Rourke Croeser (Kargo Pro MTB Team) raced in an epic duel with James Reid (Trek South Africa) to claim the 2014 South African Cross-country National Championship Elite men’s title in a time of 1 hour 32 minutes and 29 seconds at Thaba Trails in Gauteng today.
An early neck-and-neck tussle between Croeser and Reid showed that no one was giving an inch away as they made the early break and challenged each other in the first three laps.
Reid attempted another early attack on the rocky climb, but Croeser remained glued to his wheel. The epic tussle continued until disaster struck in the fourth lap. Croeser appeared across the start/finish line with a lead of over 3-minutes to Reid, who had punctured.
According to Croeser, it was not only Reid who suffered bad luck during the encounter. “I punctured just before James did,” said Croeser. “The terrain was hard on the tyres, and not even 200m later I saw James puncture. I waited to make sure that my tyre sealed properly before setting off, but it seems that James’ repair didn’t seal that well and he stopped again.”
Croeser maintained the lead until the end of the 6-lap race, admitting to riding conservatively in the last laps. “I played it very safe after that,” said Croeser. “I didn’t want to risk anything and especially losing the title. James is very good in the technical sections, and a very powerful rider. I prefer the longer climbs and I knew it would be hard to pass. Over the years, I’ve learnt to keep it super safe. When the time comes to go hard, then I can let loose, but I couldn’t risk another puncture or mechanical.”
The prestigious title has been something that Croeser has been working very hard for. “I’ve won every title since racing in the Sprog category, but being the Elite champ is being the champion of the country. I can wear this jersey on my shoulders with great pride. This is the greatest achievement to win!”
Reid’s bout of bad luck cost him another position, as Scott-Sports SA’s Matthys Beukes crossed the line in second place in a time of 01:36:57, while Reid claimed the bronze medal in 01:38:06.
Reid says: “I got about 20 metres on Rourke, but I cut my rear tyre. It didn’t seem to seal, but on the downhill I cut it again. With the third flat I was definitely out of the race. Hats off to Rourke - if it hadn’t been for my flat tyre it would’ve been an entirely different race. That’s how it goes though. Sometimes luck goes your way and sometimes it doesn't.”
Croeser’s teammate Stuart Marais finished fourth in 01:39:33, while veteran cyclist Jan Withaar finished in a superb fifth place in 01:40:03.
The under-23 category saw Gert Heyns (Heart-Sports ASG) take top honours in 01:18:15, followed by Brendon Davids (Trek South Africa) in 2nd place in 01:19:30, with Travis Walker (Kargo Pro MTB Team) third in 01:21:29.
Alan Hatherly (Heart-Sports ASG) claimed the Junior men’s title by just over a minute with Johan Hartzenberg claiming silver (01:06:46) and Matthew Lombardi claiming the bronze medal (01:07:18).
The Youth men’s category was hotly contested by the youngsters with Brandon Van Der Berg claiming the championship title and the gold medal in 01:12:50. Matthew Keyser won the silver medal in 01:14:13 and Henry Liebenberg claimed the bronze medal (01:14:16).
Cycling South Africa extends a big thanks to the hosts, Wendell Bole and his entire team at Thaba Trails, for preparing the superb and challenging course and for hosting the event. We also thank our sponsor, Stihl, for their continued support in mountain biking, as well as all the event’s supporting sponsors.
Summary of results: 2014 Cycling SA-MTB National Championships, presented by Stihl - 19 July 2014
Elite Men – 6 laps
1 Rourke Croeser 01:32:29
2 Matthys Beukes 01:36:57
3 James Reid 01:38:06
4 Stuart Marais 01:39:33
5 Jan Withaar 01:40:03
U23 Men – 5 laps
1 Gert Heyns 01:18:15
2 Brendon Davids 01:19:30
3 Travis Walker 01:21:29
4 Arno Du Toit 01:23:38
5 Jason Meaton 01:23:39
Junior Men – 4 laps
1 Alan Hatherly 01:05:31
2 Johan Hartzenberg 01:06:46
3 Matthew Lombardi 01:07:18
4 Wade Prinsloo 01:07:37
5 Sybrand Strauss 01:08:49
Youth Men – 4 laps
1 Brandon Van Der Berg 01:12:50
2 Matthew Keyser 01:14:13
3 Henry Liebenberg 01:14:16
4 Liam De Klerk 01:17:03
5 Andreas Kuhn 01:17:08
Photo credit: Andrew McFadden/BOOGS Photography