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Dylan Rebello and David Garrett racing through the orchards of the Hoeko Valley. Photo Credit: Oakpics.com | Ladismith Cheese 7Weeks MTB Challenge.

Rebello, now riding in the colours of Imbuko Wines, excelled in the absence of his new teammate and defending champion Chris Wolhuter leading from start to finish. Climbing up the Seweweekspoort towards the Great Karoo Rebello was content to sit in the lead group, but once the route reached the rugged trails at the top of the poort only David Garrett could match his pace. The pair then worked together to stay ahead of the chasing pack, which included riders of the class of Nico Pfitzenmaier and Niell Ungerer. In the approach to water point three, with two long climbs remaining, Rebello accelerated on a sharp climb through the orchards in the Hoeko Valley. Garrett was unable to match Rebello on the climb and soon dropped out of sight of the leader. Rebello soloed to victory and said afterward that the Ladismith Cheese 7Weekspoort MTB Challenge was the perfect tune-up for the Cape Pioneer Trek. He and Wolhuter will be targeting a podium at Dryland Event Management’s flagship stage race, which will take place from the 16th to the 22nd of October; if Wolhuter can recover from the broken hand, which forced him out of the 7Weekspoort MTB Challenge, in time.

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The imposing cliffs of the Seweweekspoort provide breath-taking views for the riders during the Ladismith Cheese 7Weekspoort MTB Challenge. Photo Credit: Oakpics.com | Ladismith Cheese 7Weeks MTB Challenge.

Garrett claimed the second step on the podium, finishing three minutes and fifty seconds down on Rebello’s winning time of two hours, fifty minutes and thirty five seconds. Rounding out the podium was Pieter Gildenhuys, who outsprinted Ungerer and Vickus Boshoff in a dramatic finish.

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Ladismith Cheese 7Weekspoort MTB Challenge men's 82km podium. From left to right: Ronaldo Groenewald (CEO Ladismith Cheese), David Garret (2nd), Dylan Rebello (1st), Pieter Gildenhuys (3rd) and Shani Morton (Western Province Cycling). Photo Credit: Oakpics.com | Ladismith Cheese 7Weeks MTB Challenge.

In the women’s race de Villiers was largely unchallenged as her nearest rival Fienie Barnard was never able to join de Villiers’ group on the road. Despite not being pushed by a rival for victory de Villiers flew through the route, finishing in a remarkably fast time of three hours, four minutes and twenty seconds; despite the swirling wind making the descent of the poort slower than usual. Barnard claimed second position in the women’s race while last year’s winner, Alma Colyn was third.

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The elite women’s podium featuring from left to right: Ronaldo Groenewald (CEO Ladismith Cheese), Alma Colyn (3rd), Yolande de Villiers (1st) and Shani Morton (Western Province Cycling). Not pictured: Fienie Barnard (2nd). Photo Credit: Oakpics.com | Ladismith Cheese 7Weeks MTB Challenge.

With Western Province colours on offer for the age group racers the 26km and 40km races were also hotly contested among the younger riders while the veteran, masters and grand-masters were out in force to race for provincial glory in the full 82km marathon. The impressive young Joshua de Freitas and Amy Tait held off their age group rivals and the older riders taking part in the 40km race to claim hard fought victories, by just a single second in de Freitas’ case and a mere three seconds in Tait’s.

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Tony White receiving a high five as he crosses the Ladismith Cheese 7Weekspoort MTB Challenge finish line after completing the 82km distance in a time of 05:43:18. Photo Credit: Oakpics.com | Ladismith Cheese 7Weeks MTB Challenge.

The race once again showcased the riding and tourism potential of the Kannaland area; hopefully inspiring the 900 odd entrants to return for a weekend of riding and sightseeing before next year’s Ladismith Cheese 7Weekspoort Mountain Bike Challenge, which is set to take place on the 30th of September 2017.

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The Ladismith Cheese 7Weekspoort MTB Challenge starts next to the old Lutheran church in Amalienstein. Photo Credit: Oakpics.com | Ladismith Cheese 7Weeks MTB Challenge.

For more information please visit www.7weekspoortmtb.co.za or click here to view the full results.