Both Looser (BIXS) and Lüthi (Team Spur) base themselves in the Western Cape for most of the European winter and are familiar with many of the trails, particularly in the Wellington region where they have contested recent Absa Cape Epic stages.
But the strong winds and high temperatures made for challenging conditions over the 65km race, which included a high volume of singletrack.
In the men’s event, Looser, Germany’s Simon Stibjan (Team Bulls) and South African Adriaan Louw (Contego) moved clear of the lead group on the first section of singletrack. Louw eventually found the pace too hard and backed off, leaving Looser and Stibjan to battle for the win.
Looser managed to ride clear of Stibjan before the final long descent, Cool Runnings, a favourite among locals for it’s length and flow and one that ensured Looser retained his lead to cross the finish line first in a time of 03 hours 03 minutes 17 seconds. Stibjan claimed the runner-up spot just 18 seconds later with Louw rounding out the podium places in 3:10:41.
“I had to make a gap on Simon before the last downhill because I know he is quicker than me on the downhills. I attacked and got a gap and rode my own pace to the finish, but I did run out of water and it was very hot, so it wasn’t a comfortable end to the race,” said Looser.
“The heat made it hard, especially for us riders from Europe. Konny was strong today and I couldn’t follow him when he made that last attack. It was a great course though with long climbs and technical descents. It suits us Europeans and we love to come back here to race,” said Stibjan.
The women’s race got off to a relatively steady start, but became a two-rider battle between Ariane Lüthi, the current Swiss national champion and Jennie Stenerhag (Ascendis Health), the current Swedish national champion after the first big climb.
A hard crash saw Stenerhag lose ground – and confidence – with Lüthi using the technical sections to put more time between her and her rival. The three-time Cape Epic winner finished strongly in an impressive 16th place overall, clocking a time of 3:34:58. With a bleeding left elbow, a relieved Stenerhag finished second in 3:40:26, with Carmen Buchacher (Velocity) claiming the final podium spot in 3:50:50.
“I made a decision only yesterday to do this race. It turned out to be a good one. What a cool course! I was very surprised. I know Wellington well and I have done many Cape Epics through here. There is so much singletrack!” smiled Lüthi.
“After Jennie crashed I could see her arm was bleeding quite a lot. But we stayed together and I was very happy with my improved skills, which I have been working on. That helped be relax a bit in the technical sections and save energy for the end,” said Lüthi.
“I can’t say I felt really good from the start. Then when I had the crash it took a bit out of me. After that I just tried to stay with Ariane for as long as I could. Eventually she got a gap and I didn’t have the energy to close that gap so I just cruised. It really wasn’t a good day,” said Stenerhag.
Almost 600 riders participated across the four events on offer on the day. In the 39km half-marathon, Jamie Penfold secured the overall male title, while Lizette Wiseman was the first female finisher.
2016 Nissan TrailSeeker Series Western Cape Series
Round 4, Bosman Wines, 19 November 2016
Overall men – 65km marathon:
1 Konny Looser (BiXS) 3:03:17
2 Simon Stibjan (Team Bulls) 3:03:35
3 Adriaan Louw (Contego Swift) 3:10:41
4 Marcus Bauer 3:11:33
5 Dominic Calitz 3:12:24
6 Tony Haralambous 3:17:22
7 Michael Lord 3:18:46
8 Charl-Pierre Esterhuyse 3:27:12
9 Nico Pfitzenmaier (Dormakaba) 3:28:09
10 Craig Gerber 3:28:49
Overall women – 65km marathon:
1 Ariane Lüthi (Team Spur) 3:34:58
2 Jennie Stenerhag (Ascendis Health) 3:40:26
3 Carmen Buchacher (Velocity) 3:50:50
4 Katie Lennard 3:58:51
5 Louise Ferreira 4:01:11
6 Michelle Lombardi 4:05:33
7 Ila Stow 4:16:22
8 Kate Slegrova 4:18:56
9 Jeannie de Villiers 4:28:12
10 Hanli Cilliers 4:28:44
Overall male – 39km half-marathon
1 Jamie Penfold 1:37:00
2 Daniel van der Walt 1:37:47
3 Robert Hobson 1:38:28
Overall female – 39km half-marathon
1 Lizette Wiseman 1:44:23
2 Mia de Villiers 1:59:30
3 Courteney Webb 2:03:56
For full results and Nissan TrailSeeker Series standings, visit www.saseeding.org