The beautiful KwaZulu-Natal autumn sun greeted the cross-country enthusiasts with temperatures in the high thirties, but delightful winds, amidst the dry and dusty conditions.

The first twist of the day, was when the Nippers and Sprogs races were moved an hour out due to there being a swarm of bees under the bridge on the course they were to ride. Course designer Nick Floros and his team quickly set to the task of safely smoking the bees away from the course. For the safety of the youngsters, however, their race began on a slightly altered course away from any possible danger of lurking insects.

ccs-62657-0-29929900-1460906369.jpgWilliam Luxford was part of the large Maritzburg College contingent at the 2016 KZNMTN Provincial XCO Cup Series #3 at St. Ives MTB Park on Saturday 16 April. Photo: Paul Botma.

The women’s overall race began soon after that, with all the riders starting together due to the smaller women’s field taking part (many were taking part in events in Europe). The Elite Women’s title was claimed by South Coast local, Candice Parker-Dennison.

The first under-23 and overall man across the line was Kargo Pro MTB Team’s Alan Hatherly. The Elite Men’s competition was won by Stuart Marais, with second and third taken by Jedson Tooms and Tyron Bird respectively.

Bird, who had spent close to ten months off the bike, was happy with his podium position. “It was flipping hard! But I’m not too bummed with my finish. I didn’t pre-ride the course, so it was like a lucky packet and I didn’t know what to expect. I remember asking how much longer I had to those on the outside and they told me three laps. I didn’t think I’d make it, but I managed to find some hidden energy and it worked out,” he said.

“I finally got into a great rhythm on lap three, and then ran out of that explosive energy,” he laughed.

Bird, who has been suffering with Glandular Fever for over a year, is happy to be back on the bike, feeling the passion for riding once again. “I had so many goals coming into the year, but after being realistic about my health, I’m just so happy to be on my bike,” he said.

A surprise rider greeted the Elite Men’s race on the start line, when SA National Elite Women’s XCO Champion, Cherie Redecker, joined the race for a training ride.

“I was meant to be in Germany and also at an Italian Cup race, but since I got sick after the African Continental Champs in Lesotho, I decided to rather give those a skip and recover well, and instead of just going over for that, myself and my coach John Wakefield decided that it would be a good idea to train here,” she said.

ccs-62657-0-74053000-1460906365.jpgSA Elite Women's National XCO Champion, Cherie Vale, popped in for a visit and rode with the Elite Men at the 2016 KZNMTN Provincial XCO Cup Series #3 at St. Ives MTB Park on Saturday 16 April. Photo: Paul Botma.

Once again local to KwaZulu-Natal after recently relocating, Redecke decided to spice her training up a bit. “With the KZN Cup having not many of the girls here, he (Wakefield) said that I should see if I could race with the Elite Men. I thought it was a bit ambitious, but it’s really great having to push yourself extra hard. I had to keep going because there were guys behind me and guys in front of me and I didn’t want Alan or Stuart to lap me so it was really good preparation for the World Cup and the support was fantastic and really, really cool,” she added.

The Youth Women’s category was claimed by Courtney Smith, with second placed Megan Bircher crossing the finish line on her feet. “It was a good race,” said Bircher. “The start was great and from there on I was in the front. Unfortunately I rode the course blind so I didn’t know what to expect. When it got to the technical section, Courtney managed to pass me, and from then on I was just trying to chase her and catch up to her. On my last lap I fell in the rock garden and my chain twisted. About 800 metres after that, it snapped. The rest of the course I had to run. It wasn’t my favourite because I’m not the biggest fan of running, especially in this heat, but it happens to everyone,” she said. Due to a broken collarbone, regular Youth Women’s podium finisher, Tiffany Keep, could not take part, but stood on the sidelines and supported her friends as they rode and ran past.

Another impressive surprise was the large contingent of pupils from Maritzburg College taking part.

Maritzburg College’s Gerhard Erasmus said: “We started cycling at the beginning of the year as an official sport. Well it’s been since 2015 but I’ve taken over since the beginning of the year. We’ve arranged transport to boys twice a week for training, and a race or activity every weekend. The boys love cycling, and that’s why they’re out here. There are still a lot of cyclists with lots of potential. Although it doesn’t seem that our boys have risen to the top just yet, I think that all the structures and systems that we have in place: introducing outside coaches and investing in our high performance centre, we’ll see the guys coming out onto the podium very shortly.”

Erasmus mentioned that the numbers of boys taking part were growing. “Mountain biking and cycling are not something that you need to promote, because it’s in boys, it’s what they love to do. They just do it spontaneously, they’re so enthusiastic, and it’s just amazing to see the guys out there getting so much enjoyment and fun as a school sport,” he concluded.

Summary of Results – KZNMTB Provincial XCO Cup Series #3 – 16 April 2016

Elite Men

Stuart Marais 01:25:40
Jedson Tooms 01:33:21
Tyron Bird 01:34:34

Elite Women

Candice Parker-Dennison 01:42:53
Roxanne Vale 01:58:37

Junior Men

Dean Wortmann 01:06:44
Ryan Naude 01:08:33
Cayde Muldoon 01:12:01

U23 Men

Alan Hatherly 01:24:29
Marco Joubert 01:33:54

Youth Men

Cian Leveridge 00:54:43
Joshua Clipstone 00:55:23
Aaron Michell 00:55:52

Youth Women

Courtney Smith 01:01:55
Megan Bircher 01:05:19

Sub Junior Boys

Travis Stedman 00:59:12
Mitchel Potgieter 01:00:48
Matthew Millward 01:04:34

Sub Junior Girls

Sabine Thies 01:00:58
Chloe Bateson 01:01:15
Sarah Ryan 01:11:45

Sub Vets Men

Carl Calverley 01:16:55
Sean Merredew 01:17:59
Bradley Rowlett 01:20:53

Sub Vets Women

Nadine Nunes 01:04:08

Vets Men

Warren Price 01:19:34
Ewan Cochran 01:20:26
Hendrik Bester 01:21:54

Master Men

Charles Young 01:12:47
Brian Magor 01:13:41
Tony Stark 01:17:15

Master Women

Marie du Toit 00:50:24

Grand Master Men

Mike Staphorst 01:25:42

Grand Master Women

Frances Marsburg 00:54:18

Nipper Boys

Aiden Wright 04:25 (Average time)
Connor Wright 04:30 (Average time)
Luca Zietsman 04:41 (Average time)

Nipper Girls

Hannah Elliot 05:24 (Average time)
Derryn Millward 08:27 (Average time)

Sprog Boys

Jonathan Watts 04:13 (Average time)
Nicholas de Bruin 04:17 (Average time)
Jayden Moolman 04:46 (Average time)

Sprog Girls

Emma Clipstone 05:07 (Average time)
Riley Smith 05:19 (Average time)