White revelled in the technical riding of KZN’s oldest mountain bike event on the calendar and ended up finishing close to two minutes ahead of young Dean Wortmann with defending champion Jedson Tooms claiming third, while Sthembiso Masango and Sipho Khupiso rounded out the top five.

Tyronne White leads at the Sappi Howick MTB Classic 40km on Sunday, 4 March. Anthony Grote/ Gameplan Media

In the women’s race, Bianca Haw cruised to a convincing win by almost twenty minutes over Chloe Bateson, who in turn just edged out Nadine Nunes for the runner-up spot.

However, the men’s event was a day of drama and frustration for Marais. Marais, who is currently the second ranked mountain biker in the country, faced problems before the racing even started when he and Andrew Jonson locked handlebars while still in the neutral zone on the way out of Howick.

Both riders fell and Johnson was forced to withdraw with an injured arm and wrist. Marais picked himself up and raced into the lead once the riders hit the trails and were allowed to race, and it seemed as if his troubles were behind him as he built an advantage of about a minute over Wortmann.

White rode a well-judged race and moved past Wortmann and into second position over the latter half of the route. He was chasing Marais when the leader went over a small branch and it kicked up into his spokes with about 12km to go. The stick caused a puncture, but more seriously also broke the carbon-fibre rear swingarm of Marais’ frame.

A group of racers navigate a rock garden during the Sappi Howick MTB Classic on Sunday, 4 March. "It was such a technical course! It was a proper mountain biking and in places you could not have any lapse in concentration or you would go down," said race winner Tyronne White. Anthony Grote/ Gameplan Media

Marais borrowed compressed air “bombs” from White to reinflate his tyre and was able to finish, but with a severely compromised frame he was out of contention and limped home in sixth overall.

It would be a disservice to White to claim he was simply the beneficiary of Marais’ bad luck. The talented Ballito rider was in his element on this route. The short steep climbs and technical sections suited his skills perfectly and he was a worthy winner.

“Stuart (Marais) and Andrew (Johnson) fell before the end of the tar which allowed Dean (Wortmann) and I get a lead on the first climb,” said White after the finish.

“But Stuart is very strong and riding so well at the moment that he managed to catch us and ride away.

“I loved the route - it was such a technical course, it was a proper mountain biking and in places you could not have any lapse in concentration or you would go down.

“Unfortunately with about 12km to go Stuart had a flat and I was able to get in front and hold on to win.”

In contrast, Haw was able to dawdle to an easy victory, but she was forced to push a little harder than expected when she discovered her boyfriend, Andrew Houston, just behind her.

Bianca Haw was a comfortable winner of the women's title at the Sappi Howick MTB Classic 40km on Sunday, 4 March, working hard to stay ahead of her boyfriend Andrew Houston. Anthony Grote/ Gameplan Media

“I did not know how I would be feeling today so I rocked up in baggies (loose riding shorts), so if I was not feeling good I could just go slowly,” said Haw (Red Bull) after sprinting across the finish line half a bike length ahead of her boyfriend.

“Housie (Andrew Houston) had just done Non-Stop Dusi on Friday and he told me his legs were tired so he would be going slow, but I looked behind me and he was on my wheel … so the race was on.”

On Saturday, in blistering conditions, the enduro riders had their fun in the sun and a surprise participant was three time Downhill World Champion Greg Minnaar who, not surprisingly, was far too quick for the opposition and cruised to a convincing win.

Minnaar was never really challenged over the six timed sections and as he prepares for the start of the 2018 downhill season, the man who has won more World Cup events than any other rider was able to grab a 38-second victory over Sam Bull with Sharjah Jonsson just less than a minute further back.

In the women’s event young Sabine Thies won the first leg by 14 seconds and was never behind after that, despite giving back some of that advantage to Steffanie Grossmann in the second leg.

Thereafter, Thies produced the top time in each leg to claim a solid 46-second win over Grossmann, while Kath Fouries’s consistent riding gave her third.

In a tight and closely contested 20km men’s trail run, Perfect Dlamini and Kwenza Ngubane fought for superiority before Dlamini managed to eke out a narrow nine-second win at the finish line with Muzi Madikwa third, less than 20 seconds further back.

In the women’s trail run Isla Shill was able to enjoy her two-minute win over Lisa Daniel with Kim Westbrook third.