Monday, 30 September 2013

From Sub Junior – Master, Academy members out-perform.

Breaking news for the academy:

Neville Ackermann won the Master’s Time Trial World Championships last Friday. An amazing feat for the seasoned athlete and a well-deserved gold medal through months and years of hard work and experience. We haven’t been able to reach him yet for a quote yet but will have an update as soon as possible!

Last weekend saw the finale of the Spur School MTB Series. The promising young athletes have been performing at a consistently high standard throughout the year. On Saturday was the National XCO and Sunday the Inter Provincial was held at Bekker High School.
In the Nationals Nicholas Popich came 2nd Junior with Carlo Marzoppi in 1stand Dylan Rebello in 3rd place.

Danielle Rheeder came 3rd Junior, an excellent result against the best in the country. Says Rheeder: “Although it was very hard racing, I really enjoyed the track this year. It tested my technical skills. I enjoyed the smooth single track and had an awesome weekend of racing!”

Lynette Benson also made the Academy proud when she achieved 4th in her Youth category “It was my first race on the 29er, and I fell a few times learning to drive one of these big machines! The track was amazing, and after the falls I made up good time”
Christine Popich came 8th in her age category, she is fortunate to have the mentorship of her big brother Nicholas Popich, there are big things in the future for the siblings.
The Inter-Provincials was held the following day, although the athletes were forced to race on tired legs, they raced their hearts out and performed with more excellent results. Nicholas Popich came 2nd again in the Junior category, this time with team captain Dylan Rebello in 1st and Dean Morgan in 3rd. Danielle Rheeder placed 6th on the day, also a great position in a huge and competitive field! Christine Popich also finished 6th.

Azulde Britz did well with a 6th place in a huge field, the talented youngster is no stranger to podium finishes in marathon racing and is showing great potential in XCO racing as well. “The race was technical but it was really an awesome race and I'm happy with my 6th place fought really hard to earn it!” Says Britz.

Waterkloof won the girls overall in the Nationals and Paul Roos won the overall boys in the National series. Waterkloof won the overall combined boys and girls. In the Inter-Provincials Gauteng won overall.
The ASG Academy can be proud of the hard work and dedication these athletes ranging from Sub Junior up to Masters are putting into their disciplines. The hard work combined with the support of great sponsors and mentors has given the enthusiastic athletes the ability to perform at a top level of racing and achieve goals.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Trailseeker #3, Van Gaalens - Nicholas Popich

Still in bulking phase (exam time, getting fat and unfit) I decided to take a break from the studies and let loose some stress by racing my favourite of the Nissan Trailseeker series… Van Gaalens!
The evening before was one of very little sleep; I was too excited, and on top of that, Pretoria experienced an intimidating thunderstorm. I wasn’t very keen on racing in mud but nevertheless, being mountain bikers, we went. On arriving there, there was no sign of the previous evening’s rain at all!
Summer is definitely approaching! There were excited vibes on the start line as we awaited the Van Gaalens challenge. By 8:30 all chaps on the start line had been complaining about the heat. We were in for a HOT race but without a doubt I knew it was going to be great fun!

The start of the race wasn’t extremely hard. I missed Dylan there. He usually gives races a proper start that causes the field to get split up very quickly. Someone had to do it so I took the opportunity. My team mate Jacques was up in front with me and together we dished out some pain on the flats leading up to the biggest climb for our race!

7km done and we hit “The Climb”. It started off with a steep cement jeep track followed by loose rocks zig-zagging upward. We were a group of chaps attacking it all at once and slowly, slowly… one by one… our legs got devoured. I had to dig deep to shake the USN rider of my wheel. Halfway up I got a burst of energy, most probably from the High5 Energy gel I took during the start of the race. That and having my double chain ring XTR did the trick, the Badger bit! I was in the lead and just had to keep it!

With having a lead… comes great responsibility… and concentration… and stress… and, and, and! I was worried. I had the lead but would I be able to keep it? I wasn’t feeling very strong at the time and I’ve only been relying on Saturday racing to keep fit for the last month and a half. Sadly I doubted myself. I just kept pushing as hard as possible to hopefully enlarge the gap as big as possible in case I were to “hit the wall” somewhere near the end and finish just in time!

Mistakes… I started making costly mistakes! With the worry and exerting myself I stopped concentrating. Overshooting corners, choosing ridicules lines, wasting time and energy I could use later on. I had to snap out of it, so I did.

On the flat farm roads I could feel the sun’s heat baking me from all directions. At that moment I took back my words not wanting any rain! I just sat tucked, battling the wind and put down the pedal as hard as possible. After passing the Epic Sports water point with their ballistic shouts, in last 10km of the race I FINALLY started to enjoy myself. Single track all the way to the finish! Forget concentration, have fun but at least be responsible (ha-ha). Just go with the flow! The Krrrrrr sound of my DT Swiss freewheel got me super excited!

It was like a never ending story being on my Pinarello. Although I prayed for “Cement hill” to end I wished that the river track I was on would never end! “We” were in our element. To our dismay the race ended … but in joy we ended the half marathon first overall and as the 1stjunior. My team mate Jacques came in a few minutes after me and got onto the podium with a well deserved 3rd overall and as 2nd junior. 

It was a very successful weekend for the a[s]g MTB Academy! Podiums in EVERY race. The guys and girls did exceptionally well. Big thanks to the Epic Sports crew for the cheers, halfway tech support and bike wash and to the Academy as well! I’m Looking forward to the Spur/Anatomic schools finals this coming weekend. Going to be some tough racing.

Nicholas Popich

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Academy succeeds in Marathon, Enduro and Stage Racing

Last Saturday the 3rd leg of the Nissan MTB series was held at Van Gaalens, the location making it one of the big favourites of the series. The course is tough with a fair amount of climbing and lots of rocky technical bits with kilometres of great singletrack in between.

Racing in the Marathon was Stephan Reyneke, growing from strength to strength, Reyneke is proving to be a formidable force in the marathon racing scene. Reyneke placed 6th overall and 1st in the U23 category. “The race was off to a very fast start but I managed to hold on to the leading group. It was Nico Bell and Gawi Combrink splitting the field up the first serious climb..I could see the overall leaders but never managed to catch them again. Hanco Kaggelhoffer and I had a good race to the finish but I managed to wipe out in the second last corner loosing 5th place.”

Throughout the year the youngsters of the academy have become podium regulars at marathon races, Nissan #3 was not an exception. Nicholas Popich came 1st overall in the half marathon with teammate and school friend Jacques Pretorius in 3rd“(2nd junior) Van Gaalens was like a never ending story, although I prayed for the climb to end I wished the last 10km of single track would never end! I'm happy to have won the half marathon.” In the ladies race, Danielle Rheedercame 3rd overall and 2nd Junior. Christine Popich came 15th overall and 3rd youth lady. In the 20km, Azulde Britz came 2nd overall and 2nd Sub Junior “It was an amazing course to ride here and there it was tough but overall it was a great race!”

Something different: Arno Du Toit and Amy McDougall participated in one of the first Enduro events in the country. It was a corporate event and they were invited as one of the 17 Pro Riders for the weekend.

On day 1 they raced a technical 4km route that was mainly downhill with a few sections of hard pedalling. There were berms, a few drops and table tops to keep it interesting. The corporates watched the pros’ exciting race and later on that evening would choose which pro to “buy” for the team event the next day. Du Toit and McDougall both got the quickest time in the seeding run, which meant they were the last riders to start in the men and ladies’ events. Du Toit unfortunately crashed in his race run but he still managed to finish in third. McDougall finished 2nd to Sam Sanders.

Day 2 was a 60km ride where 5 downhill stages were timed and raced by the teams. McDougall won the ladies downhill timed runs and Du Toit placed 2nd to Lourens Luus.

Day 3 was a XC race; a 3km long loop that had to be sprinted. Du Toit won overall in an exciting sprint with Luus and Waylon Woolcock. “Big thanks & thumbs up to @YorkAdventure for hosting a great event over the weekend. It was all about having a good time while still being competitive. Winning the xco showdown was the cherry on the cake for me.”McDougall placed 4th in the XC Race “The event was top class! York Timbers took great care of us and the riding was out of this world. It was so much fun!”

Yolande Speedy is currently racing the PE-Plett 4 day stage race with new teammate Anriette Schoeman. So far they have managed 2nd for the first 3stages but slowly closing the gap to the leading team. We will write more about the event when it’s all done and dusted.

Whatever discipline of mountain biking the Academy members take part in they seem to succeed at it, never without smiles on their faces.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Arno - World Champ Report

 U/23 XCO World Champs:

This was honestly the longest build or training block towards a single event I have ever experienced. After an "okay" result down in PE at SA xco Champs, we went back to Pretoria for a fun and fast USN marathon at the famous Big red barn. I managed another win in the series and with that gathered some positive energy for the last few weeks of prep.

Most of this time I spent in my home town, Ficksburg, simply because I felt that the terrain and conditions around there are much better for training purposes. Nothing against Klapperkop, but yes... I even had the privilege of hosting Coach Paul and Yolande for a weekend. A few tech sessions and some intervals at 3000m altitude was great to fine tune some turbo’s before a few easier days.

I decided to travel down a week before the main event and this way I could support Paul and some other old guys also racing for rainbow striped shirts. Unfortunately Paul 'only' managed 2nd :) Even though for me this was the moment things got serious. Suddenly I no longer felt so relaxed. Standing on the sideline watching such a great performance from your Coach and training partner... That was truly special and inspirational.

Course practice during the week went well and the atmosphere from the whole SA squad was great. Dinner the night before with Gert and Matthys was great to settle the nerves and after the doing about 6 race laps in my mind I finally fell asleep.

Friday, race day! Longest day of my life. Normal routine was not possible because we were only racing at 15:15 which is much later than usual. After breakfast and a light spin, Gert and I still had a few hours to kill before we could suite up, so we didn't speak to each other while we sat around, over thinking stuff and stressing about everything.

Being ranked 51st was not ideal, but after avoiding crashes and other mishaps in the start straight, I managed to get into the first single track right behind James in about 12th place. I have followed him around a bit this year, so I told myself to stay on that wheel and ride it like a National. I soon realised it wasn't like just another National.

Half way up the second climb while pedaling my heart out, about 20 guys rode past me. I knew I went too deep and realized that I needed to get back into a rhythm as soon as possible. Once again I had to gulp down some High5 gels, knowing that it would do the trick. The last few laps saw a light drizzle which was just enough to make the rocks and logs a bit more dangerous. Thankfully the Pinarello brought me to the line safely and I was rather happy with 35th place against the best in the world.

All and all I have to thank Cycling SA for making this possible and also all the a[s]g PYCyling equipment sponsors and friends for making it so much easier for me.



XCO World Champs

Two intense weeks for Academy members at the XCO World Champs
The past two weeks were the pinnacle of months of hard training and a huge amount of dedication for the four riders, Yolande Speedy, Arno Du Toit , Michelle Benson and Amy McDougall, who were selected for the SA team for World XCO Champs. As well as Paul Cordes and Francois Ebersohn who raced in the Masters’ XCO World Champs the previous weekend.

A huge amount of effort went into setting out the course in Cascades, PMB, for both the Masters and Elites. The Elites’ course was less than 5km long but the space was well used with 5 big obstacles and 190m of climbing. The obstacles included a short but treacherous rock garden “Rapid Rocks”, a big drop (the same one Speedy broke her wrist on last year when she over shot the berm in landing). A few meters later was the “Log Drop” which was an almost vertical angled rolling drop-off with logs at an angle all the way down. A few hundred meters later was the “Tree House Rock Garden” which, along with the Logs, claimed many victims in practice and racing. Last but not least was the “Cork screw” where the main line included 2 jumps on a steep descent. Up and over the other side was the start of the next lap. Each big obstacle however had a B and Sometimes a C line which, although was a lot slower, was much safer for those not willing to take the risk of the dangerous but faster A line. In between was loads of enjoyable single track and hard climbs and a lot of space to pass. The Masters’ course was slightly less technical but significantly longer and very tough, also claiming its fair share of victims in practice and race.

Paul Cordes set the bar high and provided a great example not only for South Africans but for the aspiring Academy members when he placed 2nd to an Italian in the Sub Vet B category. It was a neck and neck race between Cordes and the Italian; Cordes dictating the pace for the first half of the race. In the end the Italian managed to pull a little over a minute gap by the finish. Cordes says “I was completely shattered after the race so rode my heart out! Would be lying if I said that I wasn't a little disappointed with 2nd but the quality of the Italian champ was superb.”
Michelle Benson raced the following Thursday in the junior category. She had an unfortunate crash in the first rock garden costing her valuable time. She fought back as hard as she could and made up a considerable amount of time, but it was just not enough and she got pulled off at the 80% mark.

Arno Du Toit raced on the Friday in the very competitive U23 category. Du Toit was ranked 51st and managed a good start to move himself up into the top 20. After the 1st lap he slipped back a few positions to finally finish in a highly respectable 35th position. There are big things in the future for this talented youngster."I had a near perfect start and the energy and support from the crowd was amazing. Unfortunately I got caught up in the moment and pushed too hard in the first lap. It took me a while to settle but I managed to pull back a few positions towards the end."

Yolande Speedy and Amy McDougall were up next racing in the Elite Category on Saturday. Speedy had a good start and quick first lap. She struggled on lap 2 and 3 but had a strong last 2 laps. She maintained good focus throughout the race with minimal mistakes. Speedy raced hard but missed the 80% cut off by a mere 1 minute. “It was an amazing two weeks at the World Champs! I was disappointed to be pulled off a lap down in the XCO race & crash in my XCE qualifying run but very happy to feel my form coming back after a very up and down year. Onwards and upwards from here! Thank you @asg_PYCycling , @EpicCycleShop , @Cycling_SA , all my sponsors & supporters for your continued support & belief in me!!” Says Speedy.

Amy McDougall had a slower start but by the end of the 1st lap and the first half of the 2nd lap she was gaining places and getting stronger. In the Tree House Rock Garden, she made a mistake, coming down hard landing on her face. She had to be escorted by an ambulance back to the start where she was taken care of. Amazingly she suffered only a minor concussion and bruising to her face. “I was quite gutted to not be able to finish; months of hard work and dedication flushed down the drain from a silly mistake. It was however an amazing experience against a riders of another caliber all together and a harder course than I have ever done in my life. I am excited for the future and the experience will carry me forwards”.

For most of the Academy members this was a first time experience well out of their comfort zone. Each one of them can be proud of themselves for competing against the World’s best and giving it their best shot. They can now look forward to a well-deserved rest .

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Pietermaritzburg World Champs 2013 - Paul Cordes

It is hard to believe that the World Champs are now behind us! It feels as though so much of our year was spent building towards this event and now that it’s over I am not too sure what to do with myself.
The two weeks prior to the event was firstly spent with some team mates on a training camp in Lesotho then at the Tour of Legends with Epic Sports where we supplied a bike wash and tech zone for all the competitors. I was also a roaming bike mechanic near the tail end of the field which was good as I was still recovering from a cold a picked up the previous week.  This made for an ok-ish build up that I knew I could make work and after one day at home to rotate some laundry I was off to Pietermaritzburg.

I had kept away from the course on purpose the months building up to the event and made sure not to get involved in all the hype which I think was a good call. The course had a lot of climbing -300m a lap which was significant and I knew that this would be where it would be won however most of the talk around the pits was about the descents.  Honestly they didn’t bug me very much except for the pure length of them and the effect they would have when fatigue started to set in near the end of the event.

It was great to have the ASG Team trailer at the event and felt amazing to have our own set-up in the middle of a world championship, made for so much less stress! My Dogma felt fantastic as always and for this race would be the second time that I was going to use our special Ritchey race wheels which brought the weight down to less than 9kg’s!! The Dogma is one of the best climbing bikes I’ve ridden and with this combo it felt even better!

Race day came around and despite all the experience and preparation I hardly slept a wink the night before!! I was fortunate enough to be ranked first in my category as I won the SA Champs a few weeks before and lined up against a very international field.  The gun went and it was game on! So excited I missed my clip-in and a second later was swallowed by the charging field. Luckily the start straight was long and after the first dual track split I made my way back into the top 5. On the first climb I felt good and obviously the training had paid off so I put in a surge and the next thing I knew the lead pack was down to 4. Another big surge on the second climb and we were down to 2, just me and the 4 time Italian World champ Mirco Balducci. I wanted to stay in front as I would then have better visuals on the downhill’s and as there is no “drafting” advantage in this type of racing it would made no difference on the climbs.

A problem I faced was that while Mirco was on my wheel he never made a mistake and on the climbs he stayed so close that sometimes I wasn’t sure if he was still there or not!! Finally it was me who made a mistake and dropped the bike in a loose corner allowing him past. I worked hard to stay on his wheel but then what turned out to be the fastest lap of any category for the entire championship he showed his class and got a gap which he held to the finish.

Looking back one would say that obviously I wanted that blue shirt but at the end of the day in the quickest field of the weekend I was beaten by a good rider and am therefore very happy and proud of that silver medal. Maybe next year that shirt will be mine!
Thanks soo much to all my supporters an especially to Yolande , my Dad and Arno who came down specially to support, it is an experience that I won’t forget!!
Also big thanks to my sponsors: ASG, Pinarello, Rudy Project, Ritchey, Powertap, Sidi, High 5, Continental, Squirt, Crank Bros, F Tech, Epic Sports, IMC, Dimension Sports, Scicon and Bat Seal for making this all possible.

Now time for a rest!

Chat soon,