​Future stars get Pmb MTB Festival under way in style

The opening day of the inaugural three-day long Pietermaritzburg Mountain Bike Festival cast a spotlight on the youth, with some very successful development racing followed by the phenomenally successful Spur School Series, which drew entries from across the country, as did the Enduro, which saw some of South Africa's leading downhill riders and cross country athletes taking on the growing discipline.

"I am happy with the turnout, especially with it being the Easter weekend and the schools being on holiday," Ewan Cochran, Race Director of the Spur Series KZN, said.

"Here in KZN the schools are slowly seeing cycling and mountain biking as a school sport, which is the aim of the Spur League, so it is filtering into the schools and becoming recognised as a school sport."

The opening day of the Pietermaritzburg MTB Festival at the Cascades MTB Park on Friday included a well-supported leg of the popular Spur Junior series, offering the stars of the future a chance to shine on the well-known international MTB course. © craigdutton.com

The opening day of the Pietermaritzburg MTB Festival at the Cascades MTB Park on Friday included a well-supported leg of the popular Spur Junior series, offering the stars of the future a chance to shine on the well-known international MTB course. © craigdutton.com

The biggest team, however, came from further afield, with Hoërskool Menlo Park bringing 31 riders from Pretoria. The school has a full-time coach, with the children training four to five times a week. As teacher Lezelle van der Walt explained, they have been rewarded for their commitment: "We were the national winners of the Spur Series last year, and the Gauteng winners, so they love the Series. Our club has doubled in size since last year. We managed to win the Gauteng girls' team, mixed team and national titles."

Thomas More's Liam Theunissen blasted his way to victory in the Nippers' event and was full of smiles afterwards. "I liked this race. It was nice because there was a lot of downhill, so you could just go really fast. I love uphill as well, but it is really nice going fast downhill," he said.

Chloë Bateson of Curro Mount Richmore was a runaway winner in the girls' Sprog category

"I had a few slips, but it was a fun course. There was a lot of falling, but otherwise I got through the track pretty easily. It was nice. There were some difficult parts, but I enjoyed it," she said.

"I've been riding since May last year and thought I should do the Spur Series this year, just for fun and for my school. I'm finding it lots of fun. It is such a nice feeling to be around people like myself and I have a great time."

Three-time national downhill champion Tiaan Odendaal, racing on his home track claimed the enduro crown. "It was challenging, with lots of pedalling," he said. "It was more of a downhill cross country race. It's cool. It was friendly to everyone, allowing all the cross country guys a chance to come across and race, so it's awesome."

He said he was also astounded at the rapid rate at which the enduro discipline was taking hold. "It has grown a lot! When I started there weren't that many riders, but this year it has picked up. At our Provincial Championships we had over 100 entries, so that is awesome because the guys then come across to the downhill, which is my main focus. It's pretty cool."

Late afternoon rain could not dampen the enthusiasm of the older teenagers taking part in the Spur Series race that helped to kickstart the Pietermaritzburg MTB Festival at the Cascades MTB Park on Friday. © craigdutton.com

Late afternoon rain could not dampen the enthusiasm of the older teenagers taking part in the Spur Series race that helped to kickstart the Pietermaritzburg MTB Festival at the Cascades MTB Park on Friday. © craigdutton.com

Event organiser Alec Lenferna declared himself very happy with the large number of participants. "The Easter weekend was selected to allow people from other provinces the chance to attend the Festival," he shared.

"They have come predominantly from Gauteng, but there have also been others from the Free State, the Eastern Cape and Western Cape, as well as local KwaZulu-Natalians. We also have international riders from Namibia, Zimbabwe and Lesotho, as well as Denmark, Germany, Scotland, England and France. It really is an international event for the cross country."

Expanding on the draw of the cross country, which carries a UCI HC categorisation, he added: "HC is an interesting categorisation in that it is just a little below the World Cup in that it has good prize money and it has got good nations' points [for Olympic qualification] and certainly any year before the Olympics the riders are chasing points."

SPUR SERIES RESULTS

Sub Nipper

Girls

1. Hannah Elliott

2. Jodi MacKinnon

3. Hayley McCluskey

Boys

1. Connor Wright

2. Antony Clayton

3. Logan Stander

Nipper

Girls

1. Megan Smith

2. Delia Greyling

3. Emily van Heerden

Boys

1. Liam Theunissen

2. Aiden Wright

3. Keagan Brand

Sprog

Girls

1. Chloë Bateson

2. Zoë Kloppers

3. Donne Kloppers

Boys

1. Jonathan Watts

2. Ben du Plessis

3. Dreyer Bothma

Sub Junior

Girls

1. Sabine Thies

2. Monique du Toit

3. Sarah Ryan

Boys

1. Hennie van Wyk

2. Reece McCallum

3. Paul Meyer

Youth

Girls

1. Tiffany Keep

2. Rimari Sutton

3. Nicola van der Walt



Boys

1. Chris du Plessis

2. Gustav Rhode

3. Cian Leveridge

Junior

Girls

1. Charne van Zyl

2. Simone Buys

Boys

1. Andrew Sparks

2. Henry Liebenberg

3. Martien Venter

© craigdutton.com