Reid and Strauss lead from the gun at final local Olympic qualifier

James Reid (Team Spur) and Mariske Strauss (Novus OMX Pro Team) displayed their athletic dominance amidst perfect weather conditions and energised crowds when they raced against some of the country’s top mountain bike enthusiasts at Settlers Park Nature Reserve in the fourth round of the Stihl 2016 SA XCO Cup Series in Port Elizabeth on Saturday 14 May.

Riders faced 4,2km laps with an elevation of 170m, suiting those with the strongest legs on the day. With lots of climbing and a technical rock section called “Boulder Bash” that tested the skills of many, the track was built for the greatest of the great, giving the contenders one last chance to score valuable points in this Olympic year.

“I had an absolute blast,” said Elite Women’s Winner, Mariske Strauss, who had led the bunch from the beginning. “It was a crazy track, but an awesome track. We need more of these in South Africa. There aren’t many tracks like these with a steep technical section – it’s great preparation for racing in Europe,” she said.

After a series of unfortunate race meetings, Strauss has seemed to rid herself of her bad luck and minor setbacks to produce exceptional results of late.

She also mentioned how happy she was to share the podium with Novus OMX Pro MTB teammate and 2016 National Champion, Cherie Redecker, who was strong and consistent throughout her race. “I’m so happy, it’s all just awesome: an awesome track, awesome ride and an awesome day out. But next for me is an exam on Tuesday, and then I fly to Europe for the next UCI World Cup XCO in Germany next weekend,” concluded Strauss.

Recent winner of the African Continental Marathon, Amy Beth McDougall (Valencia), who claimed the bronze medal, said: “I have just come off the joBerg2c so had no idea what my legs would do. I am not primarily a cross-country racer, I just do it to sharpen my skills and mix up the season with some fun and intensity, and so I was happy with third place. It was a tough course with two massive loose climbs, which were painful, but it was all rewarded with some fun descents. I felt pretty consistent despite a tuck-and-roll down the first technical section and kept third place until the end.”

Elite Men’s winner, Reid, also led the charge from the get-go. “What a race out there – super challenging,” he said. “The back story to this race was that Alan Hatherly (Kargo Pro MTB Team), Philip Buys (Scott Factory Racing powered by LCB) and myself are fighting for Olympic spots. So from the gun the three of us really fed it to each other – it really was no holds barred.”

Reid had taken part in the Eastern Cape Provincial XCO last weekend in much wetter conditions, but had felt that he had done his homework on the track.

The Team Spur rider touched on Olympic selection: “I really hope that the selectors can see that when the three of us line up, it’s the same result as the last time the three of us lined up and that we had a fair, clean race in proper conditions. I hope this bodes well for my Olympic dream – it is the last selection race in a series of seven of them that are competitive, so today, I’m just really happy to have pulled off the win,” he concluded.

An outstanding performance was also witnessed from Specialized Concept Cyclery’s Julian Jessop, who crossed the line with a fourth place in his first year with Pro Elite status. “Today was really hard, but I had really good performance,” said Jessop.

When asked about the transition from Junior to Pro Elite, he said: “One of the hardest parts about it, is the lap count. Take this race for instance, the Juniors do four laps and the Elites are doing six. That’s one and a half times more. There is also no change in pace at this level, the speed is constantly high – if you try to take it easy, you just get left behind. I’ve been training hard and building on my strength. It takes time to increase the ability to be able to ride at that pace for longer.”

Jessop said that preparation to receive the results he did today has been difficult. “This is the highest position I’ve gotten this year, so it’s awesome,” he said.

He also mentioned that because he had to write an exam on Friday, he flew to Port Elizabeth for the day on Thursday to practise on the course, and flew back in the evening. “I also heard that there was a section that they changed a bit on the Friday, so I rode it blind today, but pretty happy with how it turned out,” he concluded.

The Junior competition, which formed part of the UCI Junior World Series, saw Tim Meier and Danielle Strydom take top honours n the Men’s and Women’s races. Meier’s lap times showed that he performed faster than his peers throughout the race, while Reinhard Zellhuber and Wessel Botha rounded out the podium in second and third places respectively. Strydom’s dominance in Junior Women’s racing continued as she stood on top of the podium with Kristen Louw finishing in second place over three minutes behind the young star!

The fifth round of the 2016 SA National Downhill Cup Series will take place in the Free State on Saturday 18 June 2016. For more information, click here or contact Dellah Paul on 082 781 5656 for administration info.

SUMMARY OF RESULTS – Stihl 2016 SA XCO Cup Series #4 [Port Elizabeth]

To see the full set of results, click here

Pro-Elite Men
1.James Reid 01:22:51.956
2.Alan Hatherly 01:23:45.537
3.Philip Buys 01:25:06.283

Pro-Elite Women
1.Mariske Strauss 01:27:12.233
2.Cherie Redecker 01:28:49.955
3.Amy McDougall 01:34:30.417

Junior Men
1.Tim Meier 01:00:09.235
2.Reinhard Zellhuber 01:02:17.368
3.Wessel Botha 01:02:44.311

Junior Women
1.Danielle Strydom 01:20:51.406
2.Kristen Louw 01:23:57.858

Youth Men
1.Ryan Conradie 01:04:54.963
2.Michard Meets 01:07:52.454
3.Brendan van Eeden 01:08:40.976

Youth Women
1.Zandri Strydom 01:01:11.262
2.Kelsey van Schoor 01:05:16.124
3.Rimari Sutton 01:11:20.688

Sub Veteran Men
1.Darryn Stow 01:10:21.849
2. Michael Maine 01:12:09.471
3.Renay Groustra 01:12:13.144

Veteran Men
1.Ewan Cochran 01:11:36.740
2.Brendon Wood 01:12:00.619
3.Ashton Ferreira 01:24:40.038

Veteran Women
1.Diana Carolin 01:06:18.191
2.Christelle le Roux 01:33:30.066

Master Men
1.Didier Duc 01:01:56.712
2.Errol Black 01:09:18.324
3.Peter Venter 01:14:42.859

Sub Junior Boys
1.Travis Stedman 00:54:54.148
2.Juan van Rooyen 00:56:12.864
3.Krige van der Vyver 00:58:22.892

Sub Junior Girls
1.Chante Olivier 00:46:15.734
2.Sarah van der Walt 01:02:30.546

Sprog Boys
1.Alec Coleske 00:35:18.074
2.Jooste Coetzee 00:35:41.516
3.Marcell Swartz 00:36:57.131

Sprog Girls
1.Madison Mann 00:40:57.540
2.Sarah-Dene Wyllie -1 lap

Nipper Boys
1.Connor Wright 00:27:03.240
2.Francois de Jager 00:27:55.900
3.Aiden Wright 00:28:44.569

Nipper Girls
1.Danel de Jager
2.Hannah Elliott