Wednesday, 27 February 2013

MTN/NISSAN Sabie Half Marathon - Nicholas Popich

The MTN/NISSAN Sabie Half Marathon, so far the biggest and most important race I’ve decided to ride and for the first time in a very long time I was standing on the start line not feeling stressed at all. I came well prepared having finished up with the athletics season that Friday and had studied the Route profile thoroughly late the evening before, knowing exactly then I was going to use my High5 Gels. As unusual the rain caught us unexpectedly  on the morning of the 38km’s start.

Quite a way into the Neutral Zone I felt the stiffness in my legs from the previous evening’s tubing-experience running up river, river rafting and being knocked around between the rocks :-D. It caught up to me shortly, within the first 2km up our ±12km climb I fell off the pace… dropped. Slowly the leading group disappeared into the misty mountains of Sabie, not long after the chasing group also passed me… Legs still flat! To me the race felt wasted, all over. But NO! The Badger bites back! Sabie destroyed all tactics and in desperation I used two High5 gels at once.  10 Minutes later I was flying, caught up to the chasing group and just went right past. The leaders were out of sight, but  definitely not out of mind!

Grinding it along in the big ring and pushing the pace harder and harder, feeling stronger and stronger. Everything was covered in mud! Never the less the Shimano XTR group set on my Monster Truck DogmaXC gave no hassles at all, as if it had been engineered for the mud. She was climbing effortlessly while fed with High5 Extreme 2:1. I’m glad to have had Continental X-Kings on the front AND rear wheel. Traction was the key to a slippery race like this.

Reaching halfway I noticed my team mate Joel Hieber’s Neon Yellow helmet through the mist and the Namibian Youth boy. I was gaining ground on the leaders! I have been riding alone, chasing alone for many km’s and after seeing them my adrenaline started pumping and I pushed harder. Caught up and went past… Now on a mission to haul in the third position.

The mist had cleared up a little and vision wasn’t as impaired as earlier with mud and mist both on my Rudy Projects. The decent was one of a kind. Fast single track, rocky sections, slippery clay and wide gravel roads! Far ahead I could see the red in Raymond Wagenaar’s jersey which made me stoke it even harder saying to myself: The Badger bites back, Badger bites back, Badger bites back!! Unlucky for Raymond he crashed. I just needed to keep my third position. What was left of the race was far too short to be able to catch Dylan and Patrick.

The last 8km of single track became havoc. The slippery clay flung me down three times but I was back up within split seconds and had my SIDI’s back into the CrankBrothers in no time. I was chuffed with the end result, a third overall and the second junior. J

It was a weekend to remember! Thanks to all the team mates, friends and family who made it so enjoyable. A big thank you to a[s]g and Paul Cordes for making it all possible and Epic Sports for their excellent mechanic skills and washing every ones bikes afterwards.

Now.. A week of recovery
Nicholas Popich

ASG Academy members achieve podiums across the board, Junior – Master at MTN National Marathon #2 –Sabie.

Last weekend, one of the most anticipated races on the racing calendar for local and international mountain bikers alike: The MTN National Marathon Series #2, the Sabie Classic. The Sabie Classic is renowned for its killer climbs with contrasting beauty, the thrilling descents and boasts single track that makes the sweat well worthwhile!
Representing the ASG Academy in the 74km marathon was Paul Cordes, Arno du Toit, Amy McDougall, Neville Ackermann, Edwil O’Niell, and Marcel Marais.
The marathon started with a neutral zone of about 7km before the first big climb and the infamous Mamba Switchbacks. The monster of a climb is about 15km long with a few steep kicks, pacing oneself is crucial! What goes up, must go down… After the Epic Sports Tech Zone, and one final kick up, the descending began. This was no normal downhill. The recent rainfall caused the steep descent, aptly named the “Rocky Horror” to become very loose, rutted and treacherous if you weren’t careful.  The rest of the loop went in and out of the forest with an impressive amount of single track and a few gnarly climbs. It was a hot day out and the sun beat down on the riders.

In the ladies’ race, Amy McDougall kept a good pace, starting just inside the top 10 but got stronger throughout the race. She made the most of her technical skills, gaining, and keeping 4 positions down rocky horror. She finished strong in 5th place overall and 1st senior women. “The climbs were a good challenge but I loved the technical descents and single track, the control I have with the Dogma is amazing! I am happy with my result.”
In our men’s race, Arno struggled to find a rhythm at first but “found his legs” and had a very strong finish, reeling in riders in the last kilometres of the race. He finished in an impressive 6th place overall and 4th U23 men! “I felt flat and winded from the moment the pace lifted. I sort of lost focus towards the middle of the race but managed to pull myself together and pick up the pieces to finish strong.” Neville Ackermann suffered a few technicals but had a good race against a strong field, finishing 3rd Master men. After struggling with a stomach virus for the 4 days prior to the race, Paul didn’t have high expectations for his race and said he had to only “rely on the diesel as his turbo was shredded” but still managed  5th in the sub-vet men. Marcel had a good day out coming 13th U23, Edwill suffered with stomach problems throughout the race, but finished in a respectable time, and 18th U23.

In contrast to the previous day’s heat, Half Marathon riders were woken by the sound of “pitta patta” outside their windows. Representatives in the half marathon were Nicholas Popich, Joel Hieber, Jacques Pretorius, Michelle Benson, Danielle Rheeder and Lynette Benson.

It was a mud bath and riders would have to be smart with their riding. As with the marathon, the race began with a monster of a climb and kilometres of amazing single track. Nicholas had a killer of a race, battling it out with the best and finishing in 3rd place overall and 2nd Junior! “Sabie... useless to take it on with tactics, it destroys all. I started off slow, but just bit the bullet and pushed harder all the way! The badger bites back! It’s a good thing I was on a hill climbing monster truck.” Danielle had a fantastic race after returning from a back injury to finish 3rd overall in the ladies and 2nd junior while Michelle had a steady race to finish 4th Junior and 12th overall.  

The Sabie Classic is a world class marathon race and is without a doubt one of the toughest races in South Africa. The camaraderie, support and enthusiasm within the ASG Academy is refreshing as the riders grow and strive for their goals together! Look forward to seeing everyone at the next event.

Monday, 18 February 2013

Du Toit delivers at USN Cup #2 and Speedy and McDougall open their stage racing account.

Yolande Speedy and Amy McDougall successfully teamed up for the first time in a stage race, Arno Du Toit defended his title at the USN Cup #2 and more impressive results for the a[s]g MTB Academy this weekend.

In the Leverage Corporation Bridgestone Route 66 MTB Experience, Yolande Speedy and Amy McDougall joined forces for the first time in the 3 day stage race as team a[s]g Pinarello, and proved to be a formidable combination! 

Speedy and McDougall won all 3 stages with an impressive overall lead of 2 hours for the 3 days. The technical 3 day race took place in the heart of the Cradle of human kind and the Magaliesburg mountains with some of the best mountain biking Gauteng has to offer! Day 1 80km, went from Monagan Farm to Van Gaalens Cheese farm. The route was technical with some gnarly rocky descents and kilometres of technical single track, which suited the girls perfectly and separated the “men from the boys”. Day 2 was 70km starting at Van Gaalens and ending at Maropeng. Although it was slightly shorter, there was more climbing, and the heat added to the toughness of the day. Speedy and McDougall finished first again. “Today was really hard but I absolutely love the trails out here, the single track is some of the best our country has to offer. My Pinarello Dogma XC is nippy and responsive making technical ups and downs feel easy!” –McDougall. Day 3 was a fast and furious 60km, it was mainly flat with not many technical sections, the girls worked well together, pacing on the flats and blitzed the field, winning the stage and the overall race with a lead of over 2 hours on the second ladies’ team. “I am very happy to take the win for a[s]g MTB Academy together with Amy at the Bridgestone Route 66 Experience. Great way to start the 2013 stage racing season and a super fun 3 days of racing!” –Speedy

Arno du Toit successfully defended his title at the second leg of the USN Cup series which took place at Red Barn. The 60km race offers a large amount of beautiful foresty single track and a few bridges with some challenging but all rideable sections. Du Toit, up against a strong field, put his head down from the gun, getting an early lead and maintaining it until the finish. His hard work earned him his second win in the USN Cup series. “My plan was to hit it hard from the gun to try and split the field. I was soon by myself, about a minute off the front with a solid group chasing! I settled into a rhythm, kept riding as smoothly as possible through the single track and eventually hung on to take the win”. Paul Cordes came in 4th overall and 3rd sub vet. Despite a recent neck injury, Andrea de Boer came 2nd in the ladies 60km race and Michelle Benson had a fantastic day, finishing 1st overall lady in the 30km. Jacques Pretorius rounded out the podium count with a 2nd place junior and 3rd overall in the 30km event.

At the Babbas Lodge mtb race on Sunday, Edwill O’Neill won the Marathon over all, and Jacques Pretorius won the 30km overall “We got on a tar road that led to the finish and I knew it was now or never, my legs felt good enough to allow me to get out of the saddle and put in a hard effort to get away from the other 2 riders. I crossed the finish line taking overall honours” –O’Neill

There was a highly positive and enthusiastic response to the quality of the Pinarellos, High 5 supplements and CycleOps GPS units from all the academy members and public alike. Although it is still early days, big things are in the pipeline as the riders are growing from strength to strength!

Monday, 11 February 2013

SA Nationals XCO #1 - Paul Cordes

Hi All,

With the World Champs looming later this year and only having done my last xco race a couple of years ago I decided it was time to get some practice. I headed down to CT with some of the ASG mtb Academy to open our account at the first round of the national xco champs in Willowbridge Cape Town.
The course was neatly spread over the adjacent hill from the shopping centre giving spectators a brilliant view of almost the entire route at any one time. The organisers had put together a good mixture of technical (but nothing mad) with a nice combination of long as well as power climbing to challenge all levels of athlete. After apparently a few days of extreme heat we were lucky enough to be greeted with overcast and eventually torrential rain on race day putting a nice spin on the proceedings.  

The women where the first up for us and Yolande put on a spirited fight back after a difficult start to finish 3rd senior women amongst an international field. Amy also had a good race despite wrestling with some vegetation (and a pole) near the end of her event. 

Then it was my turn, with nerves jittery at the start we got the “go” and it was race on. I was comfortable with the early pace and despite my initial intentions to hang back at first I kicked into race mode and took the lead up the first big climb. The route was open so it gave spectators and athletes alike a good idea of what was going on. I could see that the field split up quite quickly which gave me a chance to breath easier and just focus on the sections that counted and play it safe on the down hills and not make any mistakes. I crossed the line first which was a great way to get back into xco racing and kick start the season. 

The new Dogma XC bike was amazing, it’s been awhile since I've been this comfortable on my equipment so I feel very fortunate this year. Other noticeable products this weekend were the Conti X-King tires that were superb in these varying conditions as well as the Squirt bio bike wash doing a great job getting everything clean again after the mud bath.  Another product that the team members have been impressed with is the High 5 nutrition range. Very palatable and easy to get down so we are extremely happy to be making use of their full range this season.

Next up were the elite and junior men. Unfortunately Joel while hammering with the leaders had a big off and needed to abandon to get medical attention but thankfully will be fine. Then Arno put up a good fight in a very competitive field and after an extremely muddy event finished 5th u23 which is a great starting point to build on the season. 

The other great result from the weekend was a second place at Berg n Dale from Neville loosing out narrowly in the sprint. Also Marcel finished 3rd overall at the Blue Moonlight mtb race near Pretoria so good to see him getting his first podium for the season.

Next up is Route 66 stage race for our ladies and USN Cup #2 for most of the guys and the week after that we will do battle in Sabie.    

Till then, hope you have a great week.
ASG MTB Academy

SA XCO #1 - Arno du Toit

After a couple of smaller races to get the season rolling nicely, it was time for us to load our Dogma xc's into the trailer and hit the road down to the mother city, for the first leg of the national xco series.

We arrived at Willowbridge Thursday afternoon and after having lunch while staring at the very spectator friendly course, we went out for a couple of easy laps to find out what was in store for us. All round I enjoyed the course, nothing serious to stress about with  some really fun sections.

Saturday morning I woke up to the sound of raindrops on the roof. It didn't bother me, according to accuweather it would only be 2ml and stop at 9am. We were only racing at 12. Ofcourse the rain never stopped and conditions only got worse as the day went on. Luckily the continental X-King is a perfect all round tire so I had no worries to change equipment before the start.

Must say lining up behind  guys like Florian Vogel, Ralf Nรคf and a couple other international riders had my nerves going. The start was messy. Got to love sprinting full gas with elbows touching through mud for a single track. I got away nicely, but some favourites were caught napping.

My first lap felt good, but with the excitment I over cooked it slightly. I battled to settle down and couldn't get into a rhythm and lost some time. I got it back together and managed to regain focus and from there on it felt really comfortable. The longer Ritchey stem I decided to use worked like a bomb. My position on the bike and the handeling felt perfect.

I started catching riders from about the halfway mark. The combination of good coaching from PYcycling and the High5 supplements was definately working well. After a grueling 8laps, I finished 5th u23 men. Even though I was a little bit off the pace, I felt that I could maintain a steady pace all the way to the end. Always a good foundation to build on.

Looking forward to some good racing

Monday, 4 February 2013

Gauteng Provincial #1 - Amy McDougall

The first leg of the Gauteng XCO provincial series, held at Thaba trails in Johannesburg South. The last few training rides on my new Pinarello Dogma XC have been awesome, it is really fast and I feel super comfortable on it! So I was excited to put it to the ultimate test; a cross country race. I was also feeling anxious, as the last cross country race I did was SA champs last year in July and I was worried that I had “forgotten how”. Thank goodness it came back to me, kinda like riding a bicycle ;)

Standing on the start line, I could see I had tough competition with Yolande Speedy and Yolandi du Toit next to me. The start was only about a 100m sprint before we hit the single track. Yolande got in first with me just behind her, she went slightly wrong on the first left turn, so I zipped in front of her, only to get passed again a few meters later. Yolande and I quickly got a big gap on the rest of the field. I managed to catch her and got into the lead about half way through the first lap. My CyclOps GPS was showing my heart rate in the red, and I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to maintain it. I got into a rhythm, keeping a high cadence and making sure to enjoy the single track and few technical sections that are the reason I love mountain biking so much! 
I was surprised at how fast I was riding, it felt good, all our tough training over the past few months is paying off, the Pinarello definitely helping out!

The laps went smoothly, with almost no errors or crashes, my heart rate maxing out all the way! My lap times were consistent which was the most important thing. I looked behind me at about 3 km to go and saw Yolande catching me. I had a few sub vet men in front of me who were slower in the single track, I forced my way past them (politely) and pushed hard to the end. I was ecstatic to have won and pleasantly surprised by my performance!

My team mates, and the rest of the Academy members all did excellently, killing it with 8 out of the 12 getting podiums, and a total of 5 wins for the day: Arno du Toit: 1st U23, Paul Cordes: 1st sub vet, Joel Hieber: 1st Junior and Neville Ackermann: 1st Master.
This coming weekend is the first national XCO in Cape Town.

Until then, keep the rubber side down

Amy Beth

Provincial XCO #1 Gauteng - Joel Hieber

So it was race day, first race of the year, new team, new look and a new awesome Pinarello steed. So many things going through my head, didn’t really know what to expect from myself. None the less, was feeling super strong while sitting under the asg/Pinarello tents, I knew that it was going to be a tough race having such good competition in the form of Dylan Rebello, my team mate Nicholas Popich, and a few other talented juniors, but all this didn’t put me down, I knew the track, I knew my strategy and was psyched out ready to rock.  

Legs warmed up, High5 energy goo taken and waiting for the starting gun, as soon as the race started, I went into focus mode. Felt like nothing could stop me. The beginning of the lap is a difficult few kick-climbs where it took some real firepower to get up as fast as we did, a small group of 4 of us made it over the climb, and into the first few single track trails, I was lying 4th. Dylan started riding a good tempo that Neil Robinson could not follow, I felt helpless sitting at the back of the group looking up at Dylan getting away from me, so I decided to make a break into the grass and around Nick Popich and Neil catching back up to Dylan. Neil could not hold the tempo I set to catch back up to Dylan, which is how Dylan and I got away.

 Amazing how smooth I felt through all the trails on the new Pinarello Dogma XC, truly a great bike helping me in the technical stuff. Race went on, Dylan and I continuing to increase our time gap over our competitors,  4th lap comes fast, still feeling the hype I did in the first lap, so I decided to take the lead, Dylan behind me heading onto the 4th lap and I was feeling powerful. A few minutes up the first climb and Dylan shouts to me that he has stomach issues, next moment he’s beside the track behind me, I stopped and asked if I could help, but there was nothing I could do. So I headed onwards by myself in 1st position. The rest of the race was fun as I passed a few of my team mates, Edwill and Marcel who were racing in the u23 men category. Last straight came super quick and I finished in 1st position. 

This race made me realize how privileged I am to be on such a great team with such great sponsors that are supplying the best products on the market to us, felt like such a VIP sitting under the tent with such amazing people round me. As a first race of the year, this really showed me that there are good things to come as I can still get much fitter.  Can’t wait for the first national in cape town this weekend. See you there for some crazy mtb action!