Monday, 24 June 2013

ASG Academy rakes in more National XCO medals.

Last Saturday, the 4th leg of the National XCO series was held at Mankele Bike Park in the Lowveld.The track is a treat for the technically skilled with tricky rock gardens, switchback turns and a few hair raising drops. Maintaining focus is key, race costing mistakes are easy to make, making cross country racing an exciting and unpredictable fight of attrition.

The main race of the day, the Pro Elite men, was riveting. It was arguably the closest fight with the biggest and strongest field we have seen this year. Arno du Toit consistently stayed in the chase group of about 9 riders to start with who were a few seconds behind Phillip Buys and James Reid. He fought his way through the ranks into 5th, and finally finished 4th Pro Elite and 2nd U23. “I dug deep to stay in contact with a solid group chasing Phil around for the first 3 laps. Fatigue, mistakes and mechanicals split up the field, but I felt good and as always, the equipment was perfect.” Stephan Reyneke raced hard and finished 10th pro elite and 6th U23 an impressive result!

In the ladies race, Yolande Speedy had some bad luck when she clipped a rock with her pedal and crashed, making her saddle skew. Speedy lost valuable time fixing her saddle but managed to fight her way through the field finishing 4th Pro Elite and 2nd Elite. “I chased back to finish 4th after a crash and resulting technical in my 2nd lap. It was a bit frustrating but I am happy to feel my form coming back.” Amy McDougall came 6th Pro Elite and 3rd Elite “I pushed my hardest but had no legs on the day. I am unhappy with my result but on a positive note, I thoroughly enjoyed the trails at Mankele, my Pinarello floated through the course. It was amazing! ”

The Sub Vet men’s race was also an exciting race, Paul Cordes earned himself top spot. “It was tough and close racing on another great course. Like always on race weekend, it was nice for me to get out and do some racing but also to see my teammates continuously improving and racing at the very sharp end of the sport.”

Francois Ebersohn cleaned up the field in the Vets category coming 1st by a huge margin! “Mankele is such an awesome event. Even my bicycle high fived me doing the jumps!!”
The junior men’s race was another exciting battle in an increasingly skilled and talented field of young men. Nicholas Popich came 9th with Joel Hieber just behind him in 10th place. Says Popich: “It was my first time racing at Mankele. It was definitely way out of my comfort zone, but a great experience and something to build on!”

Michelle Benson came 5th in the Junior ladies race.
Cross country is one of the toughest disciplines of racing, a combination of mental toughness, skill, fitness and fight is essential. To have the Academy members consistently performing at the high end of this type of racing as well as in marathons, is rare and admirable.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Press Release: ASG Academy: a versatile force to be reckoned with.

Last Saturday, the ASG MTB Academy had a strong contingent of athletes competing in two completely different mountain biking disciplines: the National Marathon #6 in Rooiberg and the Gauteng provincial XCO #4 held at Thaba Trails.
For the first time ever, a National Marathon was held in Rooiberg, in the past the venue was Mabalingwe but due to change in management, this had to be changed. Rooiberg is only a 2 hour drive from Gauteng. The marathon was a treat, with 1063m of ascent, great views and miles of technical singletrack.

In the marathon, Arno Du Toit and Stephan Reyneke once again proved to be young athletes amongst the best in the country. Du Toit came 4th overall and 3rd U23 with Reyneke a few minutes behind him in 6th place overall and 4th U23. Says Du Toit: “from the gun the pace was rather slow but things heated up over the KOM climb and I found myself riding off the front with Brendon Davis and Jan Withaar.I felt good for the first half, but then “hit the wall” and had to drag myself home.” Reyneke successfully defended his 2nd place in the overall series standings in the U23 category. Paul Cordes also was in contention early on until a small mistake cost him some time “racing against all the youngsters is always a great challenge forcing you to fight all the way to the end”. Cordes finished 8th overall and 3rd sub-vet .

Yolande Speedy was back on the national marathon podium for a second time after a long time out of the circuit due to the broken collar bone and 4 broken ribs she suffered on her way to her ABSA Cape Epic victory. Speedy came 3rd overall and 2nd Sub Vet with Robyn De Groot and Yolandi Du Toit coming in 1st and 2nd respectively. “Hard but good race, happy to be back on the podium for @ASG_Pycycling. Great riding by Robyn and Yolandi”

For Danielle Rheeder, being on the podium is becoming a norm for the talented youngster. Rheeder placed 3rd overall in the Half Marathon, and 2nd in the junior ladies category.
At the Provincial XCO, held at Thaba trails, Kyle Wood proved to be a formidable force when he came 4thPro Elite and 3rdU23. Wood, still new to racing has improved leaps and bounds since joining the Academy. His passion for the sport shines through as he is reaping the benefits of structured training and being part of a supportive group of fellow riders. “The new course was tougher to me than the last XCO, but I still had a blast! It was my first time doing 7 laps which was a killer!”

Nicholas Popich put out a stellar performance, taking the lead from the beginning and winning the junior category. “As usual, racing at Thaba Trails was hard with an improved track, and some steep power climbs! I was glad to have 2 chain rings on my Dogma XC, and happy to take the win!” Joel Hieber put in a good fight to claim second overall.

The athletes of the ASG Academy prove to consistently be on the podium from Marathon racing to cross country. Their ability to perform on a high level in both these disciplines is a commendable and rather rare skill that will be nurtured through the mentorship of the Academy.
Next up is the 4th and last leg of the National XCO Cup this weekend at Mankele.

Mankele Training Camp - Kyle Wood

I had heard a lot about Mankele from my team-mates and had set my expectations very high. As we got closer to departure date, I began to get more and more excited. That child-like feeling of anticipation, to the point where I couldn’t sleep and had the car packed by 4 that morning. We left early on Sunday morning and before we knew it we had arrived at this place many call cycling heaven. After we had checked in, and after Paul Cordes had shown the other visiting team, who had the best trailer, it was time to get dressed and go on our first warm up ride. Once dressed and ready, everyone had decided which of the many towers we would ride to, and when Arno pointed out the route we going to take, I looked up into the clouds and realized that this was the start of some amazing training.

Yolande, Paul, Arno, Tayla and I started the climb and before I knew it we had climbed over 1000 meters and we were standing on top of Mankele looking at the most amazing view. Little did I know I was about to see what Mankele was all about! Before I knew it we were on a fast decent in and out of some of the most incredible single track I had ever ridden! Tight corners, little unexpected drops, a few burms and some roots and rocks everywhere in between! At one stage the track had become steep and loose and I over cooked it a little in an effort to try and catch up to Paul and Arno, and found myself lying in a bunch of trees. I called out to them saying I’d fallen and just heard 2 guys laughing as if I was a beginner. It was time for me to step up my game! Everyone was right, Mankele had exceeded my expectations.

After we had all unpacked everyone said they wanted to take a nap? This to me is unheard of, so Tayla and I left to buy that night’s supper, while everyone else had their little sleep. Once we were back, Marcel had finally arrived from Swaziland and was overjoyed with his win at the Swaziland Imvelo MTB challenge.
 Once everyone had woken up it was time for the teams first hurt session! Yolande decided we were going to do 6 hill intervals. Sprinting to the top of the XCO course and then descending down a section with a crazy burm and cute little drop off. This we repeated a couple of times. It turned out to be a great days training and that evening I could feel my legs had done some quality work. I got into bed around 8 which to Arno and Marcel was too early, which meant I would get beaten and wrestled into a little ball before I would be allowed to finally sleep.

Day 2 had come and this would be the day I learnt the art of “napping”. We set off to the furthest and highest tower and as if that wasn’t bad enough Paul thought it a good idea just to do a bunch of sprints all the way up to the top. Each interval being 5 minutes long with 15 sprints in each interval. I gave Arno a good work out for the first 2 sets and had the feeling every one else was pacing themselves. This hill was a lot longer then I had anticipated and before I knew it I was deep into the hurt box! We finally reached the top and it was time for me to take a little sit down and beg everyone for some of their food, I was absolutely shattered. We had admired the beautiful view for a while and once I was able to stand again, we left on yet another amazing fast decent that lead us into the famous bush tunnels at the end. Bridges, jumps, sneaky trees and speed thrown in the mix, meant we would all come out the other side with a MASSIVE smile on our faces. The climb before the amazing decent made sense now and was extremely rewarding to those that were able to reach the top.

Arriving back at the house, we had a quick lunch. After lunch Arno, Tayla and Marcel went to buy supper and before I knew it, I was fast asleep on the couch. Waking up over an hour later I was told to get dressed and put on my big boy pants. Little did I know this would turn out to be one of the greatest rides of my life. We climbed to the top of the Avalanche and on the steeper top section, we saw who could climb the steep rutted out section without putting their foot down, the most times. This was their idea of a sneaky trick to get me to do another 5 intervals. After that we stood at the top looking down the mountain, everyone telling me to enjoy and be safe……. They were off and I was in full pursuit! Little did I know but the only time I’d catch Arno and Paul, was when they stopped to tell me they rode over a snake. A half an hour decent with little to no pedaling in-between had become the most amazing cycling experience of my life. I felt free and so at home with my new team. Fast flowing single track with everything on it! Finally everything was coming together! At the end the only thing left to say, was thank you. I was over the moon and will never forget the Avalanche course again.

That night we had a braai, and with some wine, spoke about how great the training had been. Everyone seemed pleased with their form. Great to see the “Epic champ” full of smiles again and properly back on her MTB bike. A long road to recovery but she seemed pleased with the outcome and its great to see her in full action again.

Day 3 came and sadly was to be our last ride. It seemed cold at first but we soon warmed up after our first set of intervals. My body started feeling the pressure and before I knew it I was silent for once. Just holding onto the back of the group. I still loved the ride and would go to the front for the occasional sprint against whoever was willing. Still an amazing ride and after another 1000 meters of climbing and more out of this world single track, it was time to pack up and head home.
Mankele training camp had been a huge boost for all of us. A chance to get away, not only out for a few days of great training, but also to refresh ourselves mentally, and get focused on our new goals for the  second half of the year to come.

Friday, 14 June 2013

Top step in Swazi - Marcel Marais

The weekends racing started at the AsG Night Rider series that was held at Rosemary Hill on Thursday night. The ASG PYcycling wasn't at full force but still managed some decent results as Jacques Pretorius came in 4th and myself  right behind him in 5th. Nicholas Popich managed to pull off a win for us in the night runner series.

I was very exited for what laid ahead in Swaziland as it was the 10th annual Imvelo mountain bike challenge and it looked very promising. With a tough week of training behind me I knew it would be a tough one as the race consisted of 1600m of climbing over 64k's. With a field of over 150 riders that included some very enthusiastic riders and some big teams such as westvaal columbia, I knew that I had to play it smart and just try and hang on for as long as possible. It was also very nice to see so many locals participating and having fun.

The race started out very fast with a lot of single track in the first 15km. With a couple of surges from myself just to keep the pace high, the group thinned out as there was only a local Swazi rider, cycle lab rider (Andrew Stockwell) and myself heading into the first climb of the day. The pace picked up heavily as the climb got steeper and more rocky. With the grip of conti tires I could get over any obstacles and rough terrain and thanks to bat seal tire sealant I wasn't puncture friendly. With the Swazi local having got away after I took a little tumble in a technical section, I had to fight back as hard as I could before reaching KOM with only 9km away. With some unfortunate luck, the Swazi local took King of the Mountain but the sight of him only 30  seconds ahead of me kept me determined to cross the finis line in 1st.

 Having passed the local with 30km to go I wasn't yet home free as the Westvaal Columbia rider was only a couple of seconds behind me. With a couple of high 5 iso-gels ad sipping on high5 2:1 I was confident about the end result, knowing that it'll give me the upper hand.Having pushed hard through all the fas flowing single tracks and steep climbs I managed to cross the finish line in 1st with only 6 seconds ahead of 2nd place.

I was overwhelmed with my first ever win in my mountain biking career! A couple of interviews after my race was all new to me as well as the top step on the podium. I was super happy to take my first ever win for ASG_PYcycling. And a big thanks to all the sponsors, especially ASG_PYCycling and my parents for all the support and for making it possible!

Till next time!

Press Release: ASG MTB Academy lights up the podium at 4th USN Cup.

Last Saturday the 4th leg of the popular USN Cup series was held at the Big Red Barn in Irene. The network of trails and exciting single track have become the ASG Academy members’ playground as they ride there on most Thursday afternoons in the Epic Sports “Dirt Jam”.

In the 50km Arno Du Toit came 2nd in 1:58:27,5 seconds behind Jan Withaar. “I tried to make the racing hard from the start, but as soon caught by a group of ballies. I might have burnt too many matches there and after some fast and fun racing, ended up coming 2nd in a sprint finish.”

Nicholas Popich, although technically being too young to compete in the 50km, took up the challenge anyway. Popich surprised himself pleasantly: “I wanted to challenge myself by racing the 50km and test myself against the “big boys”. I raced my heart out and loved the trails at Red Barn! I was really happy to come in 5th overall and 3rd place in the senior category!”

Neville Ackerman rode an excellent time of 2:06:27 “We are spoilt having such a venue as the Big Red Barn so close to us! The tracks are fun and although flattish, if ridden fast are hard work but most enjoyable. I am happy to have won the masters category!”

Yolande Speedy and Amy McDougall, just behind Yolandi Du Toit and Samantha Saunders took a wrong turnabout 20km in to the race resulting in an unintentional short cut. Not sure what to do, they stopped and rode slowly for a while. When Yolandi Du Toit came past, they resumed racing. Speedy pulled out before the finish as she felt it would be unfair to claim a place after taking a short cut. McDougall crossed the line but spoke to the commissures and other ladies about the situation. They said that many people, including winning lady Sam Saunders took a wrong turn and concluded that she should maintain her 3rd place.Andrea de Boer came 3rdSenior lady.

In the 30km, there was tight racing in the men’s category. Jacques Pretorius finished 3rd overall and second in the junior men’s category. “I went into the race with an “I will not lose this” kind of attitude. I knew what I had to do to win. Unfortunately I got caught up behind some of the 50km riders in the sprint finish”

Danielle Rheeder continued her winning streak as she crossed the line in first, 8 minutes ahead of second place! “It was fast and flowing… I loved the single track! I gave it my all to take the win!”
Then at the Swaziland Imvelo marathon Marcel Marias took the overall honours showing his fitness over the longer distances. This is Marcel’s first win of the season so we are very proud of him!
The ASG MTB Academy claimed another successful weekend of racing, with a podium decorated in their colours. Next up is the MTN Rooiberg marathon and half marathons as well as round 4 of the Provincial XCO champs.

Until next time, Happy pedalling!

Thursday, 6 June 2013

SA Champs- Induna - Danielle Rheeder

This was my first SA Champs Marathon race. I was very keen to see what a SA marathon race would be like. I was a bit nervous as to what the course would be like. I expected it to be more difficult than Sabie and Baberton. This year has been a really good year for me so far and I'm very happy with all my results especially with SA Champs.

At the start I was very relaxed but it only lasted for the first km. Until we hit the first climb my legs started to burn which means more exercise !! Jessica got away on the first climb and I also made a big gap between me and the rest of the girls. The course was fantastic at Induna! It was fast and flowing , there was a lot of awesome single track. I really enjoyed it!

About 20 km into the race I was still second Junior lady , I was riding with a few guys and somehow we took the wrong turn. At
least I only went wrong direction for 1 km . Everyone turned around so we had to get back on track. I lost a bit of time and I didn't knew if I were still in second place so I gave it my all to make up for lost time. When I got on track again Jessica passed me just when I realized she also took the wrong turn. I was trying to chase her for a few kilometers but she got away again.

I worked hard till the end and gave it my best even though I didn't knew what to expect. I finished my race as second Junior lady and 5th woman overall. This was a great experience for me. I'm very happy with my second place on SA Champs!

Danielle Rheeder

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Speedy is back in the game with good form, and Academy members podium at SA Marathon Champs.

Last weekend, held in the picturesque mountains of the Lowveld, the popular annual race, the Big Induna would be the 2013 South African Marathon Championships. Typical of the area, there was a lot of climbing and challenging single track that would separate the men from the boys, so to speak.
Yolande Speedy raced for the first time since she broke her collar bone and four ribs on the second last day of the ABSA Cape Epic. Needless to say, she pushed through the pain and courageously won the ladies category with partner Catherine Williamson.
After what has seemed like a painfully long road to recovery, Speedy competed for the first time on Saturday at the SA Marathon Champs. Not too sure what to expect, she gave it her all, as is her nature. She placed 6th and rode a time of 3:46 a great time and respectable result! “It was great to be back racing again, been way too long! I’m happy to say that my ribs and shoulder felt 100%, now it’s just the legs that need some work!”

Amy McDougall unfortunately was forced to forfeit when she crashed and broke her front wheel.
Marcel Marais, Edwill O’Neill and Stephan Reyneke raced their first ultra-marathon. A baptism of fire on this course! Edwill and Stephan had to pull out as they were both sick, but Marcel was elated to have completed his first ultra-marathon and was happy with his time of 5:58!
Danielle Rheeder placed 2nd in the Junior ladies category in the Half Marathon. This was her first South African Championship race, she was up against the best in the country but this talented young rider pushed herself to her limit, not knowing what to expect but determined to do the best she could. “It was hard racing from the start. I was in second place throughout the whole race. I gave it my all until the end! I am happy with my result!” Michelle Benson placed 4th in the junior ladies category despite suffering from a bad bout of the flu.

It is always great to see the athletes put 100% into their racing and being there for each other through the good and tough times.
The Academy’s next challenge will be the USN Cup #4 next Saturday.

Monday, 3 June 2013

Road to SA Champs - Marcel Marais

As SA champs crawled closer and closer, the more I started to realize that my first ultra marathon was just around the corner. It was an intense couple of weeks heading into SA Champs as I haven't been getting any outstanding results. Clarens, 3weeks prior to SA's I had the legs on the day but was very unfortunate as I picked up a mechanical in the first 5km and that had left me to fight back from behind just to try and secure myself a decent position. Provincials at Thaba Trails, truth is I couldn't find anything good out of that race as I had no legs and felt extremely flat throughout the whole race. Nissan Trailseeker #1, I was very happy with my result and with how I felt. Things started to look up and the mind and body was right as we approached SA Champs.

The field for the Ultra Marathon consisted all the top riders in the country including fun riders looking to have a good time in the lowveld. 2 Iso-gels before the start just to get the system and legs going and thankfully we had a very chilled start before we had hit the first little climb. As the first couple of k's ticked away, the pro's started opening the taps and that was the last time I saw them. We were very priveledged to be able to ride some awesome trails just to remind us why we were doing this sport. We were spoiled with some sublime quad and hippo trails as well as some sweet single track. The first loop (36km) I had some company as teammate Stephan Reynecke was still battling with flu and had to pull off unfortunately leaving me alone in hills.

The 2nd and 3rd loop (38km) consisted of steep long climbs, river crossings, fast and twisty single track but luckily with the grip of continental x-king (front) and race king (rear) there was no problem on keeping the rubber side down. As I got myself into a steady and consistent rythem, the k's ticked away and the finish got closer but with a high5 energy gel and iso-gel every hour it made my journey a lot easier. Also big ups to the water points for all the help and sorry to the lady who's jug of water I took and poured all over myself. With a quick stop at the last water point for some coke and a quick lube of squirt lube I set off for the last 10k's. And just that feeling of knowing I wasn't still the only one out there after passing a couple of the marathon riders was very comforting and also knowing I was still on the right course.

5 hours and 55 minutes later I crawled over the finish line knowing that I've just finished my first ultra marathon. Have to say, it was worth it! Big thanks to all for the support and to everyone who made it possible! And a very big thanks to Paul Cordes for the motivation and training, ASG PYcycling for the support and the parents for making it possible! 

Till next time!

Marcel Marais