Thursday, 29 May 2014

Mankele, Rooiberg and the African Youth Games

Arno and Gert went 1-2 at the UCI cat 1 National that was held at Mankele earning them valuable points as the race for Olympics starts to heat up. This result also gave our Academy our first ever 1-2 at a national level event which is amazing considering all the head ache this year. Also at this event Genevieve won the junior women (her first xco national win) as well as Azulde in the Youth women cat. Our 2 sprogs Simone and Stephan both finished 2nd in their cat.

At Rooiberg the U23s, Marcel and Edwill did great finishing 3rd and 5th in the marathon respectively and Jacques finished 5th in the half marathon.

Tomorrow I am holding thumbs for Alan Hatherly as he takes part in the African Youth Games for xco and hopefully earns some good points towards youth Olympics and World Champs later in the year.

Then on a different note, one of our entry tier members Niel did a spectacular crash over the bars 2 weeks ago at the Provincial which we got a clip of and posted on facebook. It went over 5000 views today which is quite funny. Thankfully he was alright!

Hope everyone has a great weekend.

Monday, 26 May 2014

SA XCO #3 - UCI Cat1 - Arno du Toit

With an unplanned for, but rather successful Sani2c experience behind me, it was once again time to prepare for another little 90 minute showdown. Round three of the SA XCO Cup Series, this time held at Mankele MTB Park just up the road from Nelspruit.

I realised my team mate and friend Gert Heyns must have been bored with riding in George or very excited after he booked accommodation for us at Sudwala from last week Tuesday already. Even though I had the opportunity to practice the course like a mad man, I knew that Sani was still in my legs and tried my best to take it easy for most of the week.

Friday morning Gert and I followed Matthys Beukes (Scott) around the technical and rather old school 6.9km lap. Confidence was running high with a couple of guys racing World Cups in Europe, we all knew this was a chance to gain points and crawl up the UCI ranking list. With this in mind I decided to use the bullet proof Continental X-King tyres front and back.
Also the endless amount of grip wouldn’t do any harm on the kind of terrain we had to conquer.

The pro elite field was quite small, but I’m sure the racing didn’t disappoint. Between Gert and Brendon Davids (Trek) throwing punches at one another I just kept my head down and tried to stay in contact. Half way through the first lap Brendon had opened up a slight a gap over Gert and I, but we managed to bring him back on the downhill.

From here on things were slightly tactical. I didn’t really play any cards early on, but with Travis Walker (Kargo) yo-yoing behind us and Matthys not far off, I knew we couldn’t sit and look at each other.

On lap 4 I started the climb in front hoping to set a steady pace, but Gert had a different idea. He sprinted past and as we went into a tricky section about half way up the climb in 1st and 2nd, we noticed whoever was following me had made a mistake.  Towards the top I looked back and saw that we had the other 2 under pressure with a slight gap. Gert let me through and I somehow managed to open a gap on the downhill.

Rolling through the start/finish for the last time, I gulped down another High5 gel and after a quick look over my shoulder, I gave it all I had. After 5 grueling laps crossing the finish line of a UCI Cat1 XCO in 1st place was a very special moment for me. Seeing ASG MTB Academy team mate Gert right behind me in 2nd, made it even better.

 Big thank you to everyone who made it possible and for all the support.

Till next time

MTN Rooiberg - Jacques Pretorius

The 4th leg of the National XCM Series was held at Rooiberg close to Bela Bela. The sandy terrain made it the most difficult race in the series this far. 

Friday night teammate Edwill O'Neil and I spent the night on our friend Ben's farm in Bela Bela, it was great to relax in nature the day before the race. We were the first to arrive at the race venue because Ben was sure that Rooiberg is further away from Bella Bella and we trusted his knowledge of the Limpopo.

After two hours of sitting in the car I got myself a coffee and watched the start of the marathon race and then I started my warm up, after a few tempo's we started lining up at the start.

On the start line I took my High 5 EnergyGel to help me with the high pace in the start. From the start I went straight to the front to stay out of the dust and to avoid the yo yo effect. After a few km's of racing I was in the leading group consisting of 8 riders. I kept pushing hard on the pedals trying to split the group even more with little success.  About 20 km's in we hit a steep loose climb. This is where we all split up After running up the hill. I after the climb I was 5th and kept chasing till the end . 

I finished 5th I am happy with how I felt on race day and I'm looking forward to the rest of the season! 

Well done to Arno and Gert for coming first and second respectively at the national XCO at Mankele! 

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Sani2C, Sondela and Gauteng Provincials

Last week was the 10th edition of the Sani2c race and much like the previous 9 still remains a huge hit scattered with compliments and praise from all that have been fortunate enough to take part in this event.

Our team didn’t have a specific team entry for the event but with a few last minute scrambles two of our gang, Yolande and Arno joined forces with other teams and headed for Underburg. Arno paired up with the talented Brandon Davids from Trek SA and although having a bumpy ride the first 2 days they pulled it together for the final stage into Scotborough and after a good battle with the Kargo pro team they managed to win the day and finish an impressive 5th overall.  Then in the women Yolande paired with Garmin's Yolandi Dutoit where they rode a consistent race and despite a big crash on day 2 which sent Yolande and her chin for 2 rows of stitches they finished in 2nd place overall!

Then in other parts of the country new academy rider Allan Britnell headed down to Sondela where he raced in both the road and mtb marathon events. In the Saturday road race he got caught up in a crash where his bike and wheels were written off but thankfully he was alright despite some grazes and bruises. However he turned things around on the Sunday and finished a fantastic 2nd overall in the marathon.

Voortrekker Monument was again the venue for the fourth round of the xco Provincial series. The organizers changed up the course from the previous event and offered more climbing and technical sections. After some delay at the start it was racing as usual and our guys were there in force. Our KZN rider Alan Hatherly was up for the weekend and showed why he rides in the SA champ shirt winning the junior men’s cat in style. Genevieve and Azulde won the junior and youth women, Christine took a hard raced 3rd spot while our sprogs from Fiksberg both made the podium as well! The u23’s did nicely, not making the podium but put up some close racing none the less. Then last but not least vet Alan Van Coller from Limpopo won his cat making sure his daughter (Genevieve) doesn’t outshine him too badly :p

Next up is the MTN Rooiberg marathon and half marathons as well as Mankele National xco both this weekend. Alan Hatherly has left for the African Youth Games taking place in Botswana next week and supported by Sascoc which looks to be an amazing experience.

We wish everyone good luck this coming weekend and hold thumbs they can put in some good results.

Until next time, happy trails!

Sani2C 2014 - Yolande Speedy

Wow it's been a long time since I sat down to write a race report!

Not having done much racing this year and with no majorly exciting results (my best so far being a win at the 2nd USN Cup & a few provincial XCO wins where I came 1st and last; where are all the Elite ladies!!!) it's been hard to find the motivation. Not a valid excuse I know so my apologies!!

Yolandi du Toit and I have been plotting to team up for a stage race for some time now and I owe her and her sponsors a great deal of thanks for organising us our Sani2C entry.
Battling with an injury that limits my ability to train and race at high intensity I was quite nervous going into the race especially as my team mate is in great form at the moment. Despite this and With it being 3 years since my last Sani2C I was really looking forward to lining up for the start in Underberg!

Stage 1 - Underberg to MacKenzie Country Club; Distance : 87km, Total Ascent : 1450m

Armed with my Pinarello Dogma XC, Ritchey carbon race wheels sporting Conti tires and pockets full of High5 gels I headed to the start with Yolandi ready for some racing action.

The start was quite intense, the bunch setting a fast pace with teams wanting to reach the single track first. We stuck with them for the first few kilometers until I had to make the call to drop back and settle into a pace I could maintain (Thank goodness for a super, understanding partner!)

We continued at a hard tempo not losing too much ground on the race leaders. Reaching the oaks single track in 3rd in the ladies we passed Theresa Ralph and Jeannie Dreyer walking; Theresa sadly having crashed and broken her wrist. Checking they were 'okay' we continued on perhaps a bit more cautious over the rough rooty and rutted singletrack.

Settling back into our hard tempo pace Yolandi letting me set the pace on the climbs we reached the second water point feeling strong. We quickly stopped and Yolandi applied Squirt lube to our chains whilst I re-filled our bottles. The last 15kms went by smoothly and it was only when we reached the last couple of kickers with the infamous 'Tinys climb' to the finish that I realised how tired my legs were feeling! We crossed the line in second very happy with our effort and having enjoyed our new partnership.

Stage 2 - MacKenzie Country Club to Jolivet; Distance : 99km, Total Ascent  2 288m

With the renowned single track descent into the Umkomass valley this has to be one of the best MTB routes ever laid out and we were excited for the racing to get under way. An early morning start had us setting off just before daylight, the fast pace splitting the A bunch up nicely going into the technical single track. A technical and a crash for me on a wooden bridge had us playing leap frog with @NataliFifi and her partner Tammy Visagie. Getting back into 2nd place after the 2nd water point We kept a good steady pace and held our position for the day.

Stage 3 - Jolivet to Scottburgh; Distance : 80km, Total Ascent : 902m

With a number of changes in the route since my last Sani2C in 2010 I was not too sure what to expect except that it would be a fast day and to save something for the last 30km.

The reverse start order meant that we only set off at 11am so after 2 breakfasts, some socializing and a good warm up it was finally time for the off. A fast start on open gravel rolling roads meant that I soon had to back off and we again settled into our hard tempo pace taking turns in front against a fairly strong head wind. We passed the 3rd ladies team who had a better start about 10kms in and paced as hard as we could over the ups and downs that followed through the sugar cane fields. For most of the day we were on our own and I must admit it was an eerie feeling reaching the rugged climbs leading into Vernon Crooks reserve without a sole in sight!

A few kilometers before the last water point 4 riders caught us and we sat in with them pushing hard into the head wind, taking a turn in front I could feel my legs had done some work and hoped they would hold out to the end. Our new found company stopped to re-fill but with less than 20kms we pushed through. From there we hit the new single track sections and kept a good pace on the final uphill climbs. Yolandi stopped to get me some water at the last stop having noticed my bottle was empty (thoughtful team mate!!!) and before we new it we were onto the final 600m floating bridge across the lagoon and into the finish. We again finished in 2nd a strong day of racing behind us and very happy with our overall 2nd place!!

Congrats to @robyndegroot and @jenniestenerhag winning the event and our master XCO World Champ @NataliFifi and her partner Tammy Visagie on 3rd!!

Thanks to @Sani2C_scoop, @Farmer_glen and Mandy for another unforgettable #SaniRace experience!!

Thank you to @GarminSA for the entry and memorable experience, I thoroughly enjoyed teaming up with @Yolandi_duToit and feel we had a solid race together!

Thanks to all my sponsors @asg_PYCycling, @asgsport, @EpicCycleShop, @Conti_SA, @Squirtlube_SA, @RitcheyLogic, @BICICLETTA_ZA for all your support and making it possible for me to do what I love!!

Till next time,

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

First proper Ultra Marathon – Clarens - Arno du Toit

With the Marathon World Championships being hosted in SA a bit later on this year, I realized it will definitely be a good experience to take part. However you need to qualify which meant I had to finish inside the top 20 at a UCI Marathon series event. Basically the MTN National Marathon at Clarens was my last chance. As a XCO focused rider I would normally not even consider racing these ultra-marathons, so I was a bit worried about the time in the saddle and my ability to “vasbyt” for that long.

Last week Jacques Pretorius joined me in Ficksburg during his school holidays for a bit of a training camp. He also learnt how to work a spade. We fixed up some sections on my XCO course for the rest of the a[s]g PYcycling crew to look at on our pre-race ride on Friday.

Saturday morning. 07:15 start. 120km with 2700m ascent.

After a few nervous moments in the big eager peloton things started to stretch out as we hit the first climb of the day at around 20km or so. Unfortunately for me I got stuck in the single track behind some riders that couldn’t quite match the pace being set up front. As the group split I realized that I had to get myself back up there, but also knew in the back of my head that there was still a long way to go.

The XCO mentality took over and for the next 5 or 10 minutes I gave it all I had to get back up there. Just after settling in at the back of the lead bunch I was ridden of almost straight away. I went to deep. With many negative thoughts running through my mind I lost ground with every pedal stroke. Soon though the next little group caught me and with some teamwork we got back to the sharp end once again.

From the 55km tech zone things got real. Nowhere to hide. The group split up properly and according to my calculations after watching my Joule, I went over the summit roughly 4 minutes behind the leading trio of Karl, Nico and Erik. Descending back in to Clarens I was in my element. The Conti rubber gave me the confidence to really push on over the rough terrain and soon I caught and passed Timo and Brad.
All on my own I rolled in to town, topped up the High5 and back out on the half marathon route. Back on the gravel roads with nowhere to tuck in I battled through another bad patch.

Eventually Timo passed me again, Rourke caught me and we then rode back to Timo. By this stage I was really feeling the effects. The Epic Sports neutral tech zone at 20kms to go was a blessing. Mechanic Mike Squirt'ed my chain and after a quick picnic the three of us continued working together.  Just before the finish we noticed Adriaan and Andrew not very far ahead. As we hit the final single track I gave it my all to close the gap and maybe open a gap between myself and the other 2.
In the end it wasn’t enough, but I managed to cross the line in 6th place. With this being my first proper Ultra marathon, I was rather happy with the result.

Big thank you to Paul and the PYcycling team for all the support. Was nice having a couple of you in my valley for the weekend!

Till next time