Future MTB Marathon stars shine in Clarens

It was the turn of the younger riders to make strides and earn their stripes when they took to the 43.5-kilometre half-marathon route at the third round of the Ashburton Investments National MTB Series this year, which played host to the 2016 South African Mountain Bike Marathon Championships in Clarens, today.

Crossing the line first in their categories and claiming the National Championship titles were Wessel Botha (Lynwood Centurion Cyclery) and Danielle Strydom (Swiss Cycles) in the Junior Men and Women’s class, and Jean-Pierre Lloyd (Team Fury Motor Group) and Azulde Britz (BestMed Factory Lapierre Team) in the Youth Men and Women’s class.

The front bunch of the Junior Men’s race were all together and looking quite relaxed until roughly the 20-kilometre mark, after which the riders started the big climb of the day and Botha launched his attack. Kargo Pro MTB Team’s Pieter du Toit went with Botha, but was dropped at the top of the climb.

Botha (18) was happy with his race. “I had a very nice race, the route was fantastic and I couldn’t do any better. This is probably the biggest achievement in my cycling career, I am very happy and it's the best race ever.”

The cross-country mountain biker from Pretoria will now focus on the upcoming PMB MTB Festival (30 April) and the fourth round of the Stihl 2016 SA XCO Cup Series in Port Elizabeth (14 May) in the next few weeks – both races form part of the UCI Junior World Series.

Similarly in the Junior Women’s race, the first 20 kilometres were rather fast and a bunch of about eight women were all together. As soon as the climb started, the field began to split and current SA Junior Road Champion Strydom launched an attack with Kristen Louw (Kargo Pro MTB Team) in tow.

“As the climb continued to go, I attacked again and soloed until the end,” said the 17-year-old from Potchefstroom Gymnasium, who claimed the Junior Women’s SA Road Championship title earlier this year. “It was a very good competition, the people were very friendly and always making way on the track when I came through. Mountain biking is where my roots are but the road was more like beginner’s luck, with different techniques and tactics to learn. I am very happy with my two titles.”

Sixteen-year-old Lloyd, from Centurion, started the Youth Men’s race at the front but after the first climb, he couldn’t select his gears and fell back to about sixth place. From there, he worked to catch up to all of the youth riders and stayed with Hennie van Wyk (who finished in second place). “I dropped Hennie in the last 10 kilometres of the technical singletrack and I just kept the gap until the finish,” said Lloyd. “I had a good day. It feels amazing to be the SA Champion and the hard work has paid off. It’s my first Ashburton Investments Series race this year as I have been focussing on the road, which helped me with my endurance to stay strong until the end today.”

The Youth Women’s race panned out similarly to the other categories, with the race looking comfortable and splitting up at the climb around the halfway mark. With the Youth and Junior women starting together Britz, who hails from Irene, Pretoria, felt lucky to be in the break when the Junior Women split the bunch on the first major climb.

“I was lucky to be in the break and we just went for it,” said Britz (15). “I rode with another junior girl for quite a way and then she broke away from me but it wasn't my race to work for her so I just let her go and made it to the finish alone in the Youth category. XCO mountain biking is definitely my focus when it comes to racing and I compete on the road mostly for fitness. I do the marathons in between my main races, when I have the chance to.”

The Junior and Youth Men and Women’s races today concluded a weekend of South African National MTB Marathon Championships, when Max Knox (Lowveld Tractors/Dirk Lourens Cycles) and Robyn de Groot (Team Ascendis Health) were crowned the Elite Men and Women’s Champions on Saturday over the 112-kilometre Ultra Marathon route and the 77.5-kilometre Marathon route. For more information, visit: http://www.cyclingsa.com/2016-sa-mtb-marathon-champs/.

Summary of Results – 2016 South African Mountain Bike Marathon Championships

Junior Men

1.Wessel Botha 01:37:02
2.Rinus Maarsingh 01:41:29
3.Jason Abbott 01:41:41
4.Brandon van der Berg 01:42:16
5.Jayde Davies 01:42:29

Junior Women

1.Danielle Strydom 01:58:08
2.Kristen Louw 02:00:33
3.Chriestie-Leigh Hearder 02:01:36
4.Lynette Benson 02:08:38
5.Allison Morton 02:12:43

Youth Men

1.Jean-Pierre Lloyd 01:42:27
2.Hennie van Wyk 01:42:52
3.Wicus Breytenbach 01:43:16
4.Adriaan Duminy 01:43:19
5.Wynand Brits 01:44:00

Youth Women

1.Azulde Britz 02:02:28
2.Rimari Sutton 02:06:38
3.Nicola van der Walt 02:08:29
4.Emma van Coller 02:10:09
5.Kelsey van Schoor 02:11:15