Pietermaritzburg will once again play host to the second annual Pietermaritzburg MTB Festival, taking place this year from Friday 30 April to Monday 2 May. The three-day festival will include an array of exciting cycle races for all levels of riders and included in the mix is the 2016 SA MTB Masters Marathon Championships, which take place this year at Cascades MTB Park in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal, on Sunday 1 May.
Former Springbok swimmer-turned-mountain-bike-enthusiast, Theresa Ralph, loves every minute of marathon racing. “Marathon racing is basically the only distance that I have ever done. I have only been on a mountain bike for a little more than six years now,” she said.
Ralph, who has now completed six Cape Epics, says that the first one started out as a “to-do” goal. “I hopped on a bike a few months before the event and this is where the love started,” she added.
“It seems that due to my age and my strength in endurance, marathon racing suits me the best. But, you never know – I may decide to try some XCO soon to sharpen up the skills and boost my speed. I love challenges,” she said.
For Ralph, training has to find its place between work and being a mom, too: “This is a juggling session. Training has to take place early in the mornings, over lunch times and even late at night sometimes. I plan my training around the needs of my children, as they will always come first. I would rather suffer the early cold mornings than them have less time with me.
“Work is thankfully understanding and supportive of my sport, yet still demanding. I do enjoy my job as it keeps my mind as active as my body, which is just as important. Obviously my leave does need to fit into their boundaries – so hence I am not at every event that most pro athletes attend. I need to pick and choose with my sponsor which events are key.”
Although sponsored by Galileo Risk, Ralph also has another great helper and supporter. “I do have a magic boyfriend who also cycles and attends most of the events with me. This makes our relationship easy as our interests are common and we spend time together. His support is also appreciated,” she said.
Ralph has for the past few years competed in the Elite category, however she has recently decided to compete in her age category. “I suppose this is due to the fact that I have just entered a new category and will be at the top of my game for this. It may be looked at as taking the easier path, but due to the fact that I am not a full time professional cyclist, and the younger girls have become much stronger (which is refreshing), I think it is a reality that I need to compete in my age category to secure a podium position. Gold is my goal and I’m looking forward to competing with the other ladies for this,” she added.
Returning back to the Cascades track after she started the 2014 World Marathon Champs there but sadly pulled out due to a mechanical, Ralph is looking forward to the Festival of events. “I think that combining the Champs with the Festival is a great idea as there will be loads of supporters and an incredible vibe. I love this when I race,” she concluded.
Over and above the 2016 SA MTB Masters Marathon Championship race on Sunday 1 May, there is also a 60-kilometre marathon for Open Men and Women, and a 20-kilometre fun ride for Open Men and Women categories.
Other mountain bike events that will be held over the course of the weekend are:
Saturday 30 April
UCI Junior World Series XCO
UCI Elite XCO HC
Sunday 1 May
SA Marathon Championships Masters 30+
Monday 2 May
KZN Inter-Schools MTB Series
The Pietermaritzburg MTB Festival takes place at Cascades MTB Park from 30 April to 2 May 2016 and forms part of the greater Africa Bike City project in Pietermaritzburg. The legacy project and continued development of the venue of Cascades MTB Park as well as staff, cyclists and officials strengthens the local resource pool as we build towards the 2022 Commonwealth Games. For more information on the 2016 PMB MTB Festival, click here: http://www.cyclingsa.com/2016-pmb-mtb-festival/.