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The events that formed part of the MTN National MTB Series in the past have all become institutions on the local and international racing calendars. Advendurance - the company behind the MTN National MTB Series - have made some changes to the list of events that will be part of the 2014 Series.

Key to the success of the MTN National MTB Series has always been their carful consideration of their dates to allow South Africans to shine on the international cycling stage. This is why Advendurance director Fritz Pienaar and his team went the extra mile planning the 2014 dates to not only help South Africans shine at the Absa Cape Epic but also at the UCI World Marathon Championships hosted in KwaZulu Natal next year.

Pienaar and his Advendurance team took the international calendar into account to make it more attractive for foreigners to come race on South African soil. The current economic climate makes it near impossible for our young riders to base themselves in Europe to gain international racing experience.

Four of the eight races in the MTN National MTB Series are recognized as fully fledged international events making it easier for local riders to get international racing exposure. The MTN Sabie and MTN Clarens events form part of the UCI World Series while the MTN Tulbagh and MTN Hilton Nationals are also listed on the international calendar.

Riders competing in the 2014 Absa Cape Epic (23-30 March) could start their preparation by competing in the MTN Dullstroom on 8 February. Two weeks later it is the world series event and MTN Sabie (22 February) followed by the MTN Tulbagh (15 March).

One of the buzzwords in endurance sport is high altitude training. The MTN Dullstroom National is a must do for anyone keen to test themselves at altitude. Dullstroom (2100m above sea level) is listed in the Notes from Higher Grounds: An Altitude Training Guide for Athletes as one of the top 15 high altitude training venues for international athletes. Advendurance have spent a lot of time and energy over the last year to develop new trails in the region ensuring this will be a real mountain bike route on par with the rest of the series.

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It could just happen that South Africa becomes the hub of the international mountain biking scene from 8 February to 30 March. Pienaar and his Advendurance team have also took the World Marathon Championships (29 June) into account when they planned the MTN National MTB Series calendar.

The MTN Hilton National (22 June) takes place just one week before the World Marathon MTB Championships in Pietermaritzburg. Pienaar predicts that quite a few of the top international riders will be competing at Hilton so as to get a feel for the local racing conditions.

The ever popular Van Gaalen event previously part of the Nissan TrailSeeker Series is now also part of the MTN National MTB Series next year.

The Barberton and Wellington events are the races that fall away in the 2014 Series. Asked why for the first time in 13 years the Barberton event won't be part of the MTN National MTB Series, Pienaar simply said that a change is sometimes as good as a holiday. “Don’t get me wrong. Barberton is fantastic race we just felt it was time for a change to freshen up the series a bit with new exciting routes and venues".

The 2014 MTN National MTB Series will also be more compact as a result and will span eight months as opposed to the ten in 2013 making for more exciting racing

“We are always careful that we don’t stagnate in our way of thinking as organizers of the MTN National MTB Series. We see the MTN Dullstroom event as a new challenge. What I personally like about it, is that it is a real weekend breakaway for families. After racing there is so much to do and see in Dullstroom. It is very similar to Clarens.”

The series does not only cater for the top professionals and international riders but through the various distances on offer the masses also get to ride the pristine routes designed by the Advendurance team. The Nissan National Half Marathon Series coincides with the MTN National MTB Series and usually takes place the day after the main MTN National MTB Ultra Marathon and the MTN Marathon events.

The core emphasis of the Nissan National Half Marathon Series is developing junior and youth mountain biking while providing an easier option for all the weekend warriors who are just looking for awesome trails and well organized events.

The 2013 addition of an under23 category in the MTN Marathon event aimed at encouraging growth in the "gap years" for young riders between the junior and elite categories is hoped to enable them to bridge the jump to be able to compete and not just ride in ultra-marathon races.

The 2014 MTN National MTB Series driven by Nissan dates

1. 8-9 February - MTN Dullstroom

2. 22-23 February – MTN Sabie (UCI World Series)

3. 15 March – MTN Tulbagh (UCI International Event)

4. 3-4 May – MTN Clarens (UCI World Series)

5. 24-25 May - MTN Van Gaalen

6. 14-15 June - MTN Rooiberg

7. 22 June – MTN Hilton (UCI International Event)

8. 13-14 September – MTN Ride Crater Cruise

Image credits: Zoon Cronje