Monday, 24 March 2014

Tulbagh & 3Mountains - Marcel Marais


Tulbagh, renowned for its abundant amount of breathtaking mountain bike trails, was deffinitely one of the most popular races on the MTB calendar. Held on the 15th of Marceh it was also perfect prep for the ABSA Cape Epic just around the corner. Having missed the second leg of the MTN National Mountain bike series in Sabie, Tulbagh was a must do for me to be competitive in the run for the series, although i knew it would not be an easy task.

Settling into my usual pre race routine everything went according to plan and that was left was for me to do my best. The marathon start was one of the fastest starts I have ever experienced. Luckily some fast flowing single track came early after fast start and i had used that as an opportunity to recover, knowing what was still to come. Passing a couple of tired riders within the last 30km, my spirits were still hight up until 55km where we had come across one of the steepest and loose climbs. Taking my last High5 gel on the top of the climb, the last couple of k's flew by and still passing a couple of tired riders that had started out a bit too hard.

After an extremely tough day in the saddle at the 3rd leg of the MTN National MTB series, I only managed to pull off a 6th in the Under23 category in a very strong and competitive field. I also managed to move into 3rd for the series, but it is still early in the season so anything can still happen.

3Mountains Stage Race

Stage 1 consisted of a 26km night race starting at 8pm on the 20th of March. It was an extremely fast race with the winning time being just under 48min. I knew from the start the team to win was the Day brothers but it would be no walk in the park. After stage 1 I was in the solo men leaders jersey and 2nd overall on GC by 2min.

Stage 2 was said to be a 65km ride that overlooked the beautiful plains of the Freestate. My plan for this stage was simple, hard in the start and settle into a rythem but it was easier said than done as our route mostly consisted of grasslands and extremely tough and rugged terrain. We ended up doing 45km which none of us complained about seeing that the terrain was so rough.

Stage 3 was 70k's long but it didn't get easier as my friend and team mate Arno du Toit decided to participate in the 1 day 3Mountains Challenge. We had opened a slight gap after 5km and from there on it only opened up which ended up being 11min at the finish. Needless to say it was a very nice day out on a very fast and flowing course with the winning time being 2hrs17min

Stage 4 was the longest of the 4 stages ranging between 78 & 80km. It wasn't an easy day as the Day brothers had other plans on winning some time back they had lost the previous day. Stage 4 did have one of the biggest climbs on route and that combined with the distance made for a challenging day for all riders.
I ended up winning the solo cat by 55min over the 4 days and winning overall by 1min35sec over the extremely strong Day brothers. I was incredibly happy with the result and my performance ahead of one of my main focuses this season, Lowveld Quest.

Till next time!

Asg Tyger Valley - Jacques Pretorius

With all the races on the calendar coach Paul Cordes and I decided not to slow down my training for this race, I decided to ride to the venue to warm up properly and get a little bit of extra training done before my rest week.  On the start line I felt confident knowing I can go hard from the gun because I had a proper warm up. When we started I attacked on the first drag about 1 km into the start and just kept a steady pace on my super fast Pinarello Dogma XC.  After about two kilometers I noticed a few bike lengths between myself and the other two riders I then put down another hard effort to open up the gap even more, the plan was just to get out of sight and win the race as far as possible .

Halfway into the race I reached for my High 5 ISO gel and noticed that it had fallen out of my pocket, for a moment I felt sorry for myself but I knew that my High 5 2:1 energy drink could give me the energy I needed to maintain a hard steady pace to the finish . My Pinarello combined with the Continental rubber did not only provide me with a lot of fun in the muddy singletracks but also gave me confidence knowing my opponents didn't have this advantage.

My last few k's mostly consisted of dodging traffic from the shorter distance as well as pushing hard to get away from the rider a few  meters behind me,  it was only in the last few hundred meters where I realized that the rider was Jan Withaar doing the marathon , we both then followed the lead bike and ended up on the wrong side of the finish line.  Jan , the race organisers and the commissaire sorted out the problem and I won the race for the second time .

I would like to thank Epic Sport Cycle Shop for always helping me to keep my bike running smooth after muddy races like this, without their expertise I would've spent a lot more money on components during this wet season.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

SA XCO and Tulbagh

Hi All
Last weekend saw our team once again participating all around the country in an assortment of disciplines. Thankfully the threat of rain in the Highveld as well as in KZN never materialized allowing for a fantastic weekend of heated racing!
Firstly in the Cape there was round 3 of the MTN National series which was held in Tulbagh.  Jacques overcame a difficult start and worked his way through the field to finish 11th overall and 7th junior on his quest to podium in the overall series. Marcel finished 6th U23 in the marathon distance improving on his past couple of races which was great to see and stepping him up in the overall hunt!

Fly Genevieve, fly!
Then in the start of the schools north-west series Sonika had a good battle near the front of the race only to finish 2nd in the overall junior womens cat. This is a huge series which is growing year to year and one that we have seen many of our riders develop from. Many of our youngsters will be a part of the Gauteng series starting later in the year as well as Epic Sports offering free tech support so the team has a big presence at these events.

Alan’s happy place!

The racing also returned to the Cascades for the 1st round of the SA Cup series with a new route (most of which will also be used for the World Cup next month) that was very spectator friendly and included some 240m vert per lap climbing! Our youngsters kicked things off both with 4th places for Simone in the spog class and for Azulda in the youth. This was their first taste of an international level course so we are sure they learnt a lot from the experience. Then in the junior women Genevieve improved on her first xco attempt earlier this year and finished a hard earned 3rd place. Alan shrugged off a cold earlier in the week to again show his dominance on his home course to take the overall win. Then in the elite race which was rated a UCI Cat 1 Arno and Gert were out to make their presence felt. They both had a good start but then unfortunately some unlucky lines and a crash for Arno halted the charge where eventually Arno finished 3rd U23 and 8th overall and Gert 4th U23 and 11th overall.

51 podiums so far this year and counting!
This weekend kicks off the 2014 edition of the Absa Cape Epic and even though he won’t be in our colours we will be shouting for Gert who will be racing as back-up team for the legendary Nino Schurter. This is bound to be an amazing experience for him of which the knowledge that he will gain will most definitely bring much value to his racing in the future. Then Marcel will be racing in the 3Mountain stage race in the FS and a few of our juniors will be competing in the Mankele marathon in Mapumalanga.

Until next time,

Happy trails!

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

WP Open XCO, UCI Cat2 - Gert Heyns

This weekend when most cyclist were heading to the Cape for the Argus Cycletour, I went there to race the first round of the WP Provincial XCO Series. What made this event special was that it was also classified as an UCI Cat 2 event carrying some valuable UCI points.

After racing  the Ultra Marathons at Dullstroom and Sabie I was keen for some XC racing. The event was held on the Willowbridge Slammer once again and even attracted a few UCI teams like Kargo Pro and Orange Monkey from the UK, as well as most of the top Western Province racers.

My race got off to a slow start as I slipped my pedal and lost a few positions. By the top of the first big climb I worked myself back up to second following Louis Knipe down the downhill sections. It didn't take long to open a gap and by the end of lap one I was out in front on my own. I decided to make use of the gap and went for it, riding my own pace trying to stay flowing and efficient. I was impressed at how smooth my Pinarello Dogma hardtail felt on the worn out track, making it easy to stay in control on the loose corners and rutted downhills. By lap 4 I was caught by a flying Matthys Beukes (Scott), I tried to stay on his wheel but he was the better rider on the day. I stayed in 2nd place for the rest of the 8lap race holding off the chase from 3rd place Travis Walker (Kargo) to finish second overall and first u23.

As much as I wanted to win this one, it kind of felt like a 1,2 for Matthys and me as I will be racing the Absa Cape Epic with him. I am really excited for my  first Epic and could not have asked for a better partner.

I considered defending  my MTN National Series Leaders jersey in Tulbugh this weekend. But decided that XCO will remain my main focus and that racing the SA XC Cup in Pietermaritzburg this weekend would serve as a good last tester before the Epic.

Looking forward to racing on Cascades again, lets hope it rains.


Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Gauteng Provincial 2 Voortrekker Monument - Arno du Toit

With the season just about getting into full swing with races every weekend all over the country it’s  hard to stay focused on the bigger picture and keep on training through the smaller events. Missing out on the MTN Sabie Marathon last weekend due to my brothers wedding, meant that we could do a solid build before recovering for the first SA XCO Cup in PMB on the 15th March.
However even after being sent and chased over Klapperkop about a thousand times by Coach Paul last week, I was excited for the 2nd leg of the Gauteng XCO Provincial series held at Voortrekker Monument on the weekend.

The course was pretty basic. Loose and rocky with a bit more climbing than we are used to having here in and around Pretoria. For myself the race went pretty much as planned except for not being able to cleat in on the start line, like an amateur. Team mate Nic Popich got the whole shot, but then let me through at the top of the first drag.

I went fairly hard to open a gap on the rest of the field and then settled into a comfortable rhythm trying not to make any mistakes. Even though there weren’t any real technical sections on the track, you had to stay focused all the way through. The smallest mistake on these sharp rocky surfaces could see you pushing your bike or leaking lots of blood all over yourself.

In my own mind I counted myself lucky a few times. Pushing into corners a bit too hot or overtaking other riders and knocking a couple of rocks pretty hard. Luckily the Conti tyres held up well as always. I was a bit nervous that there might be some minor issues with my bike seeing that we only built the new one on Thursday. However it was perfect thanks to the mechanics at Epic Sports.

In the end I was happy with another win for the season. Things are coming together nicely. Well done to all the other Academy members and a big thank you to everyone involved behind the scenes for giving us riders such a solid foundation to perform from.

Till next time!