MTB Champs brings Happy Valley alive – Free State

 Photo credit: Johan Pretorius Photography. View the rest of the event photographs here:  https://go.shr.lc/2NAb0RQ

Photo credit: Johan Pretorius Photography. View the rest of the event photographs here: https://go.shr.lc/2NAb0RQ

Happy Valley Conservancy came alive on Saturday when the rustle of frenetic mountain bikes blazed the trails to crown National Champions in cross-country racing at the 2018 SA National XCO Championships on 21 July. It was Alan Hatherly (Team Spur) and Mariske Strauss (Silverback OMX Pro Team) who defended their National titles to once again to don the national jersey for the remainder of the year and the season ahead. Hatherly won the seven-lap Elite Men’s race in a time of 01:38:20 while Strauss finished her five-lap Elite Women’s race in 01:24:02.

Race organiser and host Willem Raubenheimer and his team pulled out all the stops to present a top-class event as the high-quality course was most talked about amongst the competitors.

“We had a really lovely weekend, and the rain from the previous week settled the track well,” said Willem. “We received many comments about the track being dry, but it wasn’t that dry by typical Bloemfontein standards. The racing was excellent, with a great turnout in the younger categories, which bodes very well for the sport.

“There was a lot of positive feedback about the track, that it was a very technical and challenging route, which we have taken as a compliment,” he said.

Willem extended his thanks to the event sponsors, particularly Ruwacon. “Without them this event would not have been possible. They are a construction company and worked on huge amounts of the track with us. They were a tremendous help to supply some equipment to build the bridge at the start/finish, shape the berms, and build the scaffolding at the rock garden. The Bloem crowd was also incredible, thank you for supporting the races and making the event the success that it was!”

 Elite Men podium: 1.Alan Hatherly 01:38:20 /2.Matthew Beers 01:41:25 /3.Arno Du Toit 01:42:22. Photo credit: 📷 Johan Pretorius Photography. View the rest of the event photographs here:  https://go.shr.lc/2NAb0RQ . 

Elite Men podium: 1.Alan Hatherly 01:38:20 /2.Matthew Beers 01:41:25 /3.Arno Du Toit 01:42:22. Photo credit: 📷 Johan Pretorius Photography. View the rest of the event photographs here: https://go.shr.lc/2NAb0RQ

In his final year as an U23 rider, Alan Hatherly opted to race in the Elite category, which means he can now proudly wear the national jersey colours when he progresses to the Elite category in his international races from the start of 2019, his team press release said.

The Durbanite was able to maintain a high pace throughout the race, keeping the pressure on and keeping a gap between himself and Matthew Beers (second) and Arno du Toit (third). His victory comes after racing three consecutive weekends and lots of international travel in between.

“All in all, I’m super stoked to renew my Elite National title, I’m looking forward to next year now. I can wear and show off my white South African jersey at the UCI World Cups in my first year in the Elite category. It’s now time for me to shift all my focus towards the next block of World Cups and the big goal in September, the UCI U23 World Championships!” he said.

 Elite Women podium: 1.Mariske Strauss 01:24:02 /2.Candice Lill 01:25:21 /3.Cherie Redecker 01:27:37. Photo credit: 📷 Johan Pretorius Photography. View the rest of the event photographs here:  https://go.shr.lc/2NAb0RQ . 

Elite Women podium: 1.Mariske Strauss 01:24:02 /2.Candice Lill 01:25:21 /3.Cherie Redecker 01:27:37. Photo credit: 📷 Johan Pretorius Photography. View the rest of the event photographs here: https://go.shr.lc/2NAb0RQ

Mariske won her challenge against Candice Lill (01:25:21) and Cherie Redecker (01:27:37), who rounded out the podium in second and third places respectively. For Mariske, the Elite women’s title is her fourth, and over the years she has won 15 SA Championships titles overall! This victory was all the more special.

After a relatively quick start, the Capetonian was able to ease into her pace. There was a little pile-up on the first section of the course, where Candice Lill managed to open a gap on Mariske. After catching Candice, she opened a small gap and extended the gap on the third lap to a 30-second buffer. Later in the race, Candice suffered a punctured and Mariske retained the gap without any misfortune, until the end of the race.

“I worked hard and I’m glad it came together,” she said. “I was a bit nervous at the start seeing as I came straight from Europe and seemed to have picked up a tummy bug of sorts, but fortunately it wasn’t too severe. My Sesta was absolutely amazing on the course and glided smoothly over all the rough terrain that Bloem had to offer.”

Mariske now looks ahead to the UCI World Cup in La Bresse, France, and then the UCI World Championships.

 U23 Men podium: 1.Julian Jessop 01:32:15 /2.Henry Liebenberg 01:32:46 /3.Jarrod Van Den Heever 01:35:08. Photo credit: 📷 Johan Pretorius Photography. View the rest of the event photographs here:  https://go.shr.lc/2NAb0RQ . 

U23 Men podium: 1.Julian Jessop 01:32:15 /2.Henry Liebenberg 01:32:46 /3.Jarrod Van Den Heever 01:35:08. Photo credit: 📷 Johan Pretorius Photography. View the rest of the event photographs here: https://go.shr.lc/2NAb0RQ

Winning the U23 Men’s category was Julian Jessop (Team PYGA Eurosteel), who won the six-lap race in 01:32:15 with Henry Liebenberg second (+41”) and Jarrod van den Heever third (+2’53”), achieving a hattrick of three consecutive titles in this division and a total of eight national titles in his young career.

Julian, who hails from Durban, had a tough battle on the course with Wessel Botha in the early part of the race, but Wessel had to end his race untimely after the third lap due to a mechanical. He then had to keep the pace high to preserve the time gap he had to Henry Liebenberg and stretched that from 15 seconds with two laps to go, to 40 seconds by the end of the race, capitalising on the climbs which is where he said he made up his time.

Julian has been mixing up his racing with some stage races and cross-country events. While he is enjoying stage races and longer endurance events, he says that XCO will always remain his main focus.

“I skipped the Marathon Champs in the Western Cape the weekend before so that I could prepare well for the Bloemfontein course,” said Julian. “SA Champs is always a big goal for me. I’m very happy to win – it is a sign that I am back on track with improving my cycling performance. I am so happy to pull off a good result for the team and all those who support and believe in me!”

 U23 Women podium: 1.Bianca Haw 01:36:59 /2.Danielle Strydom 01:42:06 /3.Christie-Leigh Hearder 01:42:41. Photo credit: 📷 Johan Pretorius Photography. View the rest of the event photographs here:  https://go.shr.lc/2NAb0RQ . 

U23 Women podium: 1.Bianca Haw 01:36:59 /2.Danielle Strydom 01:42:06 /3.Christie-Leigh Hearder 01:42:41. Photo credit: 📷 Johan Pretorius Photography. View the rest of the event photographs here: https://go.shr.lc/2NAb0RQ

U23 Women’s winner, Bianca Haw (Red Bull Cannondale), completed her five-lap race in 01:36:59 with Danielle Strydom second (+5’05”) and Christie-Leigh Hearder in third place (+5’40”). Bianca had no expectations coming into the race as she had been on the road to recovery since a major crash in March, which has caused her to miss most of her events this season.

This race was an important one for her as she is working hard for a potential UCI World Championships team selection. “I have many ambitions and goals in cycling but the past few years have been a bit tough for me. Slowly but surely, I am getting my mojo back, as well as confidence to set out again for what I want to achieve in this sport,” said the Underberg local.

Mountain bike Cross-country is the only Olympic discipline for mountain biking and is run in a lap-race format. Short laps of approximately five kilometres were completed, with the number of laps dependent on the rider’s age category. The race crowned National Champions in each age categories, from the youngest (Nippers) to the oldest (Masters) and everyone in between.

The next big events are the 2018 Mercedes-Benz UCI Mountain Bike World Cups in Mont-Saint-Anne (CAN) 10-12 August and La Bresse (FRA) 24-26 August, with the season culminating in the 2018 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships presented by Mercedes-Benz, taking place in Lenzerheide (SUI) from 5-9 September.

Photo credit: Johan Pretorius Photography. View the rest of the event photographs here: https://go.shr.lc/2NAb0RQ

To view more race photos like these above, email shawn@leflairdesigns.co.za with your race number to receive your photo free of charge.

Summary of Results – 2018 SA XCO Championships – Happy Valley – 21 July 2018

Elite Men (7 laps)

1.Alan Hatherly 01:38:20
2.Matthew Beers 01:41:25
3.Arno Du Toit 01:42:22

Elite Women (5 laps)

1.Mariske Strauss 01:24:02
2.Candice Lill 01:25:21
3.Cherie Redecker 01:27:37

U23 Men (6 laps)

1.Julian Jessop 01:32:15
2.Henry Liebenberg 01:32:46
3.Jarrod Van Den Heever 01:35:08

U23 Women (5 laps)

1.Bianca Haw 01:36:59
2.Danielle Strydom 01:42:06
3.Christie-Leigh Hearder 01:42:41

Junior Men (5 laps)

1.Daniel Van Der Walt 01:17:19
2.Jamie Penfold 01:19:02
3.Tristan Nortje 01:19:30

Junior Women (4 laps)

1.Tiffany Keep 01:15:54
2.Emma Van Coller 01:17:37
3.Frances Janse Van Rensburg 01:23:10

Youth Men (4 laps)

1.Luke Moir 00:59:51
2.Travis Stedman 01:02:29
3.Aaron Heyneke 01:04:30

Youth Women (3 laps)

1.Chante Olivier 00:56:33
2.Jone Van Eeden 01:01:48
3.Chloe Bateson 01:02:50

Sub Junior Boys (3 laps)

1.Marcell Swartz 00:53:10
2.Philip Van Schalkwyk 00:54:05
3.Bertie Anderson 00:54:21

Sub Junior Girls (2 laps)

1.Emily Van Heerden 00:44:21
2.Riley Smith 00:46:17
3.Lilian Baber 00:47:50

Nipper Boys (3 laps)

1.Connor Wright 00:29:07
2.Neil Van Der Vyver 00:30:28
3.Tanner Beetge 00:32:27

Nipper Girls (2 laps)

1.Danel De Jager 00:24:15
2.Jana Kotze 00:29:12
3.Chloe Allison 00:34:06

Sprog Boys (4 laps)

1.Francois De Jager 00:36:51
2.Adriaan Louw 00:37:44
3.Jeandre Ungerer 00:37:48

Sprog Girls (3 laps)

1.Hannah Elliott 00:31:29
2.Jodi Mackinnon 00:35:56
3.Carla Jansen Van Vuuren 00:41:36

Veteran Women (3 laps)

1.Brenda Potts 01:12:04
2.Christelle Le Roux 01:23:07

Sub Veteran Men (5 laps)

1.Matthys Koekemoer 01:25:14
2.Dion Froneman 01:25:33
3.Malcolm Isaacs 01:31:16

Veteran Men (4 laps)

1.Nico Pfitzenmaier 01:06:57
2.Mark Moir 01:08:56
3.Sean Henderson 01:09:55

Master Men (3 laps)

1.Alan Van Coller 00:54:18
2.Dirk Maarsingh 00:55:07
3.Marc Ruwiel 01:05:13

ENDS