She crossed the finish line in first place in the women’s race and was crowned the u.23 African Champion. Her winning time was 1 hour, 48 minutes and 54 seconds. Candice Neethling finished second in 1:52.18.

Strauss, who is also a first year student at the Stellenbosch University, started the race very strong by breaking away from the group along with Neethling in the first five minutes. “I made some stupid mistakes though and lost time to Candice. I fought back and on the third lap I was back in front. I just put my head down and kept the pressure on till the finish line for the victory.”

Mariske in action © Lee - Ann Cantrell - CSharp Photography

For Strauss it was her ninth consecutive national title. “The best part of the victory is that I gave my all in the race and getting the reward is really special. But I could not have done it without the support of my family and sponsors.”

Strauss will be in action this coming Saturday at the WC XCO race in Stellenbosch.

Other Team Contego riders Gert Heyns finished 6th in the u23 men’s race, while juniors Sybrandt Strauss and Louw Kriel finished 4th and 6th. Less than 20 seconds separated the top 6 riders in the junior men’s race.

Next up for the Team is Matthys Beukes participation in the Absa Cape Epic with Philip Buys. The rest of the team will be in action at the Vigne-a-Vigne race at Lourensford Wine Estate on Sunday 24 March.