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Image Credit: Johan Badenhorst.

This week we face the first of our big challenges for 2017: the Tankwa Trek. The stage was set at the opening round of Ashburton Investments National MTB Series' marathon race in Grabouw. An international field of racers - here to prepare for the Cape Epic - took to the start. From the first climb to the last sprint, every metre had to be fought. Gawie Combrinck and Nico Bell finished 5th and 6th respectively, setting themselves up as one of the fastest South African pairings.

After a solid training camp at high altitude, Nico and Gawie have prepared strongly for their season ahead. Apart from the many hours on the saddle, NAD Pro MTB Team’s prepared for the season off-the-bike too.

New Africa Developments’ director Robin Houghton enthused about their extended commitment to the team for 2017: “In mountain biking one never knows what’s around the next corner and regardless of how tough the conditions you can never give up. Much the same is true when it comes to the business of property development, and that is why New Africa Developments has such a great synergy with mountain biking and has committed itself to continuing to support Team NAD Pro MTB in 2017.”

New Africa Developments (NAD) has grown its sponsorship and support of the team, further investing in South African mountain biking and our sporting culture. This investment also includes the provision of support services and a new team vehicle to enable Nico, Gawie and our race mechanic Morne van Rensburg to further improve their performances.

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Image Credit: Johan Badenhorst.

With our 2017 Specialized Bicycles' S-Works Epic 29 World Cup race machines equipped with SRAM's very best technology, the best got better: every advantage gained with these bicycles will aid us in our reach for the podium. After a solid first year under the NAD Pro MTB Team banner, Nico and Gawie are aiming for the top step in the African Jersey Competition at the Cape Epic. Our two racers have also been selected to run as a support team to multiple winner Christoph Sauser and equally fast team-mate Jaroslav Kulhavy in their bid for another overall victory in mountain biking’s most prestigious international event.

“Our season has started off well, with our form proving strong,” commented Nico. “To race with the likes of Christoph Sauser means we have to be in tip-top condition. We have to race faster and smarter. Our focus is sharper too.”

Alan Hudson Motors, a Volkswagen Dealer, has signed on with our team to provide reliable and versatile vehicle transport on races. We top up our body's fuel with thanks from Neolife nutritional supplements and vitamins. Bells Cycling, Nelspruit's only Authorized Specialized Dealer, keeps our bicycles in tip-top condition.

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Image Credit: Johan Badenhorst.

Cheetah Plains, a private game reserve in the Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve and alongside Kruger National Park, has joined the team for 2017. They are one of the oldest bush camps in the Sabi Sand, and offer guests traditional African bushveld experiences – with luxury, comfort and exclusivity. Yet another new brand and name being brought to our sport.

As with 2016, our calendars are full with training camps, events and travelling to and from races around the country. In 2017 we're focusing on the Tankwa Trek, the Cape Epic, Joberg2C and Sani2c, defend our Cape Pioneer Trek title from 2016, and defend our 2016 win in the Isuzu 3 Towers Stage Race too. We're also focused on the Ashburton Investments National MTB Series (in which we claimed second and third places overall in 2016) and the SA MTB Marathon Championships later this year. Having a started our season a little bit later than we have in previous years, we’re feeling more rested for what will be a year of back-to-back events requiring our full effort.

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Image Credit: Johan Badenhorst.

The MTB landscape in South Africa is fast changing. More and more racers are converting to MTB and each weekend we face stronger rivals. To stay ahead of the peloton and enter the singletracks first, we train that extra bit harder. Our bicycles, our supporters and sponsors, family and friends have all extended themselves that extra bit more in 2017 to allow us to aim for more victories and more exposure for our sponsors. Our tagline is #shakeandbake. And that is most definitely what we'll do in 2017. Join us for this fast and furious season.