Friday, 27 July 2012

SA XCO Champs: Race + Build-up - Mankele - Arno du Toit

After a good result at World's View, it was time for me to focus on the big one, the fight for the stripes and the title of South African Champion. Being first year u/23 in a really competitive field of riders, I set myself a realistic but still very challenging goal at the beginning of the season. I wanted to be on that podium!
PYCycling arranged a training camp for us at Mankele two weeks before the big day to get ourselves comfortable on the course and to all round improve and gain confidence in our technical riding ability.
Seeing that this was during a solid training block we also worked in a couple of hard efforts on the track, which took its toll on most of us...

Edwill after a little interval session

Paul showing the "girls" how its done

Marcel and Edwill not convinced by the statement it's like riding of a pavement

Back to Pretoria and it was time for the second Nissan Trailseeker at Cullinan. The wind blew us apart and I managed 7th overall in the marathon. All and all it wasn't my best day on the bike, but none the less good legs stretch before the war.

During the week Epic Sports sorted out my Cannondale and Dimension Sports took care of my legs. Everything was ready and early Friday morning we hit the road with the wolf pack.

As we arrived at Mankele Bike Park, I did my final prep on the course and then it was chill time. Even though the stress levels were through the roof, the atmosphere in the squad was filled with jokes and laughs. No better way to calm the nerves!

Paul and I felt this was a good opportunity to try some new things on race day, so after breakfast I did a light roller spin. With the Elite u/23 men only starting at 13:30 I stayed at the guest house, trying to relax as much as possible during the morning. Well that was the plan... The Twitter feeds from the ladies' race had me jumping up and down for about 90 minutes. Thanks Yolande!

Warming up the engin

As I started warming up I felt fresh and awake! Even though I had the outside line on the start shoot, I got away nicely and was happy with my position heading into the first single track.

As we came through after lap 1, I was feeling pretty comfortable in the leading group of six or seven riders with the two Olympians Burry and Phil setting the pace. Small gaps started to open as we hit the gruelling tar climb on lap 2. Soon Rourke was out of sight for me, but I could still see Luke on the longer open straights. The mentorship of Paul kicked in and I kept telling myself what he told me to remember: "Just keep it smooth and keep flowing, you know you can".

The BIG drop

Halfway through lap 5 I noticed Luke was fading a little, and once again I heard Paul's voice: "They will fade, just keep it smooth". I took a few risks to get back and managed to catch him and Max just as we started the final lap. Game on! I considered attacking straight away, but I knew my legs wouldn't have survived such an effort. I was also confident in my ability to sprint, so I was happy to take it to the line with a skinny oke.

However, Max picked up the pace and I must say I was impressed with his technical riding for someone who hasn't raced XCO in a few years. He had me fighting to stay on the train through the twisty single track, but once we came out onto the BMX track and into the crowd the sprint was on between the youngsters.

POWER!! Trying to sprint while cramping

Somehow Luke opened a solid gap in the first corner, but then made it easy for me to get back when he made a slight mistake going into the second corner a bit too hot! I was right on his wheel over the jumps and bridges and it came down to a kick on the final stretch towards the line. Unfortunately for me that line came too soon and I finished 3rd u/23 less than half a wheel behind Luke Roberts with Rourke Croeser taking the win.

Photo finish

I must say I am happy with the way my XCO season ended. Thanks to everyone for the support, especially Paul. Not only did his coaching make a big difference, but also from a motivation point of view he is a great guy to be around.

2012 SA Champs for U/23 Men
Luke Roberts, Rourke Croeser, Arno du Toit

2012 SA Cup Series Podium for U/23 Men
Jason Meaton, Arno du Toit, Shaun Silver

Monday, 23 July 2012

SA XC Champs, Mankele - Yolande Speedy

With a strong, XC focused training block up behind me; Paul's mentorship helping me to believe in myself again, my Powertap finally starting to show me some familiar numbers and a good race result at Nissan Trailseeker #2 in Cullinan I felt confident heading to Mankele for SA XC Champs

We headed to Nelspruit where we would be staying early Friday morning riding in convoy with our super group of fellow Mountain bikers and supporters for another fun filled and exciting MTB weekend.

Having pre-ridden the course on our training camp 2 weeks earlier I was already confident on it and of my tire selection (Continental Race King on the front and Maxxis Icon back) so after 2 laps; one to double check the race lines and one to give my legs and lungs a good stretch it was time to head to our accommodation and get feet up.

With so many of our riders racing Paul had decided not to race but to play support role and quickly got stuck into maticulously preparing our race machines for the next day.

Soon it was race day and I cannot remember when last I felt so many nerves creeping in!
After completing my pre-race routine; warm up rub, USN supplements and a few hard efforts on the bike I headed to the start line where I was really impressed with the turn out. One of the biggest ladies fields I've seen for XC!!

It was great to have Mariske back on the start line after being based in the States for most of the year and we shared a few jokes trying to calm our shattered nerves. A short race briefing and we were off in a cloud of dust, I had a good start getting the whole shot and into the single track in the lead the rest of the field hot on my heels. Candice passed me on the climb going into the rocky technical section ahead of me Sam catching up to us through the next few technical sections.

The course surface had become rough and lose in the corners but the race lines smoother and more flowing in general and we flew through it soon reaching the big drop off. Unfortunately I did not have the confidence to take it with my injury and Sam overtook me as I went round on the chicken run. I chased back reclaiming my 2nd place in the 2nd lap Candice now with about a 20sec gap. Feeling the pressure I made a few mistakes and Sam again passed me again forming a gap on the technical sections which I worked hard to try and close on the climbs.
Going through for my 3rd lap feeling the effect of the hard racing I gratefully grabbed my 2nd bottle of USN BCAA-Vitargo and made use of the first flat open section to take in some Vooma gel.

The race situation remained the same for the next 2 laps, Candice in the lead Sam 2nd and me chasing hard from behind. I was unable to make up enough  time on the few climbs and I knew I was losing too much time not taking the big drop especially as the chicken run became more rutted and slower through out the race. I was thinking I'd have to take a flyer at it on my last lap if I couldn't get a big enough gap but fortunately it did not come down to that. 

Going into the last lap Sam had a 10sec lead on me and Candice 22secs. I caught Sam on the first climb and pushed as hard as I could to try get enough of a gap before the drop. Catching Candice on the short steep climb after the wooden bridge drop off was a surprise and I knew I would have to give 100 percent with no mistakes to keep a lead. Fortunately we were both taking the 2nd chicken run and I got into the last single track section with a few seconds lead. 1 slip out through a corner lost me some time but I came into the last bmx section in the lead and gave everything I had left to the finish line Candice on my wheel. I was super happy to take the win, one of my most exciting race finishes for sure and a proper battle from start to finish with both Candice and Sam in great form having raced in Europe and Candice preparing for Olympics!

More overwhelming than my win was the support from everyone throughout the race and all my supporters and friends waiting at the finish to give me a big hug and words of congratulations!! All I can says is WOW and a big heart felt thanks, you guys are truly special!

Enough about me, it was a fantastic and exciting day of racing for all of our PYCycling atheltes all ourt hard work coming to fruition!
Catherine(Bizhub) finished 3rd in youth women, a great race for her and big improvement on her last XC Cup result.
Amy(Decca/Ghost) 3rd in elite women and 3rd in the overall series
Andrea 7th U23 but close to finishing 5th had she not faded in her last lap
Francois(USN) 2nd vet men and taking the overall series win
Marcel 12th youth men despite 3 punctures and a super exciting U23 men's race for Arno finishing 3rd half a wheel length behind 2nd place's Luke.

BIG Congrats to everyone!!

After a great day's racing all that was left to do was celebrate and we did that in style having a fun and festive group dinner.

We ended our weekend with one of my all time favourite MTB rides up to the Avalanche, back down it ending with the extremely technical mine shaft.  Now that's what I call real MTB trails!

Thanks Mankele and to all the race organisers for a fantastic weekend.

And a very special thanks to Paul and EpicSports for the super race support and for helping me to believe in what a few weeks earlier seemed to be the impossible!

Till next time

SA Champs, Mankele - Amy McDougall

The weekend of SA Champs had finally arrived! The last few months of my life have been centred on this one race, the South African Cross Country National Champs. I felt ready; Coach Paul Cordes had prepared me with a specific training program that I had followed pedantically and the training camp at Mankele two weeks earlier with Epic Sports was invaluable! My Ghost bike was serviced to perfection and I was feeling fast and ready to rock!

The Elite, U23, Junior and sub junior girls all started at 9:15. It was probably the biggest group of ladies I have seen lined up at a XCO event, which is fantastic, but got the nerves going too.

Lined up in the second line of ladies in the start chute meant I would have to push hard from the gun to get into a good position before the single track! I was nervous but concentrated on keeping calm and focused, playing over in my head the route that I had prepared for and now knew so well.

When the gun went, we all sprinted furiously for the single-track. I saw Yolande Speedy get in first, then Samantha Sanders, Candice Neethling, Mariska Strauss and me in 5th place. Up the climb the order stayed the same, but I managed to get past Mariska and push up to fourth overall in the second section of single track.

I quickly gained a gap on the girls behind me, but the top 3 were out of sight. I chased hard but kept within myself, not underestimating this hectic course in Mankele! The trails were awesome, challenging, technical and fun, and had claimed many victims in the past few weeks, including me, with many falls and close calls while practicing!

Up in front in the ladies it was an exciting, close battle between Candice Neething, our Olympiad; Local rider, Samantha Sanders and Yolande Speedy, no introduction needed there! Yolande and Samantha were neck and neck, battling it out, chasing Candice. Yolande finally managed to catch Candice in the last lap (her fastest lap) and get a gap on Samantha. Despite a long road to recovery from a broken wrist Yolande beat Candice in a sprint finish to claim her 6th SA Champ title! Nail biting stuff!

I finished fourth overall, and third Elite lady. It is a great achievement, considering the size and calibre of the field I was racing in.

I am thoroughly enjoying racing my Ghost  XX Team edition bike, fitted with Ritchey, Crank Bros pedals and XX Sram. It is super-fast, responsive and light: built for racing. We are making a good team! In my bottles I used Singletrack Fuel XC, specifically designed with more carbs and less protein than the Marathon Fuel. Just right for the punch you need.

The more I race XCO, the more I realise what a complex discipline it is; fitness is only a portion of what it takes to be the best. You have to be exceptionally skilled technically, and consistent, with a huge amount of mental strength and the fight and ability to push through the pain. It is all about balance, the balance between taking too many risks or doing “stupid” things, and playing it too safe, between pushing yourself beyond your limit to stay with your competition and racing your own race. Being over- confident could make you complacent, and not being confident enough means self-doubt, a recipe for failure. Neither being a stressed bundle of nerves nor being nonchalant is helpful.

Anyway, my point is that XCO is fun, exciting, painful, challenging, fast and unpredictable. I am looking forward to racing the series next year, working on building my strengths, turning my weaknesses into strengths and getting the balance right. Until then, I am excited for more marathon racing and hopefully some stage racing, another ballgame altogether!

Arno du Toit - At the finish of Trailseeker 1

Friday, 20 July 2012

SA Nationals XCO at Mankele - Paul Cordes

It's South African National XCO Championships time again where all the top XC riders line themselves up in attempt to win the coveted stripped jersey and be crowned SA Champion for the next year!

We will be heading down with many of our club members to Mankele bike park near Nelspruit to take part in this prestigious event and keeping our fingers crossed to see a few of our riders up on the box!

Good Luck to everyone taking part! Drive safe and see you down there!

P.S We will probably be doing a relaxed outride the Sunday after the race around Mankele. If anyone is interested come chat to us at the Epic Sports gazebo!

Happy Riding!

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Fast and Dusty - Catherine Colyn

It was time to get the racing legs going again for the Trailseeker #2. Being in the Pretoria area, it was quite a flat race with lots of rocks and the dust was insane from the dry Gauteng winter. We had a very late start (9:30am), so there was lots of time to sit around and freeze our butts off before we had to go and race.

After almost missing the start, I was lucky that Werner van Heerden, standing at the front for the starting line, was keeping a spot open for me. The natural zone was very chilled, but when it was over the real racing started. Sitting at the back of the first bunch I was determined to keep with them and try to open up a gap as soon as possible on the other girls. A few kilometres into the race I noticed Jessica Alcock sitting on my wheel. I started to lift the pace and keep it there for a while. I then gave it one good kick and got myself a good lead on the girls. After that I didn't look back. I only looked forward and focused on what the course was dishing out.

The dust was so bad that I struggled to breathe. I tried drinking some water and taking some deep breaths while I was on the bike but it didn't help. When I passed the 2nd water point I could feel how my throat was busy closing up, so I decided to climb off the bike and lie down on the ground to try to get my breath back. Paul and Tiaan came to help me and just to check that I was still alive. After a few minutes I got my breath back and Paul motivated me to get back on the bike and finish the race.

When I climbed back on the Scott I switched off all the switches in my brain and went into race mode. With a few girls in front of me, I had to make up some serious time.

After a few kilometres I caught up to two girls, chasing hard on the single track, but bunny-hopping over the rocks my back wheel popped out. When the girls saw that I climbed off my bike they sprinted away. I quickly popped my wheel back in and made sure my skewer was nice and tightly closed.

I kept on chasing but there was only 2km of the race left. Unfortunately I couldn't catch up to them and took 4th in Youth, 5th in the Overall Women.

Thank you to everyone for the support on and off the bike. It really means the world!
Thank you team bizhub-fcf (@teambizhubfcf), KASK, 32Gi, Scott, Falke, Adidas Eyewear and SRAM for making all of this possible.

"In my mind, I'm always the best. If I walk out on the court and I think the next person is better, I've already lost." - Venus Williams

Friday, 13 July 2012

Mankele Training Camp from a Novice Rider's Point of View - Petru Ebersohn

We were all packed and ready for a weekend of mountain biking. Francois made sure the bikes were secured and off to Mankele went. Being the novice rider in terms of the crowd at the training camp I must confess I was a tiny bit nervous.
No matter how much effort and time you put into your training the truth is always in the actual ride to see whether you can stay with the "pack".

So we arrived on Friday afternoon, missing the first lap of the course, but to find the accommodation absolutely great. Chats around the dinner table evolved between the two terrifying drops that one will find in the National course (not for us average Joe's). Wardie was showing video footage taken at the drop and Arno and Joel made it look like a walk in the park.
Saturday morning started not so early and each of us girls had a try on the rollers. Yolande made it seem so easy and then Amy followed. What a scary experience.  I will definitely need the chair to hold on to and lots of training before I master this skill!

We had a good training session with sprints and climbs that felt more like a game than training, even though we were giving it our all. I had the opportunity to try my start sprint against the likes of Yolande and Amy and the message was clear, these two girls mean business!
Our sessions followed with a lap on the course, nerve wrecking at first but even though I was the slow poke on the technical ride, I really started gaining confidence in my own abilities thanks to some pointers from Paul.
I will share two key pointers:

I must say these two quick pointers made the rest of my attempt much easier. I had so much fun, even though I did not ride the two big drops and a few of the other "gnarly" sections I learned a lot and gained a lot from riding with the more advanced riders.

Our Sunday morning ride started different than planned, seeing that our tour guide (Joel Hieber) had a slight accident the Saturday and could not fulfill his role, Paul took the responsibility and it was the most amazing day out on my MTB ever.

At first there was the never ending climb, but when we reached the first top it was all the way down through the forest in the nicest single track! Followed by another lonnnnnnggg climb we finally reached the Avalanche, this was scary, descending down the mountain with hairpin bends and rocks,( lots of rocks.) Before we started Paul assured us no one was in a hurry and we should go down at a safe pace. Off they went flying down the mountain while Wardie and I took it VERY slow down the route. That was NARLEY, but still fun.
Thank you to everyone that contributed to an amazing weekend, especially the O’Neill family! It was great sharing a cabin with you! I firmly believe in the wise words from Helen Keller:

"Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experiences of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved."

Monday, 9 July 2012

Mankele Training Camp - Amy McDougall

With the National XCO champs coming up in Mankele, Paul Cordes, Yolande Speedy and the guys from Epic Sports decided to hold a weekend training camp to prepare us for the event. I am so glad I went, the course is PROPER, doing the race without practice, would be detrimental!  Here is a run-down of how I experienced it:

Day 1 (Friday)

I was packed and ready with my trusty racing machine, the super light and fast Ghost Team edition XX bike, my Singletrack Fuel and Bryton Rider 40; prepared and anxious for what Mankele had to throw at us.
Angie and I travelled together which was, well, an adventure... We earned ourselves a collection of “Darwin awards”, from travelling in completely the wrong direction at first, having to do a U-turn through two toll roads, forgetting the flysheet to the tent and (amongst other things) only packing half a gazebo. Lucky Paul and Yolande, Petru and Francios and Wardie and El-Marie were staying in a cute wooden cabin which we all piled into during the day for breakfast lunch and dinner!

We arrived at Mankele just after lunch time. Once we had pitched the tents and settled in, it was time to test out the XCO National course...

The course: The lap begins with a flat dirt road of about 600m which would be a flat-out sprint into some single track, and out onto a short but seriously steep climb. I like the way it starts as it gives the field time to spread out before going into the proper single track that makes up the body of the technical 6km course. Most of the course is undulating but flat, twisty and at times very rocky! 

I was enjoying it until we ended up at what seemed like an impossible bridge/drop-off. It was quite terrifying and I had never seen anything like it. I watched the guys doing it numerous times from all different angles, most making it look annoyingly easy, some nearly falling from lack of speed and Rex Benson falling OTB Chin first, earning him 5 stitches and a ripped shirt.

After much consideration I resolved to “sleep on it” and try again the next day.  More single track brought us to a bull run/chicken run split. There were crowds of people, so I tottled down to see what all the fuss was about, only to find that this “drop-off” was more of a fly-off. Once again most guys made it look like a piece of cake, Joel Hieber likened it to riding off a pavement, the only difference being, that it was about a metre high, you needed to come at it at break-neck speed and brake as soon as you landed, else you’d go flying over the corner at the bottom. I was at two minds, I knew that I could do it in theory, it’s all mind over matter. There was a fair amount of broken bicycles, wheels, bones and scary falls that happened as a result of this fly-off. I was disappointed with myself for chickening out, but without the confidence, and, considering my reputation of breaking things, I figured it was the wise decision…

The rest of the course was a lot of fun with bridges, more rocky, undulating single track next to the river. There are quite a lot of roots and sticking out branches which resulted in lots of tree hugging and line re-considering. Angie, Paul and I all ripped holes in our left sleeves from bashing into the same branch which was quite amusing! The single track comes out into the BMX track, and the beginning of the next lap.
We ended the day with a yummy braai at the cabin, some wine and chatting about the course. I slept well that night but my dreams were riddled with riding off the drop offs.

Day 2 (Saturday)

The morning was freezing and I began my day with a 15 minute roller session. This was my first time on rollers and it was really weird and unstable at first, I even came off once, which, of course, was caught on video camera. I got the hang of it pretty quickly… Concentration and speed is the key!

Today was proper. Straight after breakfast, we practiced the start; 6 sprints from the start to the single track. I pushed myself so hard to try and keep up with Yolande that I thought I might see my breakfast again! After a few minutes rest, we did 6 hill attacks up the first climb which was also very painful but great training and I was feeling good!

I was most nervous about having to face the drop offs. After analysing that first drop-off for what seemed like hours, Yolande, Francois and I finally plucked up the courage. It was now or never! Francois and Yolande went first, doing it a lot smoother than me, I must have gone a bit slowly, I made it down but then fell quite hard at the bottom. I luckily fell into a bush and had a relatively soft landing escaping with a few scratches. I was shaking from nerves and adrenaline but I knew I had to “get back on the horse” and do it again. I made it down the second time I felt elated, that was scary but so much fun! High fives all around, we did it! I was starting to feel more confident, it was really helpful and challenging chasing such an experienced, willing to teach, seasoned racer, Yolande, around the course!

That afternoon we did two more laps, I was still a bit rough around the edges but felt I was getting smoother and more confident as I practiced.

We finished in time to watch the last few km of the Tour de France.
All the riders looked rather zombie-like and some more worse for wear than others, Joel sadly broke his thumb and tore ligaments in his shoulder; Werner broke a wheel and hurt his arm coming down the fly-off, me, just full of scratches and bruises. 

An awesome, scary, painful and fun day was a good day in the office indeed, a delicious braai with great company made all the effort worthwhile!

Day 3 (Sunday)

The third and final day was a longer ride. To mix it up, we did some of the Avalanche route which is technical, rocky and steep. Besides falling a few times it was a lot of fun.
We then did a final two laps of the XC course.

I’m really stoked to have done the training camp, aside from an amazing experience, I feel strong. The hard, quality training from Paul is paying off, my Ghost feels fast and nippy and I am happy with the course. I now feel far more confident about the race!

Much thanks to Epic Sports and everyone involved for an awesome weekend!! 

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Nashua Mobile Ladies’ Challenge Race Report - Amy McDougall

The Nashua Mobile Ladies Challenge, held at one of my favourite MTB venues in South Africa, is the biggest Ladies only MTB event on the continent, with 600 ladies split between the 40km, 25km and 10km disciplines. It is one of the best races as far as vibe and festivity is concerned. A good time is guaranteed!
I felt confident; I have gotten stronger and having top end equipment and kit makes a world of a difference! As usual I was on my Ghost Team edition XX bike fitted with Sram XX, Ritchey handlebar and seat post, Crank Brothers egg beater 3 peddles and ESI grips. In my bottles was the No Bonk Guarantee Singletrack Fuel, on my stem, my Bryton to track my race!

I won this event last year and felt obliged to defend my title! The route in Van Gaalens Cheese Farm, is specifically designed by Eric Schiper for the ladies; not technical and really flat. Although the race is only 40km long, for me, it is a flat out 40km sprint! I wanted to get a good lead, so I went flat out from the sound of the whistle.
My legs and lungs were burning, probably from the cold and dust. I got the gap I wanted, and just carried on pushing myself as hard as I could to see how far ahead I could get, and how far I could beat my time by from last year.

There was not much climbing and my Ghost and I were flying, I was loving the speed! All the Marshals were either ladies, or men dressed up in ridiculous outfits with tutus, wigs, bras etc which was very entertaining, I managed a giggle as I passed!
When I reached that fun bit of single-track that runs parallel to the river, I knew that I had it. I sprinted over the finish line in a time of 1:44, 9 minutes faster than my time from last year!

Our efforts were rewarded with a glass of Champaign, free massages and an amazing lunch, and, of course, the inevitable shot of tequila you get whenever you podium at a Leverage Corporation event!
Keep the rubber side down and remember to give it horns.....

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

The Road to Recovery - Yolande Speedy

It's been a really bumpy ride the last couple of years, but such is my passion for mountain biking that I plan to come back fighting again

After recovering from my surgery last year April, I had a fairly decent end to the season, managing to hold on to the MTN Marathon Series overall. After deciding not to continue with Team MTN/Qhubeka, it was time for me and Paul to focus on building our own team again – not an easy feat in this economic climate and with so many sponsors having been burnt in the past. A lot of time and effort later and after getting our hopes up with a few close calls, we were still at square one.  Fortunately we had no problem organising product sponsors with Omnico coming on board with two GT Zaskar 29ers (race and training); Giro helmets, shoes and gloves; USN as a nutrition sponsor; Squirt Lube; ASG providing us with Rudy glasses, San Marco saddles and F-Tech kit; CycleOps giving us power with their Powertap MTB hub and Epic Sports providing race support. We were all set equipment-wise for a good 2012 season.

With 2012 being an Olympic year and although my direct communication with SASCOC indicated there would be little chance that I would make the team, I was still going to give it my best shot, so XCO and especially the World XCO Cup in PMB became my main focus.
Starting with base training in November, Paul and I made the shift to hardtail 29ers. I must say it took some getting used to as they definitely require extra horsepower to get going and aren't as nimble in single track, but once up to speed they're super quick and handle awesomely over rough, technical terrain. This became without a doubt my bike of choice for marathon and it was pleasantly surprising on the XCO courses I have ridden this year.

We had a really good build-up to the start of the race season and after a good warm-up race at the first USN Cup Marathon, we headed for the MTN Marathon in Barberton with high race expectations.  Unfortunately, nothing seemed to flow that day and it was back to the drawing board.
The first SA XC Cup held in Cape Town on a newly built course was up next. After a few laps the day before I knew we were in for a tough race – the steep climbs and technicality of the track would definitely take its toll. Following my bad day on the bike at Barberton I made good use of our USN sponsorship supplementing to prepare. This paid off and I had good legs on the day, keeping consistent lap times and taking the win.

Sabie is always one of my favourite race venues and this year’s second MTN Marathon held there was also the first World Cup Marathon, which added to the race excitement. Despite a slow start I had a strong race finishing in 3rd behind Ariane and Therresa.

It was then time to focus on the Momentum XCO Series building up UCI points and improving my ranking and start position for the PMB XCO World Cup. I had a really good race at the first event held at Giba Gorge, taking the win and finding my flow on the 29er. After a few weeks back in PTA spent fine-tuning my training together with my coach and team mate Paul, we headed back to PMB for the next two events and the World Cup. A number of international riders lined up at the start of the second event in Karkloof, making it a highly competitive field and good preparation for the next two weekends of racing. I had another strong ride finishing 3rd, not far behind the two international GT Skoda riders and finally feeling my form coming on.

It was a few days and a nasty crash on the Cascades XC course later that put an end to my short-term goals and found me back in hospital waiting for surgery on my right wrist. A tough but valuable lesson learnt.

It's now been just over four months. I spent 2.5 months on a CycleOps indoor trainer, one month on the road, plenty of rehab including sessions with Dimension Sport and their acupressure pens, and I’ve finally been able to get back to some mountain biking in the last few weeks. My first race back was the 3rd USN Cup which I had planned to take fairly easily, however, once on the starting line my competitive nature kicked in and it was race on. I was very happy to take the win, even more so to be back on the trails.

My next goal will be the SA XC Champs in Mankele. Having been out of the racing scene for so long I'm not sure what to expect but I’m looking forward to some good racing.

Till then,

XCO Fourth and Final Cup - Arno du Toit

The fourth and final leg of the 2012 National XCO Cup Series was held at World’s View, just outside Pietermaritzburg. I've raced there before as a sprog a few years ago, but since then they have changed the course completely. It was pretty straightforward with only one or two sections and lines to worry about and not a lot of climbing. However, there were some tight and twisty corners and most of them where dry and loose.

On race day I was as ready as can be and with some of the big guns racing in Canada, I knew I had to grab the opportunity. The sudden rainy weather on the starting line made things interesting over the first three laps, and with everyone on dry tires, traction was a problem for some of the guys! However, I had a good start and it wasn't long until Renay Goustra and I managed to open a slight gap over the rest of the field.

It was a ding dong battle with a lot of cat and mouse games going on, but we stuck together for the first four laps. Renay put in a big effort, the same as every previous lap, but this time I just couldn't stay on his wheel. The gap slowly opened and I couldn't do anything about it. He was on a mission! I dragged myself through the last two laps and managed to hang on to 2nd overall and 1st u/23.

With the Cannondale running smoothly this season and with the support from Epic Cycle Shop, I also ended up winning the u/23 Men XCO Cup Series for 2012.

Trailseeker #1: Tyger Valley - Arno du Toit

We all know the Nissan Trailseeker Series is very popular amongst the Gauteng riders, so for me this was a good opportunity to test myself against some of the biggest names in SA marathon racing.

It was a rather chilly start, so for once being from the Free State actually helped a bit. However, the racing was soon very hot at the front with a few guys constantly trying their luck. Somehow Gawie Combrink managed to get a gap and everyone thought it would be fine to let him in stay front for a little while. Gawie had a different idea! While he rode at a steady pace at the front, the racing in the chasing pack was a bit negative for mountain biking. It was like a road race. There were a lot of furious attacks, but with the route being so flat, no one was able to get away.

I must say I was irritated by the way the guys attacked and then sat up and looked at each other, so I went and tapped out a steady pace at the front of the chasing pack. I reckon this is a nice way to gain some respect from the bigger names in the business. Unfortunately no one wanted to roll through and help, but at least the attacking sort of ended for a while.

Even though we didn't have the time to stop at the neutral tech zone, the support from the Epic Sports guys was really amazing! Sometimes that extra motivation can really change the outcome of your race.
In the last quarter of the race, things got pretty aggressive! They realised Gawie's gap was bigger than expected so once again the attacks began, but only this time there was no sitting up in between.
I felt really good on the day and even though the race was rather short for a marathon, it wasn't exactly short enough for me...

I got dropped from the chasing bunch of six with about 8km to go. I don't know what happened, I just suddenly had nothing left. Luckily I had a USN Vooma Gel so I could get my body over the line without losing too much time.

Update from Paul and Yolande

Hi all

The first part of the season is well under way and as expected it has been a frantic start to another year. Yolande and I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their support thus far. Without everyone’s help this 2012 season would not be possible and we are very grateful for all the assistance both large and small that helped make this happen. We’d also like to let everyone into a bit of what we have been up to. Firstly, we have moved and expanded our shop and that has made a big difference as far as our customer care goes, which goes hand in hand with sales and is ultimately what it is all about.

Our sponsors:

Epic Sports is our main sponsor covering our training, race, travel and accommodation expenses as well as looking after our bikes and sending backup and support to the races.

Omnico who in the past have been one of our biggest supporters have returned with us in a big way supplying fantastic bikes (GT Zaskar 29ers), race wheels (Easton) and Giro equipment (gloves, helmet and shoes) on both race and training levels.

USN have supported us with their massive nutrition range as well as their fantastic advice, helping us get the most out of their products as well as some event entries.

CycleOps have come on board with MTB power metres which as you all know are essential for accurate training.

ASG have done a great job with the new kit covering us from head to toe with their fantastic F-Tech brand as well as Rudy Project glasses, San Marco saddles and Sixz undergarments.

Biccicletta continues with their support (5 years?) supplying CrankBros pedals, Ritchey stems and tires.

Squirt Lube have continued their support since their inception, helping to give our bikes longer life.

Continental have always been a great help with their continual support of tires.
Training has gone according to plan this year even with so much on the cards, including the new shop and Yolande’s involvement in web development. Our build has been steady and the numbers on the power metres continue to climb so we have been happy. I will admit that moving to the big wheels, new gearing ratios and set-up has taken some adjustment, but I think we are eventually starting to get it all together. We have been using our Power Tap hubs on MTB for both training and racing which has been fantastic, giving us really good data and motivation to fine-tune our programmes.

Racing started out well with Yolande winning the opening marathon of the USN Series and me finishing second in the elite. I followed that up with a 3rd place in the second round of the series, so I’m in a nice position for the overall. Yolande won the opening round of the SA XCO Series in CT as well as Round 1 of the Momentum UCI XCO Series in Giba Gorge. She then followed that up with a 3rd place in Round 2 of the series in Karkloof against international competition, proving that form is where she wanted to be going into the world cup in Pietermaritzburg. We also raced the marathon and ultra-marathons at both Barberton and Sabie which turned out to be a little disastrous. The good taken away from them was tweaking of the bike set-ups to hopefully ensure marathons go a little better from now on as well as a little bit of exposure and preparation to our goal events.

Speed bump:
Some unfortunate news was that Yolande, while practising the course in PMB, had a huge crash and consequently fractured her wrist which required surgery and therefore she obviously couldn’t compete in her goal event of Round 1 of the World Cup Series. This was a blow, but after all this is mountain biking and a part of the risk we run daily.

Where from here?
Yolande is already onto the trainer, but it will be around 8-10 weeks before the cast and wires can be removed and then there will be some rehab time. I will continue with a lot of local racing as well as pairing up with talented youngster Arno du Toit for Joberg2c and possibly Sani2c. After that Yolande should be up and firing again and we will turn our focus to the SA title races which are luckily far closer to the end of the season this year. We will also look at a return to mixed racing (it has been over two years since we have raced this format).

Other info:
I have been writing a short blog every week for the Waterpoint website which is very popular and helps to bring exposure. We have also launched our shop website ( with an online community where we can post comments and give advice and it has been growing in popularity. Our personal blog spot is very behind, but we will be spending some time on that soon to get it up to speed (www.blogspot/ Yolande and I are also involved with a couple of other projects, one being coaching, where we currently have four SA champs in our portfolio as well as some interesting up-and-comers. We are also involved with and support two local schools and their programmes and focus on the Anatomic/Spur school series with things like skills clinics, mechanical clinics and support at events. It has been very exciting and growing in leaps and bounds (our one school had their opening ride/function and 62 kids showed up to ride at Groenkloof!)

Thanks again for your continued support and we will try to keep the updates and results coming. For those of you not aware you can also follow our progress on Twitter with our feeds from @pcordesracing and @yolandes.
Paul and Yolande

Mid-year Update - Arno du Toit

During the past month or so, I had a couple of good races, but there were a few misfires as well. After Joberg2c and the nine days of breaking my legs, I had to take some time to recover with about half of the season still lying ahead. This is not an easy task to pull off if you want to race almost every weekend! Luckily I can depend on Paul to get this balance just right and if my legs don't pitch, I have someone to blame.

So I did Mabalingwe, aka The Lion Man, and it went pretty well. I tried to make the racing hard after the first 10km and I was surprised to see that only about three guys could follow. Then Lourens Luus destroyed everyone on Vodacom Hill! Taking a few risks, I managed to pull him back on the decent and from there on we rode together for most of the race. With about 10km to go he opened a gap on a portage section. Even though my Giro shoes are really great and comfortable, walking isn't one of my talents... The gap opened a bit, but luckily we were close to the finish, or so we thought! At the last water table we sort of took a wrong turn and ended up doing almost 100km instead of the 70km as planned.

I must say I was happy with 2nd place and after a few USN Spikes, the extra 30km didn't really seem that bad anymore.

Back to XCO racing! I decided to do a CGC Provincial – thought it would be a good opportunity for some high-intensity training, just to get back into aggressive race mode. I think it was the first time I lined up at the start of an XCO race without having done a practice lap. Well, let's just say it was pretty interesting. After some amateur riding I was lucky enough to leave with minor injuries and a silver medal. Well done to Stephan Reyneke for taking the win.
All and all it was a fun outing with the guys from Epic Sports!

After living out of a few bags for more than a month, I was happy to get home for a change, even though it was only about three days until the next road trip, this time the 3rd leg of the National XCO Cup Series at Addo Elephant Park near PE. The course had a couple of really nice sections. It was obvious that the organisers put a lot of effort into building most of those trails.

Race day came and everything was as ready as can be. I soon found out that my legs weren’t bad, but they were only going one speed, and I couldn't follow the sharp attacks. This is a problem when you're racing XCO. After the first lap it was all still pretty much together, but then we ran into some juniors, and the next lap some youth riders, which made it hard to keep a steady pace.

Passing slower riders was also a major problem on this course, especially if you don't have that kick in your legs! At the end of the day, looking at my lap times, the last lap was my second fastest lap which means there is nothing wrong with my fitness, it just needs a bit of sharpening!

Joberg2c 2012 - Paul Cordes

Last week was the 3rd year running of the Joberg2c and Arno du Toit and I were lucky enough to get an entry through the Ride Like a Pro programme. This is an event that I had always wanted to do and when the opportunity came around we grabbed it with open arms!

We were introduced via Craig “Proper Wappo” Wapnick to Transact, who is the medical support for the event, and together with a few other talented team pairings became a part of the very well looked after Transact family for the nine days of racing. Now how this worked was that with Craig’s initiative, entries were given to a few (I like to think talented or just naturally good-looking semi-pro cyclists) that otherwise would not have been able to enjoy and race an event like this from current sponsors of the Joberg2c event. We were then given some great kits and sent on our way to do battle for 930km with some of South Africa’s top professional teams!

The first day was supposedly a neutral stage which was a nice way to ease into the event (so I thought). So at 8:00 am we rolled out of Heidelberg behind an enormous Massey Ferguson tractor and started our journey down to Scottburgh. 50km into the day we were all given the opportunity to row across the Vaal River in dragon boats which was an amazing experience. All being well-trained cyclists and fortunately gifted with huge shoulders and guns we made it across the 50m with only a couple of rest stops. After this we rode on at a nice tempo to not stretch the day out too long. All was going well until the last water point where we were offered the biggest spread you have ever seen. We spent some time there; in fact we even had to spend extra time to help with digestion before we could roll into our first overnight stop. What a way to start the race!

After this things got serious! The next two days were spent blasting through the Free State at one silly speed where Arno and I tried hiding in the bunch and not getting too shown up by our teammates on single speeds! But finally Day 4 arrived which we heard was arguably the best day of mountain biking that could be had, and they weren’t far wrong! Thankfully we discovered the free Seattle Coffee this morning which definitely helped us stay near the front up the first climb of the day which paid off as we had a clear single track ahead of us… for kilometres! Now if you don’t know Arno let me give you some background: he is only 19 years old, but has already been SA XCO champ five times! He has also run in the top seven of a World Championship XCO until a mechanical knocked him back! So this being said, I had to ride downhill faster than I ever have… so he wouldn’t ride over me! What an amazing experience! It felt as if we matched our strengths and had one of the best days ever!

This day moved us up the leader board and put us in fighting spirits! We had some good battles with the teams from 5th-10th, won a couple, lost a couple, but slowly worked our way into the race and every day we started to feel stronger and stronger on the bikes, and when we didn’t we just had another Vooma Gel which was amazing! I think a big problem that resulted in our slow start was that I had been sick the couple of weeks building up to the race, so had to take some time off but I was happy to go into the race healthy(er) but undertrained rather than fit but sick.

Then finally we went into the Sani2c days which really suited our riding style and gave us a chance to spend some time with the big three at the sharp end of the event, and by then we had the GT Zaskar and Cannondale Flash dialled! We finally rolled into Scottburgh having had a sniff at the podium which never quite materialised, but finishing with a very satisfying 4th overall! What a great event – from the organisation, to the hands-on approach of the three main race organisers, to the great overnight venues and food, to all the preparation that went into the course itself! If you haven’t yet done this race then go make an entry into your bucket list – you won’t be disappointed!

A big thanks to all of our supporters: Transact for the opportunity to race this event and Andre from Epic Sports running after us hand and foot making sure everything and the bikes were perfectly prepared. Then to Omnico for our GT and Cannondale race machines and extremity safety equipment from Giro. And then to USN for all the great supplements which had a huge impact on our daily recovery and endurance throughout the event.

Till the next time, happy trails.
Paul Cordes

Joberg2c - Arno du Toit

I must say I was a little worried about this one... nine days, 910km! Something different and new for me! Luckily I had Paul Cordes as my partner. He is also currently my coach so I was sure that he wouldn't try to break me.

Day 1 is apparently a neutral day but we were already taking shots. Things didn't look so good. Day 2 went even worse with Paul having issues with his pedal just before the last water point. We decided to sit up and enjoy the rest of the day out there. Okay, so maybe it wasn't really going that bad. We got our act together, or maybe rode into some shape, and suddenly we were both feeling pretty good.

Even though we planned a steady ride down to Scottburgh we got involved in a few serious battles out there. Some better riding and a bit of luck saw us moving into 4th overall after Day 6. Game on!

We came close to jumping on the podium the last day. Itec got us with less than 10km to go. Our legs weren’t really working anymore by this time. Anyway, we made it all the way and finished in 4th place. I must say I’ve never been so happy to get on the beach!

Thanks Transact for making this experience possible for us, Paul for some great riding and motivation when needed, Andre Cordes from Epic Sports and our mechanic/team management for making sure everything and the bikes ran smoothly all the way!

Paul's Blog on Sabie

We loaded up and headed down to Sabie last weekend for what was the 3rd round of the MTN marathon series as well as South Africas first time to host a UCI ultra marathon event. This just meant that the stakes were going to be higher and above the normal local competition (which is already quite serious) there was going to be a multitude of international competition as well!

The whole Epic Sports gang took over the backbackers which made for an amazing vibe for the weekend as well as for the first time we hosted two neutral tech zones on route as well as a hospitality area at the finish which obviously meant a lot more admin but was a great feeling to have a more hands on approach to a sport that has given us so much pleasure through the years!

Now no one doubts the difficulty of ultra marathons but those who do it probably end up doubting their own sanity somewhere along the line. 75km of hard racing is always a good challenge but then to have to ride straight past the finish line and take off into the mountains for another 40km at almost 40deg I must say took some doing!!

It was great that I somehow managed got to get a top 20 call up to the line which was a fantastic honor and unexpected considering how my cycling has been going the last little while. This was also however one of the last times that I saw the top guys as they vanished up the mountains in front of me at a blistering pace! I tried to keep steady and not stress too much which paid off because I slowly started catching a few “victims” which at least brought some respite for all the effort that had to be put in.

In the end I was pleased to drag myself in 22nd position amongst an international field at what had to be one of the most challenging routes I have done in a while. The Sabie team did a great job to offer a lot of route variation as well as some top class trail preparation, markings, marshaling and water points. Hydration was key to such a long event and this was even more apparent when one scans the long dnf list. This is where just water alone is not enough but a proper supplement can make the difference between finishing or not. Chat to your local bike shop if you have any queries with this regard because it could make a big difference to the quality of your cycling.

Next weekend Yolande and I turn back to XCO racing and travel down to the Momentum XCO series #2 at Karkloof as a part of her preparations for the World Cup a couple weeks later in Pietermaritzberg. Much more intensity and tight racing conditions are expected and the good news is that it should take less than 6hrs to complete (-;

Till then, keep the rubber side down!