Fast and furious racing action at first XCO Cup

The country welcomed a host of local and international riders to the first 2017 LOAD National MTB XCO Series event, which took place at Rhebokskloof Wine Estate in Paarl on Saturday 25 February. The Western Cape winds made sure to give riders more than what they had bargained for compared to an already challenging cross-country race. Both Elite Men and Women’s titles went to international racing heroes Samuel Gaze and Kathrin Stirnemann respectively.

Blustering winds swept through the race village in the earlier part of the morning, which subsided by the time the racing began in a very hot and dusty Paarl. The field was by far the biggest entry at a National Cross-country Cup race in the past 12-13 years – not only the biggest in terms of numbers, but also the strongest field compared to any previous race with 34 of the international entries hailing from 14 countries. There were 288 riders who lined up to start in their various categories, with an impressive showing in the Youth and Junior Men categories as well, with no less than 40 riders in each category alone!

Current under-23 World Champion and u-23 New Zealand National Champion, Samuel Gaze, took the honours in the Elite Men’s race. He completed the seven laps in a time of one hour 29 minutes and 40 seconds with Swiss riders Mathias Flückiger and Nicola Rohrbach finishing in second and third places in 01.30.33 and 01.30.34 respectively. The first South African rider home was Alan Hatherly, who crossed the line in fifth place in 01.31.53.

Gaze said: “The weather was actually pretty tame considering the heat we had in the days leading up to the race. I came into the weekend pretty tired from what was a big week of training, so I was unsure of how it would go. I was expecting to struggle a lot with some heavy legs in the warm up.”

The Elite Men's Podium (from left to right) Nicola Rohrbach, Samuel Gaze and Mathias Flückiger at the first round of the LOAD National MTB XCO Series in Paarl on Saturday 25 February. Photo: DoubleST

The Elite Men's Podium (from left to right) Nicola Rohrbach, Samuel Gaze and Mathias Flückiger at the first round of the LOAD National MTB XCO Series in Paarl on Saturday 25 February. Photo: DoubleST

Gaze had a relaxing first climb, and tried his utmost to conserve his energy, knowing that he was hoping to open the gap up on the last few laps. “I rode across to (Manuel) Fumic with three laps remaining. He stopped to bomb his front wheel from a slow leak I believe, and from there I found myself in the front alone, so I just rode my pace to the finish,” he added.

The Specialized MTB Team rider feels that he is still far from full form, however. “I have felt in training that I am in a much better space than last year so I’m excited to continue on the training path towards the goals I have for the year,” he said.

Gaze also added that there is still a lot of time until the Nove Mesto UCI World Cup, and he will be taking all his preparation in one day at a time. “I want to make sure that when I arrive at the first World Cup, I will be fully prepared,” he added.

The winner of the Elite Women’s race was Swiss mountain biker, Kathrin Stirnemann (Haibike Otzak Pro Team), who mentioned on social media that her win was a great way to start the 2017 racing season. Stirnemann completed the five laps in a time of 01.16.21. British National Champion Annie Last finished second (01.17.35) and South African Cherie Redecker crossed the line third (01.18.05).

Redecker was pleased with her performance on the day. “I am pretty stoked about this weekend’s race. I went in very relaxed, which I think helped a lot. Knowing I can ride up there with some of the best women in the world is great motivation for the year.”

KwaZulu-Natal's Tiffany Keep finished as the first Junior Women across the line ahead of France's Isaure Medde and third placed Danielle Strydom at the first round of the LOAD National MTB XCO Series in Paarl on Saturday 25 February. Photo: DoubleST

KwaZulu-Natal's Tiffany Keep finished as the first Junior Women across the line ahead of France's Isaure Medde and third placed Danielle Strydom at the first round of the LOAD National MTB XCO Series in Paarl on Saturday 25 February. Photo: DoubleST

The event also formed part of the UCI Junior World XCO Series, which saw KwaZulu-Natal’s Tiffany Keep finish as the first Junior Woman to cross the finish line. Keep finished ahead of second placed France’s Isaure Medde and third placed Danielle Strydom. In the Junior Men’s race, Germany’s Pirmin Sigel – who races for the Bulls junior feeder team – took the top honours in 01.11.22 with Johann Trotzky – new to racing on the national circuit – finishing a very close second (01.11.55) and Nico Zünd, third (01.13.16).

The second round of the 2017 LOAD National MTB XCO Series takes place in Tshwane on Saturday 15 April. More information will be available shortly.

To see a full set of results, click here: https://www.cyclingsa.com/s/20170225_SA-XCO-Cup-Series-1-2017-Results-1.pdf

Summary of Results for the 2017 LOAD National MTB XCO Series #1 (25 February)

Elite Men – 7 laps

1.     Samuel Gaze 01.29.40

2.     Mathias Flückiger 01.30.33

3.     Nicola Rohrbach 01.30.34

Elite Women – 5 laps

1.     Kathrin Stirnemann 01.16.21

2.     Annie Last 01.17.35

3.     Cherie Redecker 01.18.05

Junior Men – 5 laps

1.     Pirmin Sigel 01.11.22

2.     Johann Trotzky 01.11.55

3.     Nico Zünd 01.13.16

Junior Women – 4 laps

1.     Tiffany Keep 01.08.10

2.     Isaure Medde 01.09.50

3.     Danielle Strydom 01.12.01

Sub Vets Men – 5 laps

1.     Neill Ungerer 01.17.14

2.     Charles Mcfall 01.18.31

3.     Tristan Sandwith 01.18.52

Sub Vet Women – 4 laps

1.     Kylie Hanekom 01.20.44

2.     Leorine De Wet 01.23.21

3.     Belinda Mason 01.26.54

Vets Men – 5 laps

1.     Nico Pfitzenmaier 01.13.46

2.     Nic Lamond 01.15.20

3.     Mark Moir 01.19.08

Master Men – 4 laps

1.     Jimmy Mills 01.09.43

2.     Bob Schuiling 01.09.54

3.     Charles Young 01.19.37

Youth Men – 5 laps

1.     Luke Moir 01.11.37

2.     Jamie Penfold 01.13.42

3.     Evan Louw 01.15.35

Youth Women – 3 laps

1.     Zandri Strydom 00.55.00

2.     Stéfke Tolmay 00.59.21

3.     Julia Marx 01.02.03

Sub Junior Boys – 4 laps

1.     Luca Ruwiel 01.05.43

2.     Justin Chesterton 01.09.10

3.     Marcell Swartz 01.09.47

Sub Junior Girls – 2 laps

1.     Chante Olivier 00.36.57

2.     Chloe Bateson 00.37.50

3.     Kayleigh Scholtz 00.41.37

Sprog Boys – 4 laps

1.     Alec Coleske 00.39.15

2.     Hendre De Villiers 00.40.40

3.     Ernest Roets 00.42.19

Sprog Girls – 3 laps

1.     Olivia Penfold 00.35.35

2.     Amelie Owens 00.41.21

3.     Hayley Richards 00.42.46

Nipper Boys – 3 laps

1.     Luca Zietsman 00.32.56

2.     Robert Nieuwenhuizen 00.33.13

3.     Alessandro Fanicchi 00.33.27

Nipper Girls – 2 laps

1.     Hannah Elliott 00.25.15

2.     Chloe Chesterton 00.28.18

3.     Mieke Van der Merwe 00.31.09