

 

 

  • Venue: Imst (AUT) - Arco (ITA)
  • Date: 17-23 July 2016
  • Distance: 550km
  • Climbing: 17700m
  • Position: 13th
  • Time: 25h37

I love these stage races, mostly because it is so great to have the full team together! In that regard I’m so fortunate with the group of people in Team Topeak Ergon ;)

The Transalps was one of my main team events to ride as support for Alban an Kristian. And the biggest reason I spent the last 2 months in Europe to get accustomed to racing up the long and relentless climbs.

In hindsight, I know now that I did too much racing and traveling while I was there and it jeopardised my shape and my freshness (body and mind) too race hard. In the future for these events, it would be great to go prepare there on the big climbs, but a comfortable base is needed where one can focus on training, relaxing and a good diet. Guess this is more a note to self!

The race spanned over 7 days starting in Imst, Austria, and finished in Arco, Italy, with not so much long stages, but more than enough climbing meters! We stayed in hotels and it was probably the best support and logistics I ever received from a team!

The racing started great with Alban and Kristian winning the first stage and kept their lead for most of the days, but sadly disaster struck and a crash on day 5 had Kristian in hospital with a broken collarbone. Game over.

Jeremiah and I kept on racing finishing the journey across the Alps, but the wind was out of our sails and we finished outside the top 10. It is always a learning/improving process, and after this week of suffering, something needed to change to make sure I am up there where I know I should and can be.

Sally and guest rider, Ben Thomas, had a great week, super consistent and safe to claim the mixed title!

Thanks to all the team staff for some incredible work this week!

 

 

  • Venue: Villabassa, Italy
  • Date: 9 July 2016
  • Distance: 120km
  • Climbing: 3900m
  • Position: 17th
  • Time: 5h04

At first I was going to give this race a miss and focus on some training and recovery before the TransAlps, but with 5000 participants in the amazing Dolomites, I got excited with everyone in the team talking part and talking highly of it.

Reinette and I arrived in Olang after a super fun 3-day bike trip from Austria to the Stelvio Pass, these trips are probably my biggest cycling love, so refreshing in the mountains, great for the mind, and especially ending on top of the amazing Stelvio Pass.

We stayed in what I found was our best hotel this Europe trip, Alpina Hotel, once again as a guest from the organisation, so neat, new, great service and not to talk about the great food.

The race started so fast!! Still cannot believe how these guys go out of the startblock in a long 120km marathon. The field was packed with stars, probably more than enough reason to create some pressure in the bunch on the first climb and split things up. 

I did not have a good start at all, the legs were blocked and not going anywhere… And will Kristian and Alban were ripping things apart in the front, I was dangling between 30 and 40th position, not very exciting. But somehow the body got going and moved up all the way through the race to finish 17th with the 9th fastest time over the 2nd half of the race. Sally claimed another victory while Kristian finished 2nd and Alban 5th.

This was the last test before Transalps, the finish made me positive, the start not so much

 

 

  • Venue: Zillertal Valley, Austria
  • Date: 1-3 July 2016
  • Distance: 180km
  • Climbing: 9000m
  • Position: 7th
  • Time: 10h04

To put it very simply, this trip was an attempt to get used to and to understand what it takes to climb these big mountains fast! Since arriving, I’ve had a full calendar of racing, mostly with loads of climbing, but this one, was the cherry on the cake!

Once again it was really great to get an invite from the organizers with hotel accommodation making it so much easier living here in Europe for these races. Not only for us riders, but also for Kristian’s family and Reinette who came to visit.

With 9000m of climbing all packed into 3 days of 180km, it was the most intensive climbing experience of my cycling racing lifetime. Day two especially with a 2000 vertical metre climb right from the gun, oh wait, maybe it was day three with 1500m climbing right from the start and then up to 2600m so steep I could hardly turn the 32-tooth chainring.

Kristian had three Centurion-Vaude riders to handle, sadly, it just was not in my power to be able to help him on these climbs, it for sure is a little bit frustrating as I also love the tactical aspect of racing and nothing would please me more that in the future I can also handle myself up these climbs.

After a rather bad first day, I got into the swing of things and finished 7th overall, while Kristian had a close battle with Markus Kaufman and had to settle for 2nd overall at the end of the day.

It is such a pleasure riding here in Europe with manager Dave, mechanic Pete, and soigneur Gio making life so easy! What a cool race and a beautiful valley! I can definitely recommend this race, even if you are not up for all the climbing, there is an easy option to take so cablecars and skip some grinding ;)

 

 

  • Venue: Laissac, France
  • Date: 26 June 2016
  • Distance: 90km
  • Climbing: 3100meter
  • Position: 29th
  • Time: 4h17

This was my third appearance at the World XCM Champs after Montebelluna, Italy in 2012 and Kirchberg, Austria in 2013. On both these occasions my friend Susi Sauser pulled the rainbow jersey over his head, for me on the other hand it was a growing experience, collecting half-emptied biddons in Italy in the 40-degree heat just to survive in 60th position an hour behind. In Austria I conquered the 4400-meters climbing to half my time behind to 30-minutes in 38th position.

Even though I did not focus on my federation selection races, it was always part of my plan to go to world champs as I would have the support of my Topeak-Ergon racing team in Laissac during a 2-month period in Europe. As always we had amazing support from staff and sponsors and everyday I thank my lucky starts to be associated with such a great group of people!

The route was tough! 90-kilometres with 3100-meters of climbing. I managed to recon the full route on Tuesday before the race and I’m so glad it dried considerably in the sunny days leading up to the race from the mud-fest it would have been. The climbs were steep, not long, mostly around 5-10-minutes except for the last one over a grassy hill were you needed your last reserves.

Most riders opted for full-suspention bikes on the bumpy terrain, especially the extra mens loop which was on the dry side of the mountain and had some real rocky business to attend both up and down. In the team both Sally and I opted for the Exceed hardtail. She because of the weight saving for her small body, and me because I just loved the bike and though I needed the responsiveness on the shorter climbs.

While Alban and Kristian were seeded nice in the front, JB and I started in the smoking section in about 120th position. This was a real issue with a full-out sprint start in these races straight into jeeptrack, narrow climbs and descents. The two crashes in the first 200-meters did not help our case, but lesson learnt… gather some UCI marathon series points before next year!

I decided not to over extend myself in the start to catch as many riders as possible, rather start picking them off with a more steady pace. At first I got really frustrated especially on singletrack climbs, but more so on the downhills were I must have lost big time stuck behind lesser skilled riders.  I rode from group to group trying to pass 10 riders between each of the feed zones, I think it worked well as I could pass the last 20 riders in the final 30-km to reach my sensible goal of a top 30 and only a 15-minutes back on he winner Tiago Ferrero.

Even though the team did not get any rainbows, man, what a performance by Alban, Kris and Sally to finish in the medals! What a great week.

 

 

 

  • Venue: Schladming, Austria
  • Date: 9-12 June 2016
  • Distance: 192km (4 stages)
  • Climbing: 9700m
  • Position: 21st
  • Time: 10h14

With Switzerland being my base the last few years one tend to follow the same races and experiences that are close to home, while this year on a new team and with most of my time spent in Austria for the 2 months in Europe, it is a really lovely change of scenery to participate in some different races.

The AlpenTour Trophy can be described just as the name hints too… with big mountains, steep and long climbs, steep downhills and plenty skinny buggers! I loved it! It was a really cool race and best of all that it was all starting in Schladming so you could have a nice base, the same hotel and a lot more easy time.

It was awesome to connect with my Topeak Ergon team again! I am so fortunate to be in this situation and what makes it even better is that everyone is such down to earth, friendly people. With this being my 6th SA winter spent in Euro summer, it makes a massive difference having a good management around you, mechanics, soigneurs and even been thinking about making a move here for a longer period!

The race was bloody tough. The depth in the field is most striking with 90 UCI category starters and you are always chasing 10 guys in front of you and if you look back there are 10 guys breathing down your neck. Except for stage 2 were I was a bit further back, finished around 20th position every day and 22th overall. Alban managed to finish 6th overall and Kristian with the KOM jersey, but sadly lost some time with a mechanical.

After pretty much 2 days of traveling and packing, straight into these climbs, it for sure was a shock for the body. This race however, and pretty much my time spent here in Europe this year, is all a build up to Trans Alps, which is one of the big team goals, to learn how to hit these climbs faster!

It is always great to be here, quiet small roads and looking forward to the rest of the adventure with the team!

 

 

 

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