South Africa’s Beijing Olympians, Burry Stander and Yolande Speedy, won the men and women’s events comfortably at Round 3 of the 2009 MTN National Mountain Bike Cup in George last month. Round 4, which takes place in Pietermaritzburg on Saturday will be completely different.
A star-studded field of international riders, headed up by Swiss cross-country world champion, Christoph Sauser, will add unprecedented depth to the event, which they’re using as a ‘leg-loosener’ ahead of next week’s opening round of the Nissan UCI World Cup at the same venue.
Joining Sauser (Specialized) on the early pre-entry list are a pair of his Swiss compatriots, current Under-23 World Champion Nino Schurter (SCOTT Swisspower), who won the bronze medal at the Beijing Olympic Games and Florian Vogel (SCOTT Swisspower), silver medalist at the 2008 world championships.
Also in the talent-heavy mix is another Swiss rider, Ralf Naef (Multivan Merida), the 2006 marathon world champion, Great Britain’s, Liam Killeen (Trek), the current Commonwealth Games champion and Spain’s Jose Hermida (Multivan Merida), the Athens Olympic Games silver medalist.
“It’s great to be able to have such a strong field at a home race. Great for the event, great for local riders and great for the sport as a whole in this country, said an upbeat Stander on Thursday. “I’ve not ridden much this week after last week’s Cape Epic, so am using the race to warm up the legs for the World Cup next weekend.”
Stander will by no means be out of his depth. He is the 2008 Under-23 World Cup champion and World Championships silver medalist and showed (along with partner Sauser), that he is in superb form with five stage wins from a possible eight at last week’s Absa Cape Epic.
Speedy, the current South African Elite women’s champion, will face by far her stiffest home-based challenge ever. Confirmed to start Saturday’s race are Russian ace, Irina Kalentieva (Topeak Ergon), the 2007 World Champion, 2007 World Cup champion and bronze medalist at the Beijing Olympics, and Slovenia’s Blaza Klemencic, the 2005 World Championships silver medalist.
With another full day of registration on Friday, more international stars are expected to add their names to the already illustrious entry list. After some steady rainfall over the past few days, the forecast is for a clear, warm day on Saturday.
Racing will take place on the exact 4.6km course as next week’s World Cup event. The venue is adjacent to the Cascades Shopping Centre on the northwest perimeter of the city
Riders race in a lap format with the winners usually completing the prescribed number of laps in around two hours. In addition to the high-profile Elite and Under-23 men and women’s categories, a full range of age-group racing will also take place. Racing starts at 08h00, with the Elite and Under-23 women starting at 12h00 and the Elite and Under-23 men at 13h45.
For more information, visit www.entrytime.com
Photo 1: World champion, Christoph Sauser, heads up the strongest field ever assembled for a cross-country race in South Africa at Saturday’s Round 4 of the MTN National Cup in Pietermaritzburg.