Strauss crossed the finish line in a time of one hour 40 minutes and 24 seconds, with a cushion of seven-and-a-half minutes to second placed rider and teammate Cherie Redecker. Kargo Pro MTB Team rider, Hayley Smith, rounded out the podium in 01:50:16.

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Mariske Strauss (Novus OMX Pro Team) put in a dominant performance to claim the 2016 South African Cross-country National Championship title in the Pro-elite Women’s category at the STIHL 2016 South African National Mountain bike Championships at Cascades MTB Park in Pietermaritzburg on Saturday 16 July. Photo: Andrew Mc Fadden/BOOGS Photography

The dry and dusty technical course provided challenges in all of the right areas and tested each rider to the best of their abilities. The Elite Women completed six laps of the 4.6 kilometre track with 160-metres of climbing in fantastic weather conditions.

Looking back to her top form, Strauss said: “It was a fabulous day out there, I really enjoyed myself. My legs felt a little bit heavy after the 20-hour trip from Europe, which was to be expected. I was really fortunate to remain injury free and to race my bike to the top again, and fortunate to be back on form. The XCO season is pretty much done now, yet I’m still feeling excited and happy to take the jersey home.”

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Cherie Redecker (Novus OMX Pro Team) tackles one of the many rock gardens and finishes in second place in the Pro-elite Women's race at the STIHL 2016 South African National Mountain bike Championships at Cascades MTB Park in Pietermaritzburg on Saturday 16 July. Photo: Andrew Mc Fadden/BOOGS Photography

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Kristen Louw (Kargo Pro MTB Team) put in a solid performance in the Junior Women’s race over four laps, finishing in 01:16:06 at the STIHL 2016 South African National Mountain bike Championships at Cascades MTB Park in Pietermaritzburg on Saturday 16 July. Photo: Andrew Mc Fadden/BOOGS Photography

Kristen Louw (Kargo Pro MTB Team) put in a solid performance in the Junior Women’s race over four laps, finishing in 01:16:06. “It was a hard race for me today, I had to push hard because last time I raced here I fell very hard on my face. This time, I was very positive, thinking that “I can do this” and I had to take revenge. The most challenging part of the course was the climbs, because that was my strong point and I nailed it today.”

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The stacked Youth Men’s class saw 16-year-old Ryan Conradie (LCB Racing) from Potchefstroom lead the race from 100 metres in until the finish at the STIHL 2016 South African National Mountain bike Championships at Cascades MTB Park in Pietermaritzburg on Saturday 16 July. Photo: Andrew Mc Fadden/BOOGS Photography

The stacked Youth Men’s class saw 39 riders take to the start to get the best of the four-lap race. 16-year-old Ryan Conradie (LCB Racing) from Potchefstroom led the race from 100 metres in until the finish, always looking over his shoulder to see who was catching him but noticing that the gap he had was ever-increasing with each lap.

The 2016 African Continental Champion and 2016 STIHL SA MTB Cup Series Champion said: “It was really fun and really hard. The climbs made it super hard and the descents were fun and flowing. The rock gardens were super hard as well. I had a little fumble with Daniel van der Walt at the start but I managed to get around the first corner in front. I’m very happy with my finish and my bike carried me through to the end without any hassles.”

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Tiffany Keep (Team PAW) claimed the Youth Women’s title in the three-lap race in a time of 53 minutes at the STIHL 2016 South African National Mountain bike Championships at Cascades MTB Park in Pietermaritzburg on Saturday 16 July. Photo: Andrew Mc Fadden/BOOGS Photography

Tiffany Keep (Team PAW) claimed the Youth Women’s title in the three-lap race in a time of 53 minutes. She was followed home by Zandri Strydom (00:56:48) and Courtney Smith (01:00:23).

40-year-old Diana Carolin (Cyclelab Tokai) claimed the Veteran Women’s title: “I didn't know if I would be fit enough for this as I have been battling with illness on and off since March. I was really worried about racing against Natalie (Bergstrom) but I see that she sadly had an accident yesterday and didn't start today. I was a bit scared of the course to be honest, this is my first time that I raced at Cascades.”

With the technical aspects being amongst her strengths, Carolin enjoyed the challenges of the rock gardens, managing to ride all of them in practice. “I thoroughly enjoyed it. My weakness is generally climbing.”

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40-year-old Diana Carolin (Cyclelab Tokai) claimed the Veteran Women’s title at the STIHL 2016 South African National Mountain bike Championships at Cascades MTB Park in Pietermaritzburg on Saturday 16 July. Photo: Andrew Mc Fadden/BOOGS Photography

The younger age categories started earlier in the day with Luke Moir taking the Sub Junior Boys’ title in 00:46:30, while Sabine Thies secured her National Jersey in the Sub Junior Girls’ race in 00:37:14. Jooste Coetzee and Olivia Penfold won the Sprogs Boys and Girls classes respectively, while Connor Wright won the Nipper Boys race and Hannah Elliott the Nipper Girls race.

Tomorrow, the Downhill Championships take place on the much talked about new track, which is guaranteed to test the riders best abilities!

For the STIHL 2016 SA MTB Championships – Programme of events, click here.

For more information, click here.