Scottburgh – A last minute flood of online entries has seen the field for the Sappi Scottburgh MTB Race on Saturday surge towards record levels, with South African Olympic medal hopeful Burry Stander and his new wife Cherise topping the bill.
A last minute sprinkle of rain has helped to settle the track, leaving riders and the organisers looking forward to a popular outing along the KZN South Coast, and a far cry from the drama-laden debut of this now well-established race.
“The first ever Scottburgh MTB Race had to be cancelled after sudden flash floods saw the river burst its banks, destroy bridges and various others structures in the area,” said event director and course designer Flavio Scarpa.
“When the heavy rain started on Wednesday evening flashbacks from that first year came racing back! We woke up to clear blue skies this morning though and we’ve had guys out checking the entire course and they’re very happy with the state the track is in.”
“If anything the rain has probably helped smooth things out just a bit and will harden a couple of patches as well. Besides, what’s a mountain bike race without the odd bit of muddy anyway?” he chuckled.
The confirmation of Olympic medal hopeful and South African mountain biking superstar Burry Stander’s participation has caused quite a stir amongst many of the local mountain biking community, none more so than Scarpa himself.
Despite heading off to Canada on Sunday Specialized Racing's Burry Stander wasn't going to miss out on the rare opportunity to race on home turf two weekends in a row and is relishing the chance to tackle this weekend's Sappi Scottburgh MTB Race.
Darren Goddard/ Gameplan Media
“I used to ride this area with friends and I always said it would be so awesome to put together an event in the area,” said Scarpa. “So when I got the call from Billy Harker (former event director) five years ago saying he wanted to arrange a race I was over the moon.”
“As the event has progressed over the years I’ve always said how I’d love for some of our top riders to come give the course a go so when I heard Burry (Stander) was taking part this year it was a dream come true and now to have his wife Cherise joining us as well really is something special!” he added.
As he makes any last minute adjustments and touch ups ahead his departure for next weekend’s World Cup in Mont-Sainte-Anne in Canada on Sunday Stander (Specialized Racing) is expected to claim a comfortable victory in Sunday’s event.
The race for second however is set to be one of epic proportions as defending champ Nick Porteous (Specialized/Songo) looks set to have his work cut out for him with the likes of Shaun Peschl (Peschl Sports), Darryn Purtell (Duracycles), Evan ‘Buck Norris’ van der Spuy and Robert du Preez (both Varsity College) all hot on his and together the bunch will be ready to pounce should Stander happen to make a rare error.
With the presence of mountain biking superstar Burry Stander defending champ Nick Porteous (left) will have his hands full if he to make it two in a row at this weekend's Sappi Scottburgh MTB Race.
Kyle Gilham/ Gameplan Media
The ladies race is also set to be a great contest as the other half of the Stander newlyweds, Cherise Stander (neé Taylor) takes on last year’s runner-up and fellow South Coast competitor Hayley Smith.
“With Burry competing and the whole family being there I thought I’d give it a go as well,” said Stander. “I’m not on the road too much at the moment so this is perfect training for me.”
The young, talented, South Coast based rider Hayley Smith will be egaer to improve on her last year's runner-up perfromance however she will enjoy stiff competition with the likes of Bianca and Tamika Haw, Angela Egeland and newlywed Cherise Stander (neé Taylor) at this weekend's Sappi Scottburgh MTB Race.
Kyle Gilham/Gameplan Media
“I love living on the South Coast, it’s definitely the place to be in South Africa during winter, so I’m definitely looking forward to racing close to home this weekend.”
“I’m super slow on the single track though so I’ll have to try make up as much time as possible on the dirt roads,” she added.
Despite being better known for her abilities on the road Stander won’t deviate from her ever competitive nature and will look to continue her good MTB form this weekend after victory in last weekend’s Sardine Classic.
“I’m always looking to try win,” chuckled Stander. “I don’t think anybody ever really goes out there trying to get second place but at the end of the day it is also just a training ride for me so a podium finish would be great!”
“I know Hayley Smith well, especially with her also being from the South Coast. She unfortunately had an asthma attack early on last weekend so she struggled a bit but she’s so quick in the technical stuff and will definitely be one to look out for on Saturday,” she added.
Angela Egeland, who finished third at last weekend’s Sardine Classic, will also add to the ladies mix however Stander and Smith’s nearest rival is likely to appear in the form of defending champ Bianca Haw with her older sister Tamika not likely to be far behind.
Ladies defending champ Bianca Haw (left and her sister Tamika will enjoy an epic battle in the women's race along with talented youngster Hayley Smith and top road rider Cherise Stander (neé Taylor) at this weekend's Sappi Scottburgh MTB Race.
Kyle Gilham/Gameplan Media
Consistently producing top results in the paddling world of river marathons the young sisters are impressive mountain bikers as well, which can be expected considering their father is none other than Farmer Glen himself, Glen Haw.
The legendary mastermind behind the revolutionary Sani2c and joBerg2c events will be on the start line on Saturday alongside his two daughters and his son Murray.
The course for this year’s event follows a very similar track to last year’s with a lengthened stretch of single track through Sappi’s Cannonbrae plantation being one of a few standout adaptions which participants can look forward too.
The Sappi Scottburgh MTB Race takes place on Saturday 16 June. The event starts and finishes at Scottburgh main beach and riders can take part in either the 45km Classic, 28km Intermediate or the 10km Fun Ride. More info can be found at www.c4m.co.za or www.roag.co.za