Media

Last hurrah for Marais and Bergstrom at Quattro ROAG Series

Written By: Tim Whitfield

THE 2017 Quattro ROAG Series wraps up on Sunday when the Safire Baynesfield Classic gives riders and trail runners their final chance to collect points and improve series positions.

The major competitions are already decided with Stuart Marais and Natalie Bergstrom confirmed as the two Quattro ROAG Series mountain bike champions for 2017 and their bank managers can smile at the R25 000 first prizes coming their way, while Mark Mackenzie and Wendy Mills are clear winners of the trail running series.

However, there is still plenty to ride and run for in the final event with other categories still to be decided, and even Marais will be aiming to make a small bit of history if he can win the 65km race on Sunday.

Marais is currently leading on 586 points in the men’s MTB series and cannot be beaten regardless of results, however, if he wins the Howick resident could become the first rider to win the ROAG Series with a perfect score. He currently has one second place from the Sugar Rush Classic among his results, but because best six results count, he would discard that and get a perfect 600-point score if he were to win on Sunday.

Currently the ever-consistent Leeroy Emslie is second and David Low third, however fourth placed Brennan Anderson can still mathematically claim third with a good result on Sunday.

In the women, Bergstrom has the title wrapped up for 2017 with Christie-Leigh Hearder safe in second. Third is still up for grabs with Nadine Nunes in pole position there, but Belinda Mason and even fifth-placed Tarryn Morgan could unseat her with good results on Sunday.

The trail running logs show Mackenzie well clear in the men, but there is a tight fight for second with just two points separating David Mercer and Haydn Bam, and presuming both run in the final event, pretty much the runner who wins their personal battle will take second spot on the series.

In the women’s trail running log, Mills and Alison Wasserfall are secure in the top two positions and Karen Maiden just needs a finish to probably claim third.

In the various age-groups the standout performers are Sam Moore in the youth, Bergstrom in the women’s vets and Frances Marsburg in the grand masters, who all have a perfect score of 600 points in their respective age categories, while former Sharks centre Jeremy Thomson is among a few riders who could achieve the same, if he wins the masters category.

Baynesfield offers riders the option of a 65km, 47km, 20km or 10km mountain bike ride while runners have a 10km and 5km to choose from.

Latest Quattro ROAG Series standings (after eight of nine events)
MTB Men
1. Stuart Marais 586
2. Leeroy Emslie 448
3. David Low 375
4. Brennan Anderson 343
5. Jedson Tooms 311
6. Carl Calverley 260
7. Hendrik Bester 258
7. Nathan Treble 258
9. Carl Adendorff 230
10. Jordan Wisdom 218

MTB Women
1. Natalie Bergstrom 546
2. Christie-Leigh Hearder 492
3. Nadine Nunes 323
4. Belinda Mason 302
5. Tarryn Morgan 283

Trail Run Men
1. Mark Mackenzie 485
2. David Mercer 277
3. Haydn Bam 275

Trail Run Women
1. Wendy Mills 584
2. Alison Wasserfall 340
3. Karen Maiden 201

Marais and Bergstrom wrap up Quattro ROAG Series

Written By: Tim Whitfield

STUART Marais and Natalie Bergstrom confirmed they will walk away with the biggest series prizes in South African mountain biking when they wrapped up the Quattro ROAG Series titles at the aQuelle Tour de Krantz at the weekend.

Marais, from Howick in the KZN Midlands, won the Harburg event overall, finishing four minutes ahead of Leeroy Emslie which ensures Emslie now has no mathematical chance of claiming the overall men’s series title.

In the women’s event Bergstrom ended second to a resurgent Bianca Haw with Christie-Leigh Hearder claiming third. That result means Bergstrom has now accumulated enough points to ensure Hearder cannot overtake the North Coast resident.

Marais has been the star of KZN cycling this season with a series of impressive results which put him on the edge of selection for the South African Cross Country team to race at the UCI World Championships.

Since the disappointment of missing the team last month, the Howick local has claimed two wins from two KZN races and goes into next weekend’s Mandela Day MTB Dash event as an overwhelming favourite.

Emslie finished second at the weekend with Sthembiso Masango, the up-and-coming RMB Change a Life rider, claiming third, less than a minute behind Emslie. Masango will be travelling to Perth early next month to take part in the World Championships in his second selection for the South African team.

There is still one event remaining in the ROAG Series and despite the winners of the R25 000 first prizes for both the men’s and women’s series being confirmed, there is still plenty to race for in the final event, the Safire Baynesfield Classic in September.

Marais will be aiming to become the first rider to get a perfect 600-point haul with six wins. Currently he has five wins and a second place and a win at Baynesfield will allow him to discard the second position from the Sugar Rush Classic when he was beaten by Julian Jessop earlier in the year.

And behind Marais and Emslie, David Low and Brennan Anderson are fighting for the final spot on the series podium with just 32 points separating the two in third and fourth positions respectively.

In the women’s series, Nadine Nunes is just 21 points ahead of Belinda Mason in the fight for third.

In the trail running event, both Mark McKenzie and Wendy Mills added to their leads in the Quattro ROAG Series and are also confirmed as the two winners of the newly instituted trail running series.

McKenzie ended second at the Tour de Krantz behind Ewoud Grobler while Mills was the women’s winner, ahead of Patricia Dammann.

In the ROAG Series McKenzie now has a hefty 167-point lead, but there is a massive battle for second with David Mercer just two points ahead of Haydn Bam.

Meanwhile Mills enjoys a massive 181-points lead over second-placed Alison Wasserfall in the women’s series with Karen Maiden third, just 23 points ahead of Candy Sclanders as they prepare for the final event in September.

Marais claims Eston scalp after last gasp drama

Written By: Dave Macleod

Eston – Stuart Marais grabbed the top honours in the Illovo Eston mountain bike race, capitalising on drama in the final minutes of the race, while Bianca Haw romped home in the women’s race as part of her World Champs preparations.

Howick-based Marais was chasing Julian Jessop into the finish at the Eston Farmers Club when Jessop went down after colliding with a slower rider on the course, leaving the door open for Marais to grab the title.

“This means a lot to me,” said the Scott/EAP Active rider. “I have been looking for this title for the last four or five years.”

Marais and Jessop (PYGA Euro Steel) got away from the start fastest, with the iconic King of the Mountain prize just four kilometres into the race.

“Julian (Jessop) and I were able to sprint for it and I was able to just edge ahead of him,” said Marais.

After the King of the Mountain climb the pair was joined by Andrew Hill (TIB Insurance) and they worked together for most of the race, until the leading trio inadvertently took a wrong turn, with about 15 kilometres to go.

“It was at a rough river crossing and I think we all went on last year’s route instead of following the markers,” said Hill. “When we realised the mistake, we all turned back together. Luckily no-one else had gone through ahead of us.”

Hill, the winner of the recent Imana Wild Ride, suffered the most from the unplanned detour, as he punctured and fell off the front bunch.

After playing cat and mouse in the lead-in to the finish, Jessop got the jump on Marais and was leading going into the final few turns into the Eston Farmers Club finish.

“We saw the slow rider ahead of us and called “Track, please get out of the way”. He started sprinting and as we went around the corner, he went down, and Julian slipped out as well with him,” said Marais.

“I was lucky. I was able to see it and brake in time and got around both of them,” he said.

“It’s great to take this title, but I would have liked to win it under different circumstances,” he added.

Hill bounced back from his puncture to claim third ahead of Brennan Anderson, with Leeroy Emslie holding off Sthembiso Mbatha for fifth.

In the women’s race Red Bull’s Bianca Haw made the women’s title race her own early on, and immersed herself in a dice to race through the men’s A batch ahead of her.

Bouncing back from glandular fever, Haw is building towards her Cross Country World Champs Under 23 bid in Cairns, Australia later in the year, and said she was thrilled with her form over the demanding 64 kilometre course.

“I was a little worried because there were a lot of strong girls on the startline,” said Haw. “I started feeling comfortable on the climb and sprinted for the King of the Mountain, which I just managed to win.”

“Tiffany (Keep) stayed with me for a while and when she dropped off I was on my own, but it was great catching the guys in A batch,’ she added.

“I did blow at the end though, thinking it was 60 kays when it was actually 64,” she chirped.

She coasted home unchallenged to take the title by more than ten minutes from a frantic three-way dice for second won by Tiffany Keep from Hayley Smith and veteran Nathalie Bergstrom.

The well supported 40km aQuellé Half Marathon was impressively won by Bradley Rowlett, while the signature 18km Stihl Tala 18km Family Ride took the runners and riders close to the White Rhino in the Tala Private Collection Game Reserve.

The inaugural trail run was well supported as the runners took advantage of the early morning outing through Tala enabled them to do one of the MTB races as well.

The 18km Trail Run was won by Anele Dlamini, while seasoned trail running star Su Don-Wauchope pipped Nsiki Mbambo to the top honours in the women’s race, before swopping her trail running shoes for her mountain bike as she joined her whole family on the 18km Stihl Tala Family Fun Ride MTB race.

SUMMARY OF RESULTS
60km Illovo Eston MTB Marathon
1.Stuart Marais 2:30:46
2.Julian Jessop 2:30:54
3.Andrew Hill 2:32:04
4.Brennan Anderson 2:34:02
5.Leeroy Emslie 2:35:35
6.Sthembiso Masango 2:35:36
7.Bryan Powell 2:35:37
8.Jedson Tooms 2:38:23
9.Wayde Finch 2:38:33
10.Jason Davies2:38:55

60km Illovo Eston MTB Marathon – Women
1.Bianca Haw 2:51:27
2.Tiffany Keep 3:03:06
3.Hayley Smith 3:03:06
4.Nathalie Bergstrom 3:03:08
5.Christie-Leigh Hearder 3:10:16

aQuellé 40km Half Marathon
1.Bradley Rowlett 1:41:50
2.Travis Stedman 1:44:23
3.Kusaselihle Ngidi 1:45:33
4.Njabulo Cele 1:45:35
5.Dean Worthmann 1:45:51

18km Illovo Eston Trail Run Men
1.Anele Dlamini 1:03:33
2.Mthobisi Mzolo 1:07:43
3.Joe Maphumulo 1:07:49
4.Andrew Houston 1:09:24
5.Ayanda Shabalala 1:09:24

18km Illovo Eston Trail Run Women
1.Su Don-Wauchope 1:24;12
2.Nsiki Mbambo 1:26:04
3.Patricia Dammann 1:31:13
4.Wendy Mills 1:32:58
5.Catherine Robson 1:38:17

9km Illovo Eston Trail run
1. Chad Stevenson 37:05
2.Mdu Zondi 37:47
3.Senzo Shange 41:48
4.Jeramie Higgins 41:48
5.Dane Davies 42:23

Bergstrom eyeing prized Eston scalp

Written by: Nick Tatham

Eston – Experienced campaigner Natalie Bergstrom has targeted the upcoming Illovo Eston MTB Challenge on Sunday 6 August as a race where she can make tracks in her pursuit for the overall title in the 2017 Quattro ROAG Series.

The Illovo Eston MTB Challenge is one of the oldest and most prestigious one day classics in the country and stands alone as a race that many of the nation’s top riders pen in their year’s racing calendar.

With the added incentive of ROAG Series points from the Illovo 60km Marathon, Bergstrom is keen to take on the challenge that she missed last year due to a rib injury.

“I am still feeling good,” the 44 year-old commented. “It has been a long season with the SA champs last weekend but my focus is now on the ROAG Series with three races left.

“My aim is to try and win the series overall because I have been on the podium since the first series in 2012 and with only a few races to go the series is still wide open.

“I have won my age category but I am hoping to take the overall ladies title.”

Despite the appeal to the finest mountain bikers, Eston will not see the defending ladies champion back in 2017, however Bergstrom believes it will a tough field to contend against with some strong local riders set to grace the start line with their presence.

“Cherie Redeker has moved overseas permanently which is a pity as she won the race last year but I think the field will be very similar to the one we saw at Karkloof with maybe a few surprises.

“I want to go into the race the same way that I approach all races – with an open mind and go out as hard as I can to try and get a win under my belt.

“I’m just going to give it stick like I always do!” Bergstrom added.

Having missed the 2016 edition of the race through injury, Bergstrom is an experienced enough rider to know what to expect from the track and believes that she will be well prepared for the race in just over a week’s time.

“I don’t think that the course would have changed too much and I have done most of the Eston’s in the past so I don’t think there will be any surprises for me.

“There is always the possibility of a mechanical but I am going to be as ready as I possibly can.

“There is going to be some pressure but I love the pressure which makes me even more excited for the event.

“I am going to go out and do what I have been doing for many years and hopefully I can get the result that I want,” a positive Bergstrom mentioned.

Bergstrom currently leads the ladies ROAG Series standings ahead of Christie-Leigh Hearder in second and Tarryn Morgan in third.

The 2017 Illovo Eston MTB Challenge provides runners and riders with a wide selection of events to take part in. From a mountain biking side there is the Illovo 60km Marathon, the 40km aQuellé Half Marathon, the STIHL Tala Family Ride and the Omnia Kids Ride.

From a trail running perspective the events offers an 18km and 9km run.

Quattro ROAG Series heads into the Drakensberg

By: Tim Whitfield

THE sixth round of the Quattro ROAG MTB and Trail Running Series takes place at one of the most picturesque venues of any event in KZN when the province’s top riders head to the Drakensberg Gardens Spa for a real test of mountain biking and trail running.

Sunday’s Gooderson Drakensberg Gardens MTB & Trail Running Challenge on the purpose-built trails – that include a magnificent mountain-top stretch of natural-rock riding with a spectacular view over the Drakensberg Gardens Valley – will see the fight for the prestigious and lucrative series title resumes after a short mid-winter break.

Stuart Marais is a narrow leader in the ROAG Series with Leeroy Emslie a mere 10 points behind after five of the nine events, while Brennan Anderson and David Low are also both within 35 points of the leader.

However, a key factor is the number of events each rider has competed in so far. Riders have to compete in at least six events and only their best six results count, which makes Marais’ position much stronger.

The Howick resident has only taken part in three events, and with two wins and a second place he is likely to open a gap at the top of the standings when he reaches his full six events, while his nearest rivals have all taken part in at least one more event and so will shortly start discarding results.

In a clash of the ages in the women’s standings, young Christie-Leigh Hearder has a solid 58-point lead over veteran Natalie Bergstrom, but the roles are reversed when compared to the men because Hearder has taken part in one more event than Bergstrom. Once that skew is evened out, they are likely to be neck and neck in the race for the R25 000 first prize.

The Drakensberg Gardens event is held over a route that is likely to suit the cross-country skills of Marais with its short, steep climbs and sections of semi-technical riding. The race offers some of the best single track of any event in the province and is a genuine mountain bike race in the foothills of the Drakensberg.

In the Quattro ROAG Trail Running Series, Mark MacKenzie and Wendy Mills are both comfortable leaders in the men’s and women’s standings and Mills could virtually wrap up the women’s series with a strong showing at the Drakensberg Spa in Saturday’s trail running event.

Current Quattro ROAG MTB Series Standings
(after 5 of 9 events)
MTB Classic
Men
1 Stuart Marais 286 points (3 events completed)
2 Leeroy Emslie 276 (4)
3 Brennan Anderson 259 (5)
4 David Low 252 (4)
5 Jedson Tooms 202 (4)
6 Julian Jessop 186 (2)
6 Carl Calverley 186 (5)
8 Nathan Treble 179 (4)
9 Jason Davies 167 (4)
10 Grant Underwood 152 (5)

Women
1 Christie-Leigh Hearder 418 (5)
2 Natalie Bergstrom 360 (4)
3 Belinda Mason 264 (5)
4 Tarryn Morgan 218 (5)
5 Nadine Nunes 162 (3)
6 Bronwyn Evans 155 (4)
7 Frances Marsburg 147 (5)
8 Carol Thomas 127 (4)
9 Erika Velissariou 119 (3)
10 Andrea De boer 118 (2)

Quattro ROAG Trail Run Standings
Men
1 Mark Mackenzie 302 (4)
2 David Mercer 240 (5)
3 Mthobisi Mzolo 174 (2)
4 Haydn Bam 155 (3)
5 Michael Hind 125 (3)

Women
1 Wendy Mills 420 (5)
2 Alison Wasserfall 260 (4)
3 Karen Maiden 122 (3)
4 Catherine Eberle 97 (3)
5 Joanna Rawlins 76 (2)

Knox powers to another Sappi Karkloof title

Written by : Nick Tatham & Tim Whitfield

Karkloof – Riders took the focus on Sunday at the 2017 Sappi Karkloof Classic Trail Festival with the Sappi 60km Marathon being the highlight, as 2015 race winner Max Knox proved to be far too strong for the rest of the field with Natalie Bergstrom claiming the ladies honours at the Karkloof Country Club.

Conditions were frosty when riders set off to take on the famous Karkloof trails and the early racing was exciting with a bunch of riders on the front led by Lowveld Trekkers’ Knox who pushed the pace hard to try and break up the field up.

“I managed to get a slight gap on the opening climb which gave me the advantage that I needed and I kept my head down from there,” Knox commented.

“The trails are incredible here and we had the SA Marathon Champs last weekend, they should have just had it here this weekend!

“There was a massive race in Mpumamlanga this weekend but I love Karkloof and made the effort to come down and race here.”

South African Marathon Champs was an event that Knox tried to put out of his mind after he pulled out 10km into the race, however it might have been a blessing in disguise going into the Karkloof showdown.

“I had a mechanical at SA champs and so I was feeling really fresh this week and was strong throughout the race today.

“Julian (Jessop) is a strong, young rider and he was always going to be a threat but I just really enjoyed my ride today,” Knox added.

Jessop’s last month of mountain bike racing has been choker-block with a race every weekend; despite this a few small dramas on Sunday didn’t help him in his bid to track down the imperious Knox, meaning he had to settle for his second runner-up finish in as many years.

“With massive races every week as well as university exams starting this last week, it’s been a really hectic time for me.

“I had a few issues today starting with a broken spoke which cost me some time and then I had a lapse of concentration and went the wrong way!

“Although these didn’t help me, I think my biggest problem was that Max was just far too strong for me today,” the Ballito Concept Cyclery star mentioned humbly.

Rounding out the men’s podium was Leeroy Emslie who came home just under three minutes behind Jessop.

The women’s race was always going to be a shoot-out between veteran Natalie Bergstrom and Christie-Leigh Hearder and the pair decided that they would set the pace at the front of the race right from the get-go.

“We pushed hard early on and made the decision that we would work together to get a good gap on the others.

“I could see when we got to about 20km into the race that Christie was starting to hurt, so I knew that it was time for me to put the hammer down.

“The trails were incredible today and the course was a lot faster than it has been in previous years, about 20 minutes faster!

“I have had some problems at the race in the past two years so to get a win here is great. It’s a great feeling to be able to win a race like this when I am the oldest person on the start line,” Bergstrom said with a smile.

Bergstrom dominated the ladies field finishing over eight minutes ahead of Hearder with Andrea de Boer rounding out the women’s 60km podium.

The aQuellé 40km Half Marathon was a showcase of some of the up-and-coming talent on the local mountain biking scene as Travis Steadman cruising to victory ahead Duane Stander in second and Bongukuphiwe Ndlovu in third.

The ladies 40km Half Marathon was won by Frances Janse van Rensberg ahead of Lindsay Everson in second and Pauline Rainbird.

In the popular aQuellé 20km Fun Ride young Jordan Bold took top honours ahead of Jonathan Watts and Mnceblisi Mkhize whilst in the girl’s race Emily van Heerden, Riley Smith and Jodi Mackinnon finished first, second and third.

In the Stihl Karkloof Enduro on Saturday afternoon, Tiaan Odendaal, Sam Bull and Keira Duncan fought a tight battle with multiple South African downhill champion Odendaal just edging to a narrow three-second victory.

By winning the final two of the four timed sections, Odendaal fought back from third place to claim the title from fellow downhill specialist Bull, with the young Duncan third.

Duncan, who was leading after the first two timed sections, will rue his third split which saw him lose seven seconds to his older and more experienced rivals and cost him his chance of victory as he slipped to third, just five seconds behind the winner.

In the women’s event, Sabine ‘Beani’ Thies highlighted her status as arguably the most exciting young rising star on the women’s downhill/enduro circuit with a solid victory over last year’s winner, Kathryn Fourie, while Kim Westbrook claimed third.

Sunday’s action also included another 9km Trail Run which was won by Nicholas de Scally whilst Louize Erasmus was the fastest lady through the 9km course.

More info can be found at www.karkloofmtb.co.za

SUMMARY OF RESULTS – Sappi Karkloof Classic Trail Festival (Day Two)

60km Sappi Marathon
Overall
1.Max Knox 02:29:19
2.Julian Jessop 2:37:28
3.Leeroy Emslie 2:40:01
4.Brennan Anderson 2:42:36
5.Henry Liebenberg 2:43:19
6.Jason Davies 2:47:13
7.Sthembiso Masango 2:47:53
8.Warren Price 2:47:59
9.Natahn Treble 2:48:28
10.Mitchell Ginsberg 2:48:29

Women
1.Natalie Bergstrom 3:08:32
2.Christie-Leigh Hearder 3:16:16
3.Andrea de Boer 3:21:41
4.Nadine Nunes 3:25:37
5.Landy Puddu 3:32:29

aQuellé 40km Half Marathon
Overall
1.Travis Stedman 2:13:52
2.Duane Stander 2:25:30
3.Bongukuphiwa Ndlovu 2:25:45

Women
1.Frances Janse van Rensberg 2:36:29
2.Lindsay Everson 2:54:19
3.Pauline Rainbird 2:54:33

aQuellé 20km Fun Ride
Overall
1.Jordan Bold 49:47
2.Jonathan Watts 53:37
3.Mnceblisi Mkhize 53:44

Girls
1.Emily van Heerden 1:02:29
2.Riley Smith 1:04:50
3.Jodi Mackinnon 1:06:20

Stihl Karkloof Enduro
1.Tiaan Odendaal 13:58
2.Samuel Bull 14:01
3.Keira Duncan 14:03
4.Christopher Pearton 15:25
5.Carl Donaldson 15:36
6.Devlin Fogg 15:39
7.Andre Pretorius 15:42
8.Mark Millar 15:49
9.Craig Scott 15:57
10.Luke Dinkel 16:04

Women
1.Sabine Thies 16:59
2.Kathryn Fourie 17:56
3.Kim Westbrook 19:44

Sappi Karkloof 9km Trail Run
Overall
1.Nicholas de Scally 35:33
2.Dumisani Hlongwane 36:09
3.Roy Newlands 38:31
4.Andrew Neal 38:38
5.Dale Earle 41:05

Women
1.Louize Erasmus 49:18
2.Kate Brading 50:49
3.Nina Gough 52:54
4.Erin Ellerker 53:20
5.Nicholette Spence 53:31

Marais and Keep take the titles at Husqvarna Classic

Written By: Tim Whitfield

Mid-Illovo – Stuart Marais is making a habit of winning mountain bike races this year with the latest victory coming in the Husqvarna Classic Mid-Illovo MTB Challenge and Trail Run on Sunday.

In the main 60km race, the Howick mechanical engineer overcame a fall which could have proved costly, but he picked himself up and rode on to a solid three-minute win over defending champion, Mid-Illovo local Derrin Smith, who in turn was two minutes ahead of the in-form David Low.

In the women’s race, young 16-year-old Tiffany Keep once again showed she is a massive talent by winning her first attempt at the longer 60km event. The Thomas More College schoolgirl beat off the challenge of Christie-Leigh Hearder with veteran Natalie Bergstrom claiming third.

Both Marais and Keep were full of praise for the route which has been designed and created by local farmer Bruce Smith with the help of other local farmers in the area.

“The trails were phenomenal,” said Marais. “They have obviously put in so much work on the course and they have made then absolutely stunning. Everyone said I’d enjoy the race – and I did!

“I had a bit of a mishap on one of the bridges. My front wheel slipped out and I fell off as I was crossing it. Apart from that that I had a good ride and I felt really good.

“This season I would like to try and make a bit of a habit of this winning,” he said with a laugh.

Keep said she also “really enjoyed the single track” and it showed as she kept her older and more experienced rivals at bay on the fun-filled, but tough and testing course.

“I’ve participated in the race before but on the shorter distances – today was the first time I’ve done the 60km,” said the South African junior road team member.

In the 18km iNsingizi Trail Run Derek Wasserfall was dominant, outpacing Mark Mackenzie and Rhain Hoskins by almost three minutes despite a silly mistake which could have proved costly.Wasserfall, who also won the Husqvarna Mid-Illovo Trail Run in 2012, said he was impressed by the course, but also had to overcome some issues before claiming the win.

“It was a very nice route – very fast which, as a road runner, is what I like,” said Wasserfall

“Mark Mackenzie who finished second and I ran together for the first part and then I got away on one of the hills. But then I went off the route and had to get back which meant I was about seventh. They told us which markers to follow and then I went and followed some of the mountain bike markers – it was completely my fault.”

In the women’s trail run, Xoli Madida finished up just over two minutes ahead of Robyn Greyling and Wendy Mills.

Jacqui Cochran, the marketing manager from Husqvarna, was delighted with the event:
“It is obvious from the riders and runners reactions that this race just continues to improve every year. It is fantastic to be involved in an event that is celebrating its 10th anniversary, and still continues to get better and better each year, while at the same time somehow manages to puts so much back into the community in the Mid-Illovo area.

“I think having the race here is such a win-win scenario: The riders and runners get to enjoy a fantastic event; we are able to reward a community that is a big supporter of Husqvarna; and with the help of entrants and other corporates we can contribute to uplifting schools and the community – like with 240 Uzwelo school bags which are pledged to children in the area by race goers and corporates such as Illovo.”

For the less serious riders and runners there was also the 45km Safire MTB race and a relatively gentle 18km Gwahumbe Family Ride as well as the 9km iNsingizi Trail Run.

RESULTS:
60km MTB
Men
1 Stuart Marais 2:30:41
2 Derrin Smith 2:33:56
3 David Low 2:35:56
4 Brennan Anderson 2:36:21
5 Komborero Bere 2:38:12
Women
1 Tiffany Keep 2:56:04
2 Christie-Leigh Hearder 2:57:50
3 Natalie Bergstrom 3:01:15
18km Trail Run
Men
1 Derek Wasserfall 1:24:33
2 Mark Mackenzie 1:27:12
3 Rhain Hoskins 1:27:22
Women
1 Xoli Madida 1:36:47
2 Robyn Greyling 1:39:06
3 Wendy Mills 1:42:16

Watershed weekend for Quattro ROAG Series

By: Tim Whitfield

THIS weekend sees the fourth leg of the Quattro ROAG Series for mountain bikers and trail runners, and it represents a watershed for the popular KZN-based series which offers the biggest prizemoney of any mountain biking series in the country.

With competitors needing to compete in six of the nine events to qualify as a series finisher, any rider who has not already taken part in one of the first three events needs to compete in the Husqvarna Classic Mid-Illovo MTB Challenge on Sunday to have any chance of qualifying for the R25 000 first prize.

The Compendium Hill 2 Hill which took place over Easter saw two new leaders emerge in the mountain biking series. Leeroy Emslie’s fourth place in the tough 100km marathon from Pietermaritzburg to Shongweni allowed him to take over the series lead in the men’s category.

His 202 point from three events put him a meagre 22 points ahead of Stuart Marais, who missed the Hill 2 Hill due to other racing commitments in Gauteng.

In the women’s division, young Christie-Leigh Hearder’s consistent finishes has allowed her to open up a sizable gap in the standings. Her 246 points are a 60 points more than second-placed veteran Natalie Bergstrom.

In the trail running log, Mark Mackenzie grew his lead and goes into the fourth event with a 57-point gap over David Mercer, despite finding the pace tough at the Hill 2 Hill trail run where he finished 12th.

In the women’s trail running, Wendy Mills and Alison Wasserfall have opened up a huge lead over the chasing bunch with Mills in pole position on 260-points with Wasserfall 44 points back.

The 60km Husqvarna Classic is one of the most popular one day mountain bike events and the race organiser’s emphasis on superb trails means it is rare for a rider to not drive back from the event with a smile on his or her face.

The event was also one of the first mountain bike races in the province to realise that a trail running event was a good addition to the day’s outdoor offerings. This has meant the Mid Illovo Classic is the oldest trail run event to be included in the new Quattro ROAG Trail Running Series which this year takes place in conjunction with the mountain biking series.

After the Husqvarna Classic Mid-Illovo MTB Challenge this weekend, riders and runners have a month to recover until the Sappi Karkloof Classic in on May 27-28.

Latest Quattro ROAG Series Standings

MTB: Men

1 Leeroy Emslie 202

2 Stuart Marais 186

3 Jedson Tooms 151

4 David Low 142

5 Brennan Anderson 131

6 Andrew Johnson 130

=6 Hendrik Bester 130

8 Matthew Wilkinson 110

9 Carl Calverley 102

10 Brendon Davids 100

=10 Julian Jessop 100

MTB: Women

1 Christie-leigh Hearder 246

2 Natalie Bergstrom 186

3 Belinda Mason 149

4 Tarryn Morgan 139

5 Jeannie Bomford 100

=5 Cherie Redecker 100

7 Frances Marsburg 88

8 Bronwyn Evans 78

=8 Erika Velissariou 78

=8 Linda Erskine 78

Trail running: Men

1 Mark Mackenzie 216

2 David Mercer 159

3 Haydn Bam 115

4 Mthobisi Mzolo 100

=4 Mthokozisi Chamane 100

Trail running: Women

1 Wendy Mills 260

2 Alison Wasserfall 216

3 Erin Bargate 100

=3 Amy Burger 100

5 Patricia Dammann 86

Husqvarna Classic Mid-Illovo MTB Challenge & Trail Run – Sunday 30 April 2017

By: Tim Whitfield

The winner of the women’s race at the 2016 Husqvarna Classic Mid-Illovo MTB Challenge, Jeannie Dreyer, said after the event that she “did not think much more can be done to improve the route.”

She was wrong.

The race organisers have managed to tweak and develop the course for the showcase 60km race this year and have made it even better than last year according to course designer Bruce Smith.

The 60km Husqvarna Classic MTB X-Treme on April 30 will attract the cream of KZN mountain biking and by all accounts the riders in the area are in for a treat with Smith saying the race has to “keep upgrading and changing the trails to remain competitive.”

Smith, the father of last year’s race winner Derrin Smith, is a farmer in the Mid Illovo area and leads the team of local farmers who design and build the 60km course. He said they have introduced more free-flowing single track which is not as technical as in 2016.

“The route for the first 30km is similar to last year with lots of single track going through iNsingizi game farm. These are technical but worth it.

“After 30km last year the race went on a lot of dirt road,” added Smith. “As we’re getting more competitive as a race we want to keep the riders coming back so we’ve got to keep upgrading and changing the trails, so we’ve introduced more free-flowing single track in this section.

“The final 12km remains very similar to last year, except we have cut out some of the climbs which proved a bit tough for a lot of riders last year.”

But the day is not just about the racing snakes who are looking to test their legs over 60km of challenging mountain biking. This is the 10th anniversary Husqvarna Classic and over the past decade the race has developed into one of the must-do events on the calendar because it offers something for everybody.

For those mountain bikers who feel 60km is too much of a challenge, there is a standard 45km Safire MTB race and a relatively gentle 18km Gwahumbe Family Ride. And the younger set are also catered for with two 10km fun rides, one for the over 12s and one for the under 12s.

The Husqvarna Classic was also one of the early movers when it came to incorporating trail runs into the day’s activities and they have reaped the rewards with relatively big fields for their 18km and 9km iNsingizi Trail Runs.

The Husqvarna Classic is the fourth leg of the prestigious nine-race Quattro ROAG Series which brings riders together for a Grand Prix-type series of events. Riders win points for each event depending on their finishing position at each race.

Stuart Marais is currently leading the men’s MTB ROAG Series tables and is expected to line up and add to his points tally at this popular weekend.

For the first time this year the trail runs will be incorporated into a ROAG Trail Running Series as well.

But perhaps the last word should belong to Dreyer, who has raced and won events all over the world.

“Being able to do some game spotting while riding is a real treat,” she said after enjoying her ride to victory in 2016. “The variety of tracks and scenery within the race keeps it interesting and exciting to ride.

“It is most definitely one of the most exciting races in KZN,” – and it now got even better for the 2017 riders.

Entries are open via www.roag.co.za for all events and will close on April 26 at midnight, but late entries will be accepted on the day. Do your bit! Give an Uzwelo school bag to an underprivileged Mid-Illovo child, when you add a R130 donation to your entry.

Registration begins at 05.30 on the day, with the first MTB race (60km) starting at 07h30.

Davids and Dreyer get their hattricks

By: Tim Whitfield

Brendon Davids and Jeannie Dreyer were a step above their opposition as they both collected their third wins at the 100km Compendium Hill 2 Hill Mountain Bike Marathon from Pietermaritzburg to Hillcrest on Saturday.

For Davids, who is in the process of transitioning to a road rider, the victory was particularly sweet as he recorded his third win in three years to match the performance of Burry Stander who won the first three Hill 2 Hill races in 2006 to 2008.

Both Davids and Dreyer were able to enjoy the final few kilometres of the grueling race with massive leads, safe in the knowledge that only a devastating catastrophe could derail their hat-trick hopes.

Davids took the win in a time of 3:52:56, more than 10 minutes ahead of Travis Walker who outsprinted Andrew Hill to claim second and ensure a repeat of the 2016 top three.

Dreyer crossed the line in an impressive 31st position overall after breaking away early and riding a solo race for nearly 85km. Her time of 4:51:38, more than 21 minutes ahead of second placed Christie-Leigh Hearder, is even more impressive because she was unable to draft any other rider due to the rule that men cannot interfere in the women’s race.

The race from Pietermaritzburg to Hillcrest started in cool conditions and just after the riders set off from Alexandra Park it was immediately clear Davids was the rider to beat. With his rivals sitting on his wheel and making full use of his slipstream, Davids opted to adopt a very aggressive race strategy and he was largely responsible for quickly whittling the lead group down to a small and very elite bunch as they rode out of Pietermaritzburg.

At the first StaminoGro King of the Hills hot spot, Walker was quickest up the final part of the climb with Davids and Andrew Hill following. It was then these three and Brandon Stewart who fought it out for the rest of the first-half of the course. Walker claimed the second hotspot and was just behind David’s at the third to take the overall StaminoGro King of the Hills title.

But David’s finally had had enough of the other riders conservative strategies. He “put the hammer down” and only Walker could go with him. Walker’s challenge soon faded and the gap quickly ballooned quickly.

“I rode quite an aggressive race from the start because I was marked the whole time and nobody was prepared to roll through,” he said after crossing the line.

“I actually decided not to go for the King of the Hills because everybody was just chasing me down, so I waited and did the same as I did last year and went hard just before the midway point.

“Travis came with me this time and then I put the pressure on again with about 45km to go. Â I ended up putting myself under pressure. I was actually right on the rivet until the big climb at Hill n’ Dale with 30km to go.

“I think after racing on the road I now only start really ticking over after about two hours so once we got to there it was almost like I went on to autopilot and I was able to keep it steady.

“The course is very difficult now. The new stuff is great and is much better from a mountain biking perspective.”

There was always one only one winner in the women’s race with Dreyer building a big lead on the climb to the first Queen of the Hills hotspot and she was never challenged as she rode home in an impressive solo ride of almost 85 kilometres.

Young Christie-Leigh Hearder rode a steady race to finished second with Candice Parker-Dennison third, just ahead of Sandy Haywood and Cindy Theunissen.

Results:

1 Brendon Davids 3:52:56

2 Travis Walker 4.03.39

3 Andrew Hill 4.03.42

4 Leeroy Emslie 4.13.00

5 Andrew Johnson 4.14.16

Women

1 Jeannie Dreyer 4.51.38

2 Christie-Leigh Hearder 5.12.32

3 Candice Parker-Dennison 5.26.05

4 Sandra Haywood 5.29.48

5 Cindy Theunissen 5.29.58