Posted on September 26th, 2014 No comments
Participants in next month’s FedGroup Berg & Bush mountain bike stage race can look forward to a spectacular new drop off the Drakensberg escarpment, organisers have announced.
Known as the Drakensberg Drop, the new section will take riders on a long and scenic descent via ancient cattle paths from the Free State border into KwaZulu-Natal.
Race organiser Gary Green said his route building teams had been working hard to prepare the changes in time for the event, which rolls out from the new Border Post start venue at the top of Oliviershoek Pass on October 10.
“The Drop makes a far better descent off the mountain as it winds its way down through the hills and valleys and along a river bank, where the riders can really enjoy the amazing scenery.”
Day one alone would now feature over 2 200m of descending with 1 500m of climbing, said Green.
He said participants in the two three-day options – the Descent and Great Trek – could anticipate further changes on day two, with the traditional boat crossing of Spioenkop Dam abandoned in favour of uninterrupted riding.
“We now approach Spioenkop Mountain from another direction, using the old Fairview road, which was the original wagon track between Ladysmith and Bergville.”
Coming down off the gruelling Spioenkop ascent, he said riders would also encounter a new section of berms and jumps, named the Bell Run in honour of section sponsor Bell Equipment.
“The Bell Run has also been included on the original two-day event, so our more social riders won’t be left out of the fun.”
Green said many additional sections of fast-flowing single-track were being included, as his team continued to uncover well-trodden cattle and game paths.
“At the moment, we have three teams of four people who go out every day to ensure that the route is race ready. But most of the additional route preparation is done by the local people living in those areas.”
One of last year’s signature sections, the enclosed JoJo tank tunnel across the Tugela River, had been transformed into a floating bridge after floodwaters washed the tunnels away, he added.
The event starts with the 222km Descent on October 10, followed by the Great Trek on October 14 and the 110km Two-Day event from October 18.
The two-day event starts and finishes at Emseni Camp race village on the banks of the Tugela River near Winterton, which is also the overnight stop for the three-day races.
Posted on September 26th, 2014 No comments
South African mountain bike marathon champion, Robyn de Groot (Biogen Toyota) continued with her impressive debut season as a full-time mountain bike racer when she won the iconic Pennypinchers Karoo-to-Coast race title in Knysna on Sunday.
De Groot clocked a time of three hours 29 minutes 18 seconds, just over a minute ahead of Swedish national marathon champion, Jennie Stenerhag (Cape Brewing Company). Former South African marathon champion, Cherise Stander (RECM), rounded out the podium places.
It’s the first time De Groot has won one of the country’s oldest mountain bike marathons, which starts at Uniondale in the Karoo region and ends at the coastal town of Knynsa. The 100km race route gradually descends from a height of 700 meters above sea level with 1525 metres of total ascent and is known for its stunning scenery as it connects the two eco-regions.
After finishing second in her first attempt at the event last year, De Groot used the experience she gained to her benefit in the popular point-to-point race, clocking a time five minutes faster than she did in 2013 – in similar conditions.
“Last year I did too much work on my own and was rather empty in the finale. This year, I rode a lot more tactically and used the bunches that form along the route to save my energy for the finale,” explained De Groot.
“I actually got away from the other women on the very first climb, which has quite a loose, tricky surface, but Jennie caught me on the descent and it was then that I realised I need to use the shelter of the bunches as best I can. I reached the last climb with a bit of something left in the tank this year and I put in a surge, which allowed me to get a gap on Jennie.
“For the final eight kilometers it was a pursuit situation. Jennie was fighting really hard and when I looked back, there were times where I thought she might catch me. But there was a bit of a head wind on the last exposed section into Knysna and I managed to maintain my advantage to the finish,” smiled De Groot.
De Groot and Stenerhag won the PE-Plett stage race last Tuesday and are preparing to team up again for next month’s UCI-graded Bridge Cape Pioneer Trek seven-day stage race.
“The Cape Pioneer Trek is a big goal for us. The UCI points are attractive, the prize money is good and the event is very challenging. We’ll be up against a strong international field there so races like PE-Plett and Karoo-to-Coast are good preparation events for that,” said De Groot.
De Groot adds the Karoo-to-Coast title to MTN Dullstroom Marathon, three Nissan Trailseeker Marathons and the South African Marathon Championships to her list of significant one-day race wins for 2014. She’s also won PE-Plett and Sani2c stage races with Stenerhag this year and placed sixth overall at the Marathon World Championships.
“It’s been a really good year for me so far. I wouldn’t be able to put in the kind of commitment and time required were it not for my primary sponsors Biogen, Toyota and Cycle Lab. They’ve believed in me and helped me achieve more than I could have imagined at the start of this year. Hopefully I can end the year on a high note,” smiled De Groot.
Posted on September 17th, 2014 No comments
South African mountain bike marathon champion, Robyn de Groot and Sweden’s national marathon champion, Jennie Stenerhag, combined forces as team Biogen Toyota Cape Brewing Company and dominated the Isuzu Trucks PE-Plett stage race that ended on Tuesday.
The pair won the women’s division in all four stages and the overall title. But while the results show they were dominant, it wasn’t an event that they were able to take lightly.
The PE-Plett took place over four days, taking riders almost 400km from Plettenberg Bay in the Western Cape to Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape. There were more than 7000 meters of vertical ascent during the event that proved to be a true test of endurance, power, skill and equipment.
“Jennie and I are riding next month’s Bridge Cape Pioneer Trek as a team and we wanted to use PE-Plett as a test for that. And boy what a test it was!” said De Groot.
“None of the stages were easy. In fact each was tough in its own way. The terrain was unpredictable and constantly changing. The event’s pay-off line is “The Tough One” and it certainly lived up to that,” said De Groot.
After winning the 125km Stage 1 on Saturday with an impressive fifth overall, Stage 2, a 91km haul was the pair’s biggest challenge. Stenerhag was suffering from a stomach bug, which saw her struggle to maintain the team’s regular race pace. But she managed to reach the finish with the team still claiming a strong sixth overall.
Stage 3, a 73km leg from Hankey to Woodridge included over 2000 meters of ascent, largely through the Longmore Forest. Stenerhag was almost fully recovered from her stomach trouble and the pair were able to increase their lead with another fifth-place finish in the overall placings.
The final stage from Woodridge to Port Elizabeth on Tuesday was only 68km, but it offered the greatest variety of terrain, gradient and trail type of any of the stages. Many riders found the last 15km through the Baakens Valley’s steep, shale-surfaced single-track to be one of the toughest segments of the event. De Groot and Stenerhag held a solid lead at that stage and decided to be somewhat cautious.
Their strategy paid off and they finished a remarkable fourth overall on the day without any incidents.
“We were fortunate not to have any mechanicals as the route claimed a few unfortunate victims over the four days. We made it through that stage quite well and that will stand us in good stead for the Cape Pioneer Trek,” said De Groot.
Posted on September 8th, 2014 No comments
Momentum is building for the 2014 Bridge Cape Pioneer Trek international mountain bike stage race as almost 400 riders from a record 15 countries have secured their entries, with a number of top names confirmed on the start list.
The seven-day race, which starts on 12 October 2014, covers a distance of 574km with a total vertical ascent of 11 958 metres. It starts and finishes in Oudtshoorn in South Africa’s Western Cape province and takes riders through three different eco regions in what is one of the most diverse bicycle race routes on the international calendar.
While the Prologue time trial and Stages 1, 2 and 3 are similar to last year, Stages 4, 5 and 6 will be very different with some significant changes being made that the organisers anticipate will keep the podium battles tight and exciting right until the final day.
Once again, Stage 2 will have an out-of-category mountain-top finish, which is unique in mountain bike racing. The 86km leg is relatively short, but climbs a total of 2 781 metres, the final 1 100 metres coming in the last 11km up the iconic Swartberg Pass. The stakes on this stage are higher than any other in mountain bike stage racing, with the men and women’s winning teams each collecting R250 000 (about US$25 000), courtesy of the event’s title sponsor Bridge.
It hasn’t yet been confirmed whether the winning women’s combination from 2013 will be back to defend their title. Switzerland’s Ariane Kleinhans and Denmark’s current marathon world champion, Anika Langvad, dominated the women’s race for Team RECM last year, but will only confirm next week if they’ll resume their formidable partnership for the 2014 edition.
The 2013 men’s race winners will definitely be on the start line. Only this year, they’ll be separated. Racing as Team RECM, South Africans Erik Kleinhans and Waylon Woolcock won the overall title last year, but will be paired up with different teammates for this year’s event. Woolcock will be partnered by Darren Lill for the Cannondale Blend team, while Kleinhans will pair up with Team RECM stablemate, Nico Bell, the 2012 Cape Pioneer Trek champion.
Other top names on the entry list include SCOTT Factory Racing’s Philip Buys and Matthys Beukes, winners of two stages in 2013, South African marathon champion, James Reid and his ASRIN Cycling teammate, Konny Looser (BEL) and rising stars Louwrens Luus and Adriaan Louw (Fairview Elite). Leading the international charge for the men’s title are Simon Stiebjahn (GER) and Tim Bohme (FRA) of Team Bulls.
Whether Kleinhans and Langvad race again or not, there’s a strong women’s field assembled. Swiss marathon champion, Esther Suss, will team up with South Africa’s Theresa Ralph on Team Meerendal, while Catherine Williamson (GBR) and Alice Pirard (BEL) will be partnered on the Asrin Cycling team. Multiple Swedish marathon champion, Jennie Stenerhag and South African marathon champion, Robyn de Groot, will join forces under the team name Cape Brewing Company Biogen Toyota.
With the event being a UCI-graded race for the first time in 2014, the international rankings points and increased prize money have attracted an elite field with more depth. More top riders are expected to confirm their participation in the next week.
While the spotlight is often focussed on the leading riders, the Bridge Cape Pioneer Trek is well known for its relaxed atmosphere and characteristic small-town hospitality, which the organisers have committed to maintaining despite the event’s elevated international status.
Other value-add elements of the 2014 Bridge Cape Pioneer Trek are the Aramex–Giant bike transport service, which is a free service to ensure South African-based entrants can get their bikes to and from the race venue with minimal frustration. There’s also a Giant mountain bike worth R26 000 to be won. All paid-up Bridge Cape Pioneer Trek entrants on 15 September, 2014, will go into the draw for this bike.
There are a very limited number of entries still available. To enter, or for more information, visit www.capepioneer.co.za
Posted on September 8th, 2014 No comments
Defending champion Pierre Smith demonstrated a convincing return to form when he made it two in a row at the Pennypinchers Silverstar Mountain Bike Challenge near Krugersdorp on Saturday.
Smith, who missed the greater part of the season due to a torn thigh muscle, proved he was back on song when he outsprinted Guylin van den Berg to retain the 40km title in 1:39:54.
Van den Berg finished two seconds back, with Julius Cobbett a further minute and a half down in 1:41:31.
Smith, who rides in the colours of Team Jeep SA, said the victory had been an important one for him.
“I was out of racing for three or four months after I got injured. So this is the first time I’ve peaked this season and the form appears to be coming along nicely.”
The 22-year-old said he had decided to go hard from the start in pursuit of his title defense in the West Rand race.
“The field was a lot stronger than last year and I had some tough competition. I hammered it a bit and only Guylin was able to stay with me.”
The two set a steady pace over the ensuing kilometres, working together in windy conditions.
After 30km they looked back to see Cobbett gaining on them in third.
“So we put the hammer down again in the closing kilometres and rode away.”
Smith said his route knowledge had ultimately made the difference on the day.
“I knew where I could go hard, especially in the last five kilometres where there are two or three small climbs. The last bit of dirt is also a single-track section.”
The Potchefstroom resident said coming out of that technical section first had given him the edge as he and Van den Berg hit the tar and descended towards the finish at the casino resort.
Nevertheless, he said, the win had still been a happy surprise.
“I’m definitely more of a climber than a sprinter, so it was actually a shock for me to take the sprint.”
Anneke Hanekom turned in another dominating performance in the women’s race after winning the Bestmed Lost City Mountain Bike event three weeks ago.
Hanekom took an undisputed win in 2:02:46, eight minutes clear of Nadine Visage (2:10:47) with Caroline Arnold a distant third (2:24:20).
Pierre Smith 1:39:54
Guylin van den Berg 1:39:56
Julius Cobbett 1:41:31
Tiaan Swart 1:42:40
Russell Lund 1:44:56
Anneke Hanekom 2:02:46
Nadine Visagie 2:10:47
Caroline Arnold 2:24:20
Kerry-Lee de Boer 2:28:33
Lee Olivier 2:29:35
Johan Gouws 1:01:25
Ruan Soekoe 1:05:36
Zander du Preez 1:07:41
Engela Conradie 1:08:10
Nicolene Marais 1:14:06
Nicola Ehlers 1:16:36
Posted on August 29th, 2014 No comments
South African time-trial champion Juanita Venter beat the world’s top veteran cyclists to win gold in her signature event on the opening day of the UCI Amateur Road World Championships in Slovenia on Wednesday. Venter set a solid pace on the streets of Ljubljana to cover the 18.6km out-and-back course in 26:53.2 and claim the world champion’s rainbow jersey in the 35 to 39 age group.
The Bestmed-ASG rider also finished third overall on the women’s podium behind the United States’ Molly van Houweling (40-44) and Slovenian Danijela Svetik (19-34), who stopped the clock in 25:31.7 and 26:35.8 respectively. Venter said she was thrilled to have taken the gold in her very first international competition. “I’m honoured and humbled by the overwhelming support I got from my family, friends, sponsors and the cycling community,” she said.
According to Venter, she had decided beforehand to take the opportunity to appreciate the experience, ride the best race she possibly could and have no regrets afterwards. “I think my bucket list is now quite complete!” The 38-year-old said the flat course had suited her quite well although she would have preferred a more undulating route.
“Going out we had a headwind and I battled to keep my speed above 40km per hour. “At the turnaround point I was nine seconds behind.” With the wind at her back, she put the hammer down and pushed her pace up to an average of 45km per hour. “I pedalled out the saddle on the corners and sprinted towards the end. Something must have worked because I won my age group by point seven of a second!”
Venter has been on top time-trial form this year, winning the solo event at both the Bestmed Tour de Boland in March and the Lowveld Tour in August. The Pretoria resident, who is also the national road champion in her age category, will now turn her attentions to Sunday’s 156km road race. “All the age category women will race together and I’ll try to be at the front although there are no other South Africans to assist me in the peloton.” Bestmed-ASG team manager Owen Botha said, as captain, Venter was a role model to the younger riders on her team.
“Whatever she does reflects positively on us and everyone in the team looks up to her.” He said her junior teammates Monique Gerber, Michelle Benson and Catherine Colyn would draw inspiration from her victory ahead of their own participation in the UCI Road World Championships in Spain at the end of September.
Posted on August 25th, 2014 No comments
Gauteng mountain bikers have just a few more days to enter the Pennypinchers Silverstar Mountain Bike Challenge, which takes place near Krugersdorp on September 6. More than 1 500 participants are expected to turn out for the seventh edition of the West Rand event, which comprises a 40km feature race and 20km short course option. According to race director Wynand de Villiers of ASG Events, the spring race offers some of the most scenic riding in the province.
“The views from the top of the mountain are absolutely breathtaking. On a clear day, you can see Sandton City and even Pretoria in the distance.”De Villiers said the event lay particularly close to his heart, as it was the very first race he organised more than a decade ago. “In its previous incarnation as the Colorpress Eagle Ride, it took place in the Ruimsig botanical gardens, which is about 2km from our current venue.” Begun as a fundraiser to protect the Black Eagle breeding pair that nested in the kloof above the gardens, both the race and the birds had survived and flourished, he said.
“Today, we present around 40 races annually but this is where I first discovered the absolute freedom and joy of pure mountain biking.”De Villiers said the event now started and finished at the casino and traversed a series of neighbouring properties, including the well-known Laurentia Flower Farm and Hero Adventure Park King’s Kloof.“This is the first opportunity for participants to ride the newly upgraded trails at the park and enjoy some exciting new sections.”
He said both routes were designed to offer flowing riding and a mix of challenges. “The longer distance features a combination of technical single-track, jeep track and gravel roads, as well as a serious 500-metre climb and some fast-paced descents.” Families and social riders would enjoy the shorter option, as it was not overly technical but still presented a good day’s riding, he said.
Enter at www.asgevents.co.za before August 31. No late entries will be accepted on race day. Follow @SilverstarMTB or find Silverstar MTB Challenge on Facebook.
Posted on August 21st, 2014 No comments
The grit and determination of the Gauteng mountain biking fraternity will be tested to the full when the Pretoria Boys High School 24-Hour Challenge takes place on Saturday, September 6. The fourth edition of this endurance event, presented by Barden Tyres, will once again roll out across the 85-acre campus in Brooklyn, southeast of the city centre.
According to organiser Wynand de Villiers of ASG Events, up to 500 participants are expected to push the limits of their mental and physical staying power. “It’s a unique experience – taking on a 24-hour challenge within the city limits,” said De Villiers. “The course covers the school estate, taking riders between the historic school buildings, around the pristine sports fields and through its 100-year-old forests.”
He said solo riders and relay teams of two to eight participants would be required to cover as many laps of the 6km circuit as possible in the allotted timeframe. Last year’s male and female solo winners were Christo van den Heever and Nicky Booyens. “Aside from negotiating the technical sections, riders have to manage their food and hydration levels and deal with factors such as fatigue and changing temperature and light conditions.”
De Villiers said a six-hour schools’ challenge would be introduced this year in memory of former matric pupil and promising national cyclist Adam Reyneke, who was killed on a training ride four years ago. The Spur kids’ races, for ages three to eight, would keep participants’ younger siblings entertained, he said. “The kiddies’ track will also be open after their race, so they can have fun throughout the event. In addition, we’re launching a 24-hour corporate team challenge.”
As far as incentives were concerned, De Villiers said they would be giving away R10 000 worth of prizes to schools as well as products from Rudy Project and other items courtesy of the title sponsor. “Every entrant also receives a free T-shirt and event Buff. There’s a host of lucky draw prizes too, including helicopter trips and hampers.” De Villiers said the public were invited to enjoy the carnival atmosphere of the annual school fundraiser, which would include a beer tent, food stalls, children’s play area, musical entertainment and the screening of the Springbok rugby test.
A camping site will be provided for tents, bush trailers and camper vans. Enter at www.asgevents.co.za before September 2. For more information, e-mail email@example.com or phone 076 621 1807. Alternatively, follow @PtaBoysHighMTB or find 24hr Pretoria Boys High School MTB Challenge on Facebook.
Posted on August 20th, 2014 No comments
The 19th edition of the Eqstra Spring Classic, Joburg’s oldest mountain bike race that takes place on Sunday, 7 September, has pledged to focus fully on ‘the rider experience’ in order to maintain its status as one of Gauteng’s favourite races.
With the continued phenomenal growth of mountain biking making it one of the most popular sports in the province, the Gauteng race calendar has filled up with new events in recent years, with organisers looking to capitalise on the sport’s popularity. A full calendar means a lot more choice for mountain bikers, but there’s a widespread belief, particularly among experienced mountain bikers, that many of the new events miss the mark in terms of delivering a complete mountain biking experience.
“I actually competed in the first Spring Classic back in 1995, when mountain bike racing was still small and event organisers went all out to offer great value for money and a balanced, challenging race route,” recalls Richard Beswick, a former professional racer and the organiser of the Eqstra Spring Classic. “The Spring Classic, has endured because it’s always remained focussed on ‘the rider experience’ and that focus will continue at this year’s event.”
A reasonable entry fee, a quality participant goodie bag, a safe, well-marked route with a variety of natural obstacles in the countryside and a choice of distances are among the elements Eqstra Spring Classic the entrants can expect for next month’s Eqstra Spring Classic. There is also strong focus on the pre-and post-race periods, ablution facilities, parking, rider communication and refreshment/nourishment throughout the day.
“Riders return to this event year after year because they know they’re getting a great-value and exciting mountain biking experience. We’ve modernised certain elements of the race and the venue has changed since the early editions, but old-school mountain bike values remain the core focus of the Spring Classic,” added Beswick. This is the fifth year that Eqstra is the title sponsor of the Spring Classic. Eqstra’s core business is the distribution, long-term lease and rental of mobile capital equipment and the provision of related value added annuity services to clients in the construction, mining and commercial sectors. The Spring Classic will once again incorporate some of Eqstra’s products into the race route for something a little different.
According to Beswick, the main 45km race, which starts and finishes at Avianto, Muldersdrift, just north of Randburg, will deliver a little bit of everything that mountain bikers seek in their quest for a rewarding race. “The Avianto trails, which are highly rated in the mountain bike market, will form the foundation for the race route, but we’ve added a whole lot of extra elements in order to ensure the route offers a balanced, fresh challenge for both fit riders and those just wanting to earn another finisher’s medal,” explained Beswick.
“The 20km and 10km distances also on offer will be suitably designed for the less-fit, less-skilled riders, but will still ensure a rewarding ride,” he added. There is a 1200-rider limit on the event to ensure minimal congestion and maximum enjoyment. Beswick urges riders to get their entries in soon to avoid disappointment. For more information on the Eqstra Spring Classic, or to enter online, visit www.springclassic.co.za
Posted on August 12th, 2014 No comments
Cycling has become the fastest-growing sport in South Africa and has created great growth opportunities for our economy over the past few years. However, there has been a complete lack of formalised and structured training of bicycle mechanics in South Africa.
Torq Zone, South Africa’s first concept bicycle workshop, today announced its partnership with the Association of Cycling Traders (ACT) UK, to establish the Torq Zone Academy in Gauteng. Torq Zone and ACT UK signed a five year exclusive agreement for the Torq Zone Academy to be the licenced training provider of their Cytech™ Technical Scheme in South Africa.
“Our partnership with ACT gives us the opportunity to adopt much needed skills in our industry and it enables us to present internationally accredited Cytech™ Technical courses right here in South Africa,” said Dirk Oerlemans, owner of Torq Zone.
Cytech™ Technical courses will now be presented exclusively in South Africa through the newly established Torq Zone Academy which is scheduled to open in Centurion in October 2014.
“Now, for the first time in South Africa, there will be an institution where bicycle mechanics can go and learn their trade, ultimately to become a professional bicycle Technician and get local and international recognition for it. Effectively this will put the occupation of a Bicycle Technician on the map and provide much needed recognition,” said Graeme Stickells, partner of the Torq Zone Academy.
The occupation “Bicycle Mechanic”, against which a National Qualification could be developed, is recorded on the Organising Framework for Occupations (OFO), a framework listing all occupations in South Africa. Torq Zone intends to take the lead in developing a National Qualification for bicycle technicians which will be registered on the South African National Qualifications Framework (NQF).”
As a value-add, Torq Zone Academy sees itself partnering with social development schemes to offer skills upliftment opportunities for previously disadvantaged individuals. The company further plans to introduce a programme where cycling enthusiasts themselves can also affect positive change through their “Adopt a Technician” programme.