The third round of the Ashburton Investments National MTB Series – which plays host to the 2016 South African Mountain Bike Marathon Championships – is almost upon us and the sublime trails of the Clarens countryside will attract South Africa’s finest endurance athletes from 16-17 April. South Africa’s Ben “Melt” Swanepoel has always enjoyed riding his bicycle and changed over from a keen cross-country racer to a marathon enthusiast, without completely leaving the shorter rides behind. “I just absolutely love riding my mountain bike,” he said.
After having just completing the Absa Cape Epic, Swanepoel is feeling surprisingly fresh. “Look, there are different levels of killing yourself out there, and I just killed myself a little less. Its all relative I guess, so I’m feeling pretty good,” he laughed.
He spoke of the venue of this year’s National Championships, and said: “Clarens is beautiful. It just has such unbelievably unique terrain, and there’s a great variety of racing. It’s quite a high altitude course – so that could influence the riding of the guys from the coast.”
When chatting about personal goals ahead of the event, he said: “I think all of us as humans have some form of goal or another in mind going into these races. We all try to do as well as we can within our given constraints – be it the Pro-Elites who went all-out at epic, or your weekend warriors who only get to ride then,” he said.
The major difference between cross-country and marathon racing, according to Swanepoel, is energy and pace. He stressed the importance of energy output on the longer rides, how every little bit of exertion counts, and how it will come back to help you or haunt you later on in the race, depending on how you’ve used it.
“With cross-country racing, it's a shorter time so you have to go flat out from start to finish. For marathon, you have to pace yourself, push a bit, ride a bit. One of the most important things to have out there is backup and support. If you have somebody out there handing you a bottle and you do not have to use that extra energy to go and get from the water tables, the amount of energy you’ll be saving is incredible,” he said.
While the 2016 SA National MTB Marathon Championships is targeted at the Elite Men (Ultra Marathon) Elite Women (Marathon) and Junior and Youth Men and Women (Half Marathon) for National Championship status, the race event is the third round of the Ashburton Investments National MTB Series, which caters for all age groups and fitness abilities.
Not only does the picturesque Free State village boast exquisitely breath-taking mountain views, but also offers a range of activities such as golf, horse riding and hiking, a selection of coffee shops, cafes, art galleries and pubs. The event also offers child minding facilities, hospitality, bike wash and complete medical centre with a doctor on site.
For more information and to enter, visit: http://www.cyclingsa.com/2016-sa-mtb-marathon-champs/.