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  1. So... doing my first B&B this year... In for the Great Trek. Done a few Sani's before and decided to go for something else. Really looking forward to it and a little worried following the weekend's riding and coming to the realisation of how under-prepared I am. My partner is in relatively good shape so I'll be hanging on his wheel for most of the ride. Any top tips / hints and advice for a B&B virgin? Any particularly good sections (read: downhills)?
  2. The Berg & Bush has it all, a three-day mountain bike ride in the shape of the Great Trek, a race in the shape of the Descent, and a relaxed, family-style MTB weekend away in the shape of the original 2 Day. This year all three events went out of their way to provide a little bit of everything for everyone; there was snow, lightening, thunder, thunderous rain, light rain, mud , beer, burgers and heat. Above all, there was also great riding, probably the greatest riding at any stage race in the country. Thanks to a mixture of obliging cattle and game, the natural terrain, and some hard-working local farmers, the trails of the Berg & Bush mix the sublime with the sensational. These are some of the iconic scenes that you encounter in the Central Drakensberg region. Solly’s Folly The name is well known in mountain bike circles thanks to this section of trail’s inclusion in both the Berg & Bush and the Old Mutual joBerg2c. This year only the Descent riders were able to experience the sweeping switchbacks, and even then only after race organiser Gary Green left his home at 3am to ride day 1 of the Descent ahead to the field to make sure it was safe. Green got lost - on his own farm - but luckily all riders made it to the finish (as did Green, eventually). Snow way A few days later - on day 1 of the Great Trek - the route had to be diverted after a massive storm moved in over the area. The day was declared neutral and riders were taken down an alternative descent. Rain hammered the race village near Sterkfontein Dam, but when the clouds lifted, riders were left with a chill in the air and incredible views of the snow-capped Drakensberg. (The more sensible riders in the field skipped the day altogether and opened up their bar tabs in the always impressive race village. Sponsored wine from Fairview and R10 CBC beers meant that some riders clocked numerous PBs for most beers in an hour). We’re in this Tugela There’s a moment on day 2 of the event where you’re riding in dry bush veld, past beautiful acacia trees and thicks aloes, when without warning you pop out on the banks of the Tugela River. It’s an impressive awakening and an awe-inspiring sight, not to mention a bloody fun trail along the banks of the river. Tall story Only the lucky few spot the plentiful roaming giraffe in the area. It’s small thing, but the game encounters are a standout feature of the Berg & Bush. Ain’t life Grand One of the more compellingly bizarre features on day 3 of the event - a day that boasts many compelling features - is the Grand Canyon section of trail. You hit this little beauty - an impressively eroded river bed - in the middle of the bushveld. It’s a short section of trail, but it’s so unlike anything you’ve ridden before that you can’t help but whooping as you whip through. Klapping the Kop Everyone knows about the climb up Spioenkop; it’s hellishly steep and a real leg-burner on the third day of a great event. But what goes up must come down, and there’s no better descent than the dash down Spioenkop. From the top of the famous battle site you fly downhill at a dizzying rate, twisting and turning for 13 blissful kilometres. There are berms, bumps, jumps and jollies aplenty. The trail flows so perfectly that you feel like a pro as you glide towards the finish line. Feeding time Without question, the water points at the Berg & Bush are festive and filling. Each table is run by a different farmer or community member, all trying to outdo each other with their offerings. This table pictured is the last one of the entire event, and not entirely necessary as it comes so close to the finish - but the freshly made toasted sandwiches and sizzling sausages force you to put the brakes on for one last snack. If you don’t go home heavier than when you arrived, you’ve failed at your Berg & Bush challenge.
  3. The men’s title was claimed by Phil Buys and Matthys Beukes (Pyga Euro Steel), with Amy Beth McDougall and Sam Sanders (Valencia Ladies) romping home in fine style to claim the ladies crown. Team Pyga Euro Steel lead NAD Pro MTB. Photo credit: Em Gatland. On day three, Buys and Beukes claimed their second stage win of the event in a time of 01:51:45. McDougall and Sanders won day three in the ladies race (02:03:54), claiming their third straight stage win in the process. Last year’s defending champions in the ladies, Candice Lill and Vera Adrian (dormakaba), placed second overall after three days of racing (though Lill will leave the event R20 000 richer after winning Saturday’s Volvo Spionkop Summit). “We’re so happy with this win,” beamed McDougall. Sanders added, “We’re happy with the way we rode, and the way we approached the racing. Last week we had terrible luck at a race, but this weekend everything wen’t according to plan.” With a few races still to come before the end of the season, McDougall will eventually clock in at 10 stage races for the year. The riding seems to be paying off, though. “Sam and I are racing really well; we’re in good form and in a good place. At the moment we are riding at a similar level and that really makes for a good team vibe. We also both enjoy riding, which makes racing together great fun.” Valencia Ladies negotiating the turns. Photo credit: Em Gatland. For Buys and Beukes, the victory was another positive result in their debut season as Team Pyga Euro Steel. “It’s great to win today,” said Beukes. “It’s my first time here, so to walk away with the title is very rewarding.” The final day’s racing got off to a slower start than the previous two days, with the speed only ramping up at the famous Spionkop climb. It was here that Buys and Beukes accelerated, with Gawie Combrinck and Nico Bell (NAD Pro MTB) in close attendance. The four eventually crossed the line together. “Phil and I have worked hard this year,” said Beukes. “We’ve planned well, prepared well and obviously had our fair share of luck. The win is a good reward for the work we’ve put in. I won’t lie, though, it’s been a long year and I’m starting to get tired now.” Overall, the weekend’s riding went down a treat with the front, middle and back of the pack. “This was an amazing weekend of riding,” said Beukes. “Today was great; the final 10km stretch is incredible, but I think my favourite day was day two, single track all the way.” A satisfied Gary Green, the race organiser, was also happy with the overall race outcome. “It’s very rewarding to stand on the finish line and listen to all the positive comments,” he said. “A lot of work goes into the trails, and the local land owners are very accepting of us taking 1000 mountain bikers through their property three times in the week, so to know that everyone is enjoying themselves makes our job easier.” With the Berg & Bush Descent out the way, the race village empties out for a day, only to be filled again by riders from the Berg & Bush Great Trek. 2017 Grindrod Bank Berg & Bush Descent results day 3Men 1 Phil Buys and Matthys Beukes (Pyga Euro Steel) 01:51:45 2 Nico Bell and Gawie Combrinck (NAD Pro MTB) 01:51:46 3 Julian Jessop and Phil Sebona (Pyga Euro Steel 2) 01:52:21 Ladies 1 Sam Sanders and Amy Beth McDougall (Valencia Ladies) 02:03:54 2 Candice Lill and Vera Adrian (dormakaba) 02:07:21 3 Carmen Buchacher and Michelle Vorster (Velocity Sports Lab Pro) 02:09:42 2017 Grindrod Bank Berg & Bush Descent Final GC Men 1 Phil Buys and Matthys Beukes (Pyga Euro Steel) 06:27:28 2 Nico Bell and Gawie Combrinck (NAD Pro MTB) 06:32:40 3 Andrew Hill and Declan Sidey (Bells Cycling Kavuki Breeders TIB Insurance) 06:37:58 Ladies 1 Sam Sanders and Amy Beth McDougall (Valencia Ladies) 07:08:49 2 Candice Lill and Vera Adrian (dormakaba) 07:19:07 3 Carmen Buchacher and Michelle Vorster (Velocity Sports Lab Pro) 07:31:49
  4. In the ladies race, Sam Sanders and Amy Beth McDougall (Valencia Ladies) consolidated their overnight lead with another stage win (2:28:07), once again getting the better of Candice Lill and Vera Adrian (dormakaba) in the closing kilometres of the race (2:30:11). The Pyga pair of Buys and Beukes were home first in a time of 2:08:11 on the relatively short 60km day; day one’s winners, Nico Bell and Gawie Combrinck (NAD Pro MTB) trailing them by six minutes to claim second on the day (2:14:50). Photo credit: Em Gatland With a slim overnight lead going into day two, Bell and Combrinck now have their work cut out for them after they suffered a gashed tyre 40km into the second day of racing. Their time loss allowed Buys and Beukes to open up an overall lead of around five minutes with one day to go. “That was fun, a really great stage of mountain biking,” said Beukes. “The conditions were perfect and I think it was single track from start to finish. Of course, it helps that we won, but overall it’s definitely one of the great stages of cycling.” For most of the day’s race, it was a two-horse tussle, with Bell and Combrinck sticking with Buys and Beukes. Disaster struck for NAD Pro MTB when Combrinck slashed his tyre while attempting to overtake the Pyga team on the last big climb of the day, Mike’s Pass. At first they inserted a tube, but eventually had to wait for Declan Sidey (Bells Cycling Kavuki Breeders TIB Insurance) to hand over a spare wheel. The delay gave Buys and Beukes ample opportunity to open up the gap. “It was a fast start,” said Buys. “Nico and Gawie were with us from the start, but we really went out guns blazing and tried to force the pace. We just never stopped attacking; it worked out for us in the end.” In the ladies race McDougall and Sanders were dominant again, finishing the day with huge, mud-splattered smiles. “Fun, fun, fun,” was McDougall’s assessment of the stage. “The trails were brilliant and we found ourselves riding alone for large sections, which was fantastic. Our aim was always to go out and attack from the start, which we achieved. Candice and Vera were with us until the last climb, where we were able to push on and away from them.” Photo credit: Em Gatland Defending champ Lill was full of praise for the race leaders. “Amy and Sam are riding so well,” she said. “Today they were just too strong for us. We couldn’t match them for power up the last big climb and they pulled away. But we enjoyed ourselves out there. It was pure mountain biking fun. The trails are excellent and the cool weather made the riding really enjoyable.” Day two of the Grindrod Bank Berg & Bush Descent was bushveld bliss for the 1000 or so riders taking part. With conditions overcast and cool once again, the field could tackle the likes of Ox Wagon Hill, Mike’s Pass, Puffadder Pass and Nicky’s Nightmare in ideal riding conditions. The 60km day featured approximately 900m of climbing, but the hills were all short and sharp; enough to take the breath away before opening up into exhilarating single track trails. Photo credit: Em Gatland The surrounding Drakensberg mountains, red soil trails and numerous acacia trees gave the day’s riding a truly African feel, and with the Tugela River flowing freely, day 2 is a riding experience that lasts long in the memory. The two water points on the route are also staffed by enthusiastic Winterton locals, all doing their best to feed the riders more than necessary. Day three is another short day, but features the iconic climb up Spionkop, a highlight for many and a horror for some as the equally tough Lantana Climb needs to be conquered first. The final 10km of the event though is riding bliss, with flowing single track allowing riders to race home with grins almost as wide as the event’s famous Bell Run berms. Grindrod Bank Berg & Bush Descent results day 2Men 1 Phil Buys and Matthys Beukes (Pyga Euro Steel) 2:08:11 2 Nico Bell and Gawie Combrinck (NAD Pro MTB) 2:14:50 3 Wessel Both and Henry Liebenberg (Absolute Motion) 2:14:54 Ladies 1 Sam Sanders and Amy Beth McDougall (Valencia Ladies) 2:28:07 2 Candice Lill and Vera Adrian (dormakaba) 2:30:11 3 Carmen Buchacher and Michelle Vorster (Velocity Sports Lab Pro) 2:33:17 Grindrod Bank Berg & Bush Descent GC Men 1 Phil Buys and Matthys Beukes (Pyga Euro Steel) 4:35:43 2 Nico Bell and Gawie Combrinck (NAD Pro MTB) 4:40:54 3 Andrew Hill and Declan Sidey (Bells Cycling Kavuki Breeders TIB Insurance) 4:43:58 Ladies 1 Sam Sanders and Amy Beth McDougall (Valencia Ladies) 5:04:55 2 Candice Lill and Vera Adrian (dormakaba) 5:11:46 3 Carmen Buchacher and Michelle Vorster (Velocity Sports Lab Pro) 5:22:07
  5. Photo credit: Em Gatland. The Mpumalanga pair finished in a time of 2:26:04. Second went to Andrew Hill and Declan Sidey (Bells Cycling Kabuki Breeders) in a time of 2:26:09. Phil Buys and Matthys Beukes (Pyga Euro Steel), in a time of 2:27:32, were home in third. The day’s riding distance remained at 99km, but due to heavy rain in the region leading up to the first day of racing, the first 32km of day one was ridden as a neutral zone, with the race proper starting at the first water point. In the ladies race, Amy Beth McDougall and Sam Sanders (Valencia Ladies) claimed day one honours (2:36:48), with dormakaba's Candice Lill and Vera Adrian (2:41:35) coming in second after puncture issues. Third in the ladies was Carmen Buchacher and Michelle Vorster (Velocity Sports Lab Pro), finishing in 2:48:50. Photo credit: Em Gatland. The race started in cold and misty conditions at Windmill Farm on the banks of the Sterkfontein Dam. As the clouds lifted, a field featuring some of South Africa's top MTB talent turned up the heat, hurtling towards the finish and race village at Em'seni Camp on the banks of the Tugela River. In the men’s race, the shorter racing distance allowed a large bunch to stick together, with the top riders only splitting around the 75km mark. Up until that point, Buys and Beukes, along with Hill and Sidey, had been in control of the pace at the front, but just after the third water point Bell was able to accelerate, taking Combrinck with, and pull away from the field. Hill and Sidey chased, staying with the leaders until a sprint in the final 200m saw Bell and Combrinck over the line first. “That felt longer than 99km for some reason, but it was a good, fun ride,” said Bell. “The route was actually in great condition and the riding was really enjoyable. The rain meant there was no dust, and I thought everything was rideable.” As the race entered the business end, there was a four man pile-up that could have derailed three teams. Phil Buys’s handlebar caught Combrinck, the resulting instability taking down Bell, Sidey and Buys. No bikes or riders were harmed, though, and the three teams were able to race on. “The racing was a bit flat in the start,” said Combrinck, “but after the second water point Nico started riding hard and that upped the tempo. Apart from the crash there were no issues; the riding was really good overall. It was a little bit slippery in the beginning, but the trails were fantastic and you could see a lot of effort had been put in.” In a reversal of fortunes from a race a week ago, McDougall and Sanders were able to get home ahead of Lill and Adrian thanks to a minor mechanical suffered by the later around the 65km mark. “Candice and Vera had a puncture and we were able to get away,” said Sanders. “We rode hard and really enjoyed it, the trails were fantastic.” Photo credit: Em Gatland. The leading ladies stuck with the second bunch of men for much of the race, before pulling away towards the end of the route. “What an amazing day of riding,” said McDougall. “Tough but fun. The rain made the trails nice and tacky, so you could really go all out. It was great conditions to ride in.” The day one route featured some of the region's iconic mountain bike trails; Great Wall my China and Baboon Route took riders along the top of the escarpment, with sweeping views of KwaZulu-Natal below, while the twisting and turning Solly's Folly - switchbacks for days - was the perfect way to ride off the escarpment and into the valley. Everest, the final roller-coaster descent of the day, was followed by the leafy Garden of Eden trail, the final 5km stretch of the day's riding flows alongside the Tugela River. Day two the Grindrod Bank Berg & Bush is a shorter day - just 60km - but starts off with the lung-busting Ox Wagon Hill before heading into the excellent bushveld trail and single track. With some short, sharp climbs and technical descents, riders' fitness and skill levels will be tested. After the day's racing, the riders will then relocate to the top of Spionkop for the Volvo Spionkop, a 1.3km dash for cash from the bottom of the famous hill to the top. The winning male and female rider will each be rewarded with R20 000 for their efforts. Grindrod Bank Berg & Bush Descent day 1 results Men 1 Nico Bell and Gawie Combrinck (NAD Pro MTB) 2:26:04 2 Andrew Hill and Declan Sidey (Bells Cycling Kabuki Breeders) 2:26:09 3 Phil Buys and Matthys Beukes (Pyga Euro Steel) 2:27:32 4 Wessel Botha and Henry Liebenberg (Absolute Motion) 2:32:35 5 Michael Posthumus and Derrin Smith (William Simpson) 2:33:42Ladies 1 Amy Beth McDougall and Sam Sanders (Valencia Ladies) 2:36:48 2 Candice Lill and Vera Adrian (dormakaba) 2:41:35 3 Carmen Buchacher and Michelle Vorster (Velocity Sports Lab Pro) 2:48:50 4 Yolandi du Toit and Theresa Ralph (Team Garmin Galileo Risk) 2:54:01 5 Christie-Liegh Hearder and Courteney Webb (Absolute Motion Ladies) 3:13:51
  6. In a star-studded local field at the 2016 Grindrod Bank Berg & Bush, it was Erik Kleinhans and Matt Beers (Red E Topeak Ergon) that stood head and shoulders above the rest. Leading from start to finish, the recently-formed team took the overall honours after three days of furious racing in KwaZulu-Natal. Click here to view the article
  7. Erik Kleinhans and Matt Beers (Red E Topeak Ergon) claim victory at the 2016 Grindrod Bank Berg & Bush three-day stage race in KwaZulu-Natal. The pair saw off stiff competition from the cream of South African mountain biking to record a win on their debut at the event. Credit: Gavin Ryan. Matt Beers was thrilled with his victory, a first for the big friendly giant of South African mountain biking on his Berg & Bush debut. "This is a big monkey off my back," said an elated Beers. "I've always wanted to win a prestigious stage race and the Berg & Bush, with such a brilliant field, definitely ticks that box. It's very special to win against this level of competition. I love the challenge, I love the fight, so I am stoked that Erik and I have won this." Kleinhans and Beers fought off the challenge of Phil Buys, Gert Heyns, Nico Bell, Gawie Combrinck, Alan Hatherly, Johann Rabie, HB Kruger and more local MTB top dogs over the course of three thrilling days in the KwaZulu-Natal bushveld. On a shortish, flat final stage - with the only major bump being Spioenkop - the lead bunch was big, 10 teams racing hard to make a final impression. Kleinhans knew the trick was to back off and not let anyone ruin their chances with an untimely crash. "The goal for today was not to lose any time. There were a lot of teams fighting for position, so I said to Matt let's just hold back and get the overall title." This is also Kleinhans's first Berg & Bush, and the race has certainly lived up to the hype - the win helping, of course. "Today was another lovely stage with a nice flat start, with racing really picking up on the trails. This definitely ranks up there as one of my best wins. Before the race we had no idea how to win with so many cross country racers here. I am extremely happy to win. That being said, I look forward to coming back when I am a ballie, so I can enjoy the trails and then sit on bean bags next to the river!" Adrian and Neethling nail it In the women's race an excellent Stage 1 from Candice Neethling and Vera Adrian (Dorma Time Freight) was enough to give them the edge in the overall stakes ahead of Robyn de Groot and Jennie Stenerhag (Team Ascendis Health). De Groot and Stenerhag threw everything into the mix to snatch the race win, but Neethling and Adrian had the answers to all their questions. Candice Neethling (Dorma Time Freight) powers home hot on the heels of Robyn de Groot and Jennie Stenerhag (Team Ascendis Health) at the Grindrod Bank Berg & Bush three-day stage race in KwaZulu-Natal. Neething and teammate Vera Adrian started the day in the overall lead and almost lost it when De Groot and Stenerhag opened up a two-minute time gap. In the end, Neethling and Adrian were strong enough to reel them in. Credit: Gavin Ryan. "That was really hard. Harder than I expected," said a dust-covered, teary-eyed, but victorious Vera Adrian. "I already knew last night that today would be tough because I could feel that I was getting sick, but then Robyn and Jennie really hammered it today." At one stage, just before the dreaded climb up Spioenkop, De Groot and Stenerhag held a two minute advantage over Neethling and Adrian, a gap that would have given the Ascendis ladies the overall win. But Neethling and Adrian threw caution to the wind and skipped down the singletrack on other side of the hill like foxes chasing a particularly tasty hare. Robyn de Groot and Jennie Stenerhag (Team Ascendis Health) power home on the final stage of the Grindrod Bank Berg & Bush three-day stage race in KwaZulu-Natal. They claimed two of the three stages, but it wasn't enough for the overall win. Credit: Gavin Ryan. "We gave it everything to make up the time. Vera was amazing going down the singletrack" said Neethling, sporting a cut lip and a face that looked like she'd been leopard crawling around a Boer War battlefield. "It was a great race with Robyn and Jennie. Today was tough, but I'm thrilled to take the win at such a great event. I love racing here." Adrian, too, was delighted that the hard work had paid off. "It's obviously always nice to win, but it's even more rewarding to come out on top when the racing has been so fierce." Results Stage 3 men: 1 Philip Buys and Gert Heyns - Scott LCB Factory Racing - 01:51:49 2 Hendrik Kruger and Johann Rabie - Team Telkom - 01:51:50 3 Konny Looser and Lourens Luus - PSG BiXS Pro Team - 01:51:51 4 Alan Hatherly and Brendon Davids - Kargo Pro Swiss Cycles - 01:51:54 5 Nico Bell and Gawie Combrinck - NAD PRO MTB - 01:51:58Results Stage 3 women: 1 Robyn de Groot and Jennie Stenerhag - Team Ascendis Health - 02:07:13 2 Candice Neethling and Vera Adrian - Dorma Time Freight - 02:07:59 3 Yolandi du Toit and Theresa Ralph - Galileo Risk Garmin - 02:18:08 4 Michelle Benson and Janice Venter - LCB Pretoria Box - 02:30:13 5 Bonny Swanepoel and Nadine Visagie - Pocket Rockets - 02:30:33 Results overall men: 1 Matt Beers and Erik Kleinhans - Red E Topeak Ergon - 07:25:17 2 Nico Bell and Gawie Combrinck - NAD PRO MTB - 07:26:56 3 Gert Heyns and Philip Buys - Scott LCB Factory Racing - 07:29:33 Results overall women: 1 Candice Neethling and Vera Adrian - Dorma Time Freight - 08:36:12 2 Robyn de Groot and Jennie Stenerhag - Team Ascendis Health - 08:36:40 3 Yolandi du Toit and Theresa Ralph - Galileo Risk Garmin - 09:16:46
  8. The elite field at the 2016 Grindrod Bank Berg & Bush charged through the 60km Stage 2 course with such ferocity that some in the race village wondered if the final batch of riders might be able to watch the winners come in. Click here to view the article
  9. Erik Kleinhans and Matt Beers claimed the 60km Stage 2 of the Grindrod Bank Berg & Bush in a time of 02:06:50. The pair maintain their overall lead ahead of the 50km third and final stage tomorrow which sees riders tackle the famous Spoienkop climb before enjoying a 13km singeltrack finish. Photo credit: Gavin Ryan. In the end, race leaders Erik Kleinhans and Matt Beers (Red E Topeak Ergon) and the chasing pack weren’t fast wave enough to wave the J batch hello and goodbye, but it was an electrifying pace nonetheless. Stage 1 winners Kleinhans and Beers were in no mood to mess about, and made a decisive strike with 30km to go to claim Stage 2 in a time of 02:06:50. They finished just under two minutes ahead of Nico Bell and Gawie Combrinck (NAD PRO MTB), which opened up a decent 90 second-plus lead going into the final day’s short 50km stage. Third over the line on Stage 2 was the Scott LCB Factory Racing pair of Phil Buys and Gert Heyns. The early morning conditions at the Em'seni camp start were perfect for riding, slightly cloudy and cool. The race leaders showed their intent in the start pen, lining up in a pincer formation on either side of the other riders, though Kleinhans insists it was purely by accident. By design or not, once the gun went Kleinhans and Beers shot out of the start area and straight into the front of the pack. The elite bunch held together for half the race, with about 10 teams jostling for position. With some explosive riding, Alan Hatherly and Brendon Davids (Kargo Pro Swiss Cycles) were able to take charge for some time, instigating most of the attacks with only Kleinhans and Beers willing to follow. It was at the halfway stage, at the steep climb of Mike’s Pass, that the race opened up. With Hatherly and Davids stepping off the gas - their focus now falls on this evening's Volvo Summit 2km sprint race up Spioenkop - it was Red E Topeak Ergon, NAD PRO MTB and Scott LCB Factory Racing in the hunt. “Matt just decided to blast away up and down that hill,” said Kleinhans. “After that we lost the guys behind us and managed to open up a gap. Once that happened we just kept going at full gas.” Despite the speedy finish and shorter distance after a 99km Stage 1, Beers said the racing was tough. “That was hard. Guys were going full tilt from start to finish. It was a proper morning of riding.” His views were echoed by Kleinhans, Gert Heyns and Phil Buys, all of who are new to the event, but seem to be enjoying the trails. “The riding is great,” said Buys. “The trails are not too manicured and provide a nice challenge for racing. It’s been tough at the front end of the field, but Gert and I are really enjoying this.” Robyn de Groot and Jennie Stenerhag claimed the 60km Stage 2 of the Grindrod Bank Berg & Bush in a time of 02:30:17, just one second ahead of Candice Neethling and Vera Adrian, who remain overall leaders in the event's women's race. Tomorrow, the final 50km Stage 3 sees riders tackle the famous Spoienkop climb before enjoying a 13km singeltrack finish. Photo credit: Gavin Ryan. In the women’s race there was a sprint finish for the line, with Robyn de Groot and Jennie Stenerhag (Team Ascendis Health) snatching the win from Stage 1 winners and overall leaders Candice Neethling and Vera Adrian (Dorma Time Freight). The Ascendis Health winning time for the day was 02:30:17, Neethling and Adrian a mere second behind. “That was really enjoyable,” said a dusty but smiling Robyn de Groot. “The route was good, the singletrack was fun and the racing was excellent. It was very tactical. On such a short stage it’s tough to get time back, but Jennie and I went as hard as we could to get into the singletrack ahead of Candice and Vera. That was how most of the ride went, as we were together the whole way. In the end, we managed to get into the singletrack just before the finish too.” Stenerhag, who has come out of the European racing season, is struggling with the altitude, but is enjoying the novel experience of the Berg & Bush. “I’m a little tired and not at my best, but it’s fun to ride a new race. We often do the same races every year, so to come up here and take it all in and see something different is very cool.” Tonight riders have the option of tackling the Volvo Summit, a 2km sprint up Spioenkop with a R20 000 prize for the fastest male and female rider to the top. Or they can wait for Sunday’s 50km Stage 3, which will take the field up and over the famous battle site before the dash home on a newly-minted 13km singeltrack finish. Results Stage 2 men:1 Matt Beers and Erik Kleinhans - Red E Topeak Ergon - 02:06:50 2 Nico Bell and Gawie Combrinck - NAD PRO MTB - 02:08:22 3 Gert Heyns and Philip Buys - Scott LCB Factory Racing - 02:08:52 4 Lourens Luus and Konny Looser - PSG BiXS Pro Team - 02:08:52 5 Hendrik Kruger and Johann Rabie - Team Telkom - 02:08:54 Results Stage 2 women: 1 Robyn de Groot and Jennie Stenerhag - Team Ascendis Health - 02:30:17 2 Candice Neethling and Vera Adrian - Dorma Time Freight - 02:30:18 3 Yolandi du Toit and Theresa Ralph - Galileo Risk Garmin - 02:39:18 4 Anli Smith and Tamaryn Kietzmann - Complete Cyclist - 02:50:26 5 Bonny Swanepoel and Nadine Visagie - Pocket Rockets - 02:53:13 Results overall men: 1 Matt Beers and Erik Kleinhans - Red E Topeak Ergon - 05:33:16 2 Nico Bell and Gawie Combrinck - NAD PRO MTB - 05:34:58 3 Gert Heyns and Philip Buys - Scott LCB Factory Racing - 05:37:43 Results overall women: 1 Candice Neethling and Vera Adrian - Dorma Time Freight - 06:28:13 2 Robyn de Groot and Jennie Stenerhag - Team Ascendis Health - 06:29:27 3 Yolandi du Toit and Theresa Ralph - Galileo Risk Garmin - 06:58:38
  10. The conditions at the start of the 2016 Grindrod Bank Berg & Bush were cool. The riding from the elite bunch, though, was scorching hot. Setting the scintillating pace was one of the strongest pro fields ever assembled at the Berg & Bush Descent. Click here to view the article
  11. Matt Beers and Erik Kleinhans (Red E Topeak Ergon) won the first stage of the 2016 Grindrod Bank Berg & Bush Descent in a time of 03:26:26. They finished 10 seconds ahead of Nico Bell and Gawie Combrinck of NAD PRO MTB. The 98km-long stage started at Windmall Farm in the Drakensberg and finsihed at Emseni Camp on the banks of the Tugela River. Credit Gavin Ryan. Waylon Woolcock and Darren Lill (USN Purefit), Philip Buys and Gert Heyns (Scott LCB Factory Racing), Matt Beers and Erik Kleinhans (Red E Topeak Ergon), Nico Bell and Gawie Combrinck (NAD PRO MTB), and 2016 Olympian Alan Hatherly, riding with 2015 Descent winner Brendon Davids (Kargo Pro Swiss Cycles), were just some of the big local names that set out at a blistering pace from the race’s Windmill Farm start. First across the line was Beers (second in 2015) and Kleinhans in 03:26:26, quickly followed by Bell and Combrinck (03:26:36), with Gert Heyns and Philip Buys finishing in third around two minutes behind the first two teams. “It was hard and fast from the start,” said Beers. “It was tough. I didn't expect everyone to race like that from the word go. It’s great to get the stage win, though.” Tackling trails like Solly’s Folly and the Drakensberg Drop, the riders split apart from their teammates early on. Hatherly and Davids were able to set the early pace, racing into a 35 second lead, only to have it slashed by the chasing pack when Hatherly ripped open his tyre on a descent around the 25km mark. He eventually received a spare wheel from his teammates back in the field, but the four minute wait on the side of the trail took him and Davids out of contention for the day. It was then left to the other heavy hitters to power on, forming a 10-strong bunch for the majority of the race. In the mix were eventual winners Red E Topeak Ergon, NAD PRO MTB, Scott LCB Factory Racing, USN Purefit and Team Telkom’s Johann Rabie and Hendrik Kruger. Technical issues saw the end of Telkom and USN Purefit’s challenge, leaving a three-way shoot out for the finish. Beers attacked on the final descent - Everest - forcing NAD PRO MTB and Scott Factory Racing to chase. With 7km to go Philip Buys overcooked a turn on a berm causing him to puncture, leaving Beers and Kleinhans alone to pip Bell and Combrinck by 10 seconds. “Our strategy was not necessarily to go for the win,” said Erik Kleinhans. “There are a lot of excellent cross-country teams here, and they are better suited to this style of riding, but we are very chuffed to take the stage win. The trick now will be to consolidate and hold on to the lead, because the cross-country guys will definitely be eyeing out the shorter stages to come.” Candice Neethling and Vera Adrian (Dorma Time Freight) won the first stage of the 2016 Grindrod Bank Berg & Bush Descent women's race in a time of 03:57:55. They finished 1 minute and 45 seconds ahead of Jennie Stenerhag and Robyn de Groot of Team Ascendis Health. The 98km-long stage started at Windmall Farm in the Drakensberg and finished at Emseni Camp on the banks of the Tugela River. Credit Gavin Ryan. In the women’s race Candice Neethling and Vera Adrian (Dorma Time Freight) took the win in 03:57:55, one minute and 45 seconds ahead of Robyn de Groot and Jennie Stenerhag (Team Ascends Health). Theresa Ralph and Yolandi du Toit (Galileo Risk Garmin) were the third women’s team across the line 04:19:20. “It’s my first time here, so I am thrilled to get a stage win,” says Namibian cyclist and 2016 Olympian Vera Adrian. “Robyn and Jennie haven’t ridden here either, so I think it helped that Candice knew the course slightly from last year. We attacked at the final water point and from there we were able to break away.” Stenerhag and De Groot have both had to overcome illness or injury this year, so the pair we’re happy to be able to race together again. “It’s good to be racing with Jennie again,” said De Groot. “This is our first time here and it was awesome. The trails were great and the singletrack was fantastic. I’m definitely looking forward to the next two days.” Results men: 1 Matt Beers and Erik Kleinhans - Red E Topeak Ergon - 03:26:26 2 Nico Bell and Gawie Combrinck - NAD PRO MTB - 03:26:36 3 Gert Heyns and Philip Buys - Scott LCB Factory Racing - 03:28:50 4 Lourens Luus and Konny Looser - PSG BiXS Pro Team - 03: 31:04 5 Hendrik Kruger and Johann Rabie - Team Telkom - 03:31:06 Results women: 1 Candice Neethling and Vera Adrian - Dorma Time Freight - 03:57:55 2 Robyn de Groot and Jennie Stenerhag - Team Ascendis Health - 03:59:10 3 Yolandi du Toit and Theresa Ralph - Galileo Risk Garmin - 04:19:20 4 Anli Smith and Tamaryn Kietzmann - Complete Cyclist - 04:37: 47 5 Bonny Swanepoel and Nadine Visagie - Pocket Rockets - 04:43:52
  12. Photo credit: Em Gatland. But what is it that makes this event – which offers two three-day and a two-day version for competitors – special? Knowledgeable mountain bikers say there are eight reasons that mark the Berg & Bush as a truly unique MTB experience. The view across Great Wall My China: the escarpment separating the Free State from KwaZulu-Natal offers elevated views from the former across the latter. Independent Newspapers group sports editor Tim Whitfield, the journalist who described the Berg & Bush as the country’s premier event, says: “I am not a big one for great views on a ride. I tend to appreciate them and move on, but this is truly spectacular – probably the only view I have come across that is worth stopping for a selfie.” Then there is the descent down Solly’s Folly and the Drakensberg Drop that takes riders down into KZN from the Free State: “A great section of riding that every mountain biker needs to do at least once (a year),” says Whitfield, himself an accomplished an experienced mountain biker. The Spioenkop Sprint, a one-off race up Spioenkop for anyone who would like to compete for the prize money. After Stage 1 of The Descent the top pros and any other challengers take on the 2km climb as an extra contest – for a hefty prize purse. The other riders and supporters get to watch from alongside the course, giving rise to a vibe a bit like some of the great climbs on the Tour de France. The descent on Stage 3. It starts at the top of Spioenkop Mountain – the site of a famous Boer war battle – and ends a breathtaking 13km later. If you don’t have a huge grin on your face after that then you are not a mountain biker. Or you have managed to crash on the way down. The singletrack, which race founder and organiser Gary Green, also known as “Farmer Gary”, says has been designed to have flow and be fun without being too technical. Whitfield adds: “It is well prepared but keeps the natural feel, so you have to ride it rather than simply make sure you wheels are pointing in the right direction.” The overnight stops. “Slick and well organised but not clinical,” Whitfield says. “They are more friendly than most other races, but not to the point where you are ever worried about what you are eating.” This year a lot of work has gone into the Centriq Chill Zone at the Em’seni race village on the Tugela River bank and it is going to be spectacular. The logistics. In the past this might have been a challenge, but this year they have been made as easy as, well, booking a flight, a tent at the start and a shuttle. There is going to be a shuttle from OR Tambo airport to the start and then another one from the finish back to the airport. The overnight stops on Day 1 and Day 2 are both in the same place, so there is obviously not an issue there. Winterton is nearby with B&Bs, supermarkets and a rich history. There is also a special “Drakensberg Experience” on offer with nearby hotels. Champagne Sports Resort (Central Drakensberg), Montusi Mountain Lodge (Northern Drakensberg) and Cathedral Peak Hotel are offering a 30 percent discount to all 2016 Berg & Bush participants during the month of October. The Berg & Bush offers three events: the three-day Descent (October 7 to 9 this year) and Great Trek (October 11 to 13) and the 2-Day (October 15 and 16 – SOLD OUT). Go to http://www.bergandbush.co.za for more details.
  13. The Grindrod Bank Berg & Bush has been hailed by a leading sports journalist as “the premier mountain biking event in the country”. And he is not alone: people who have taken part are unanimous in giving it a vigorous thumbs up. Click here to view the article
  14. Ahead of their 2016 events, the Grindrod Bank Berg & Bush will be hosting three fun and informative Beer Nights around South Africa. The popular mountain bike event invites all entrants, MTB enthusiasts and those hoping to experience the unique and thrilling trails of KwaZulu-Natal to join them for an evening of race information, beers and bike banter. The Beer Nights will be hosted in Durban (21 June at Grindrod Bank), Cape Town (22 June at Revolution Cycles) and Johannesburg (23 June at Grindrod Bank), from 6-8pm. Grindrod Berg & Bush race director Gary Green will be at all three evenings to answer any questions you might have about the event, and to provide updates on the ever-improving route. Green will talk through the extensive changes made to the Berg & Bush route for Day 1, including new overtaking sections and faster, more flowing singletrack. The Day 2 route has also been tweaked, with a new section that now takes riders along the Tugela River. For Day 3, riders can look forward to a new downhill section that is currently under construction. Day 2 of the 2 Day has been completely revamped, highlight the Berg & Bush’s determination to provide a truly world class MTB experience. There will also be surprise guest speakers at each Beer Night, discussing a range of MTB topics from technical skills to training programmes. All Beer Night guests at each of the three evenings will also stand the chance of winning a special entry to the Berg & Bush event of their choice. The lucky winners will receive a team entry, superior accommodation at the event, team Adventure Physio sessions, and a helicopter flip over the spectacular route. To book a ticket email roxanne@bergandbush.co.za for pre-bookings only. Tickets cost R100 and include free beer and snacks. Grindrod Bank Berg & Bush Beer Nights at 6pm21 June Durban @ Grindrod Bank – 5 Arundel Close, Kingsmead Office Park, Durban. 6-8pm. 22 June Cape Town @ Revolution Cycles – 177 Bree St, Cape Town City Centre. 6-8pm. 23 June Joburg @ Grindrod Bank – Fourth Floor, Grindrod Tower, 8A Protea Place, Sandton. 6-8pm. Grindrod Bank Berg & Bush event dates THE RACE – DESCENT – 3 DAYS 7-9 October 2016 THE RIDE – GREAT TREK – 3 DAYS 11-13 October 2016 THE ORIGINAL – 2 DAY – 2 DAYS 15-16 October 2016 SOLD OUT
  15. The Grindrod Bank Berg & Bush invites you to their popular Beer Nights, where you can win a team entry as well as hear the latest event updates. Click here to view the article
  16. One of South Africa’s premier mountain bike events hope to bring rapid relief to desperate KwaZulu-Natal farmers this year with a welcome donation of water tanks. Click here to view the article
  17. Riders in last year’s Grindrod Bank Berg and Bush were shocked by the serious drought conditions affecting private farms through which they passed, said event founder Gary Green. “Our official race initiative this year is to partner with JoJo tanks to assist farmers and their staff along the route. “The riders have the option to pledge a donation when they enter online and together we will provide water tanks to help with the drought issue in an area which desperately needs aid.” One of South Africa’s premier mountain bike race, the Grindrod Bank Berg and Bush, will bring relief to desperate KwaZulu-Natal farmers this year with a welcome donation of water tanks. Photo: Em Gatland Green said their commitment to social initiatives was one of several factors that made Berg and Bush a favourite among the cycling community – and one of KwaZulu-Natal’s premier multistage mountain bike races. Comprising three separate races – the Descent, Great Trek and 2-Day – that boast wide mountain and bushveld vistas, Green believed it was one of the most beautiful in the country. He said the route (a portion of which winds through privately-owned farms) differs each year and riders could look forward to some exciting changes. The original two-day race attracted just 56 participants, said Green, but word quickly spread and the numbers swelled. “Today, after 10 years, we host just under 3 000 riders. We are obviously chuffed to have grown to our current size. “To cope with the growing field, we’ve developed a significant number of overtaking sections along our descents so that riders can have a lot of free-riding,” said Green. “We are always working on finding something special and try to stay innovative to ensure that, above all else, riders have the best ride.” “We have a lot of requests for race accommodation on the night before the event, so some riders slept in tents at Emseni. “However, our race village simply can’t handle the numbers, so we’re building a new registration race village at Windmill Farm on top of the Drakensberg.” Green said riders may opt to book there on the night before the two three-day races. Entries open on February 1 to riders who competed in 2015 and on February 15 to the public. For more info, send an e-mail to info@bergandbush.co.za or visit www.bergandbush.co.za. Alternatively, find the race on Facebook or follow @bergandbush and @roxannejgreen
  18. Grindrod Bank have secured the title sponsorship of one of KwaZulu-Natal’s premier multistage mountain bike races, the Berg and Bush. Click here to view the article
  19. “We are delighted that we were invited to become more involved in this event,” said Grindrod Bank managing director David Polkinghorne, in the wake of the financial institution coming on board as presenting sponsor during last year’s 10th anniversary event. Grindrod Bank have secured the title sponsorship of Berg and Bush, one of the country’s premier multistage mountain bike races. The 11th edition of the KwaZulu-Natal event starts on October 7. Photo: Em Gatland “It showcases some of the most spectacular mountain bike trails in the province and encourages an active lifestyle among families,” said Polkinghorne. “Berg and Bush also seek to meaningfully and sustainably uplift a local community in the Drakensberg through the Qhubeka bicycle initiative. “From humble beginnings, the Berg and Bush can rightly claim to be one of the cycling community’s most anticipated events and we look forward to helping organiser Gary Green and his committed team build on this success story.” Berg and Bush comprises three separate races (the Descent, Great Trek and 2-Day) across 130km of single-track featuring scenic mountain vistas and bushveld, portions of which are on privately owned farms. The route changes each year with the next edition getting underway with the Descent at the border post on top of the Drakensberg on October 7. Entries open on February 1 to riders who competed in 2015 and on February 15 to the public. Visit www.bergandbush.co.za for more information.
  20. The Berg and Bush mountain bike event marks a “decade of dirt” with major celebrations and extensive route changes planned for the 10th edition of the Central Drakensberg stage race later this year. Click here to view the article
  21. Race founder Gary Green said one of the new additions would be the “Race up Spioenkop” – a 1.5km hill climb on the Descent feature route – with prize money for the fastest rider to the summit. The Berg and Bush mountain bike event marks a “decade of dirt” this year with major celebrations and extensive route changes planned for the 10th edition of the Central Drakensberg stage race later this year. Photos: Kelvin Trautman. “Because Spioenkop formed part of a famous battle in the Anglo-Boer War, there will be equal prize money for English and Afrikaans speakers,” he laughed. “We are also making some radical changes to the route and planning some exciting competitions and other surprises.” Green, who farms near Winterton in the shadow of Spioenkop, said the idea to start a race had first come to him while enjoying another KwaZulu-Natal event 11 years ago. “I was riding with my brother Andrew when I realised that being an extensive cattle farmer and living in the foothills of the Drakensberg created the perfect environment for proper mountain biking.” As it turned out, he was entirely correct. The original two-day race attracted just 56 participants but word quickly spread and the numbers swelled. Today the event boasts more than 2 500 participants across three racing options, which include the three-day Descent and Great Trek. “We would never have imagined that we would need three separate races to cater for the demand. We are totally overwhelmed and happy with what we’ve achieved,” said Green. The two weekend events – the Descent and two-dayer – were fully subscribed by August last year, he said. “Our mid-week race, the Great Trek, is growing every year. It’s a more relaxed and scenic option for less competitive teams and solo riders.” Green said the major highlights over the past decade were finding routes down Spioenkop and off the Drakensberg Mountains to create a tradition of true mountain biking. “Cycling through Spioenkop Game Reserve is also just amazing.” When three of the reserve’s rhino were poached a couple of years ago, the race organisers stepped in to prevent it from happening again. “We were devastated as a community. Together with our sponsors we repaired and replaced sections of fencing around the reserve to help save the rhino and fortunately haven’t had any problems since.” Green said living close to nature had lent a strong environmental flavour to the race’s social responsibility focus. “This year, we are also hosting our first trail run on the Berg and Bush route to help raise funds for the conservation of the oxpecker birds.” In addition, he said the event employed people from the local community throughout the year to prepare, maintain and develop new routes. “Many schools, churches and community organisations also benefit financially from running the waterpoints.” He said some of the first participants in 2006 and sponsors over the years had been invited to take part in the anniversary celebrations. The event starts with the Descent on October 9, followed by the Great Trek on October 13 and wraps up with the Two-Day from October 17. Green appealed to riders who had entered all 10 Berg and Bush events to contact them at info@bergandbush.co.za. Visit www.bergandbush.co.za. Alternatively, find the race on Facebook or follow @bergandbush and @FarmerGaryGreen.
  22. Grindrod Bank has come on board as the presenting sponsor of the Berg and Bush mountain bike race, which celebrates 10 trailblazing years in the Central Drakensberg in October. Click here to view the article
  23. Grindrod public relations and marketing coordinator Sarah Freestone said the national financial institution had a long history of sponsoring outdoor events such as the Umngazi Pondo Pedal and Zululand Rhino Adventure Ride. Grindrod Bank has come on board as the presenting sponsor of the Berg and Bush mountain bike race in the Central Drakensberg, which marks its first decade of existence on October 9. Photo: Em Gatland/Nikon. “But nothing on the same size and scale as Berg and Bush,” she said. The latest addition to their sponsorship stable comprises a trio of races, namely the three-day Descent and Great Trek options and the original Two-Day event. The Berg and Bush attracts some 2 500 riders annually across all three races and has previously been voted the best stage race in South Africa. “As avid mountain bikers, many of our employees have ridden Berg and Bush in the past and have a personal relationship with Gary Green and his team,” said Freestone. “Mountain biking has always been a part of the bank’s corporate culture, so it was an opportunity that we jumped at when Gary approached us.” Green said the sponsor’s contribution had allowed his team to introduce some exciting changes to the routes and race village for the “decade of dirt” festivities. These include improvements to the spectacular Solly’s Folly section that takes riders down off the escarpment and recently developed single-track trails in the vicinity of the historic Spioenkop. Riders can also look forward to new ablution facilities and luxury tenting options at the Em’seni Camp race village on the banks of the Tugela River. “We are excited to have Grindrod Bank on board this year to partner us in our 10-year celebrations,” said Green. “It allows us to host what we hope will be a really special and enjoyable event for all.” Freestone added that, as a company with a solid work ethic, Grindrod employees would relish the opportunity to take a break from the corporate grind and cycle some of the most scenic mountain bike tracks the country had to offer. “Similarly, for over two decades, Grindrod Bank has been able to build a solid client franchise and act strategically in navigating the evolving financial landscape.” The investment bank has offices in Durban, Cape Town, Johannesburg and Pretoria and offers a personalised approach to financial services through its established relationships with private, corporate and institutional investors. The Berg and Bush, presented by Grindrod Bank, starts with the Descent on Saturday, October 9, followed by the mid-week Great Trek from October 13, and concludes with the Two-Day event from October 17. Visit www.bergandbush.co.za. Alternatively, find the race on Facebook or follow @bergandbush and @FarmerGaryGreen.
  24. Riders in the Berg and Bush mountain bike stage race will have added incentive to outgun their rivals, as they battle for their share of a new R100 000 prize purse for the race up Spioenkop in November. Click here to view the article
  25. The 1.5km charge up to the iconic Anglo-Boer War site in the Central Drakensberg is an optional extra “race within a race” and was first introduced during the two-day event last year. Organiser Gary Green said Spioenkop had long been a landmark on the Berg and Bush route, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. “It is such an iconic mountain with so much history, so when we were able to build a cycle track down the mountain, it became a real feature of the event.” Mountain bikers who have signed up for the Berg and Bush stage race will have an extra R80 000 to race for with the new Spioenkop hill climb challenge during the 10th edition of the KwaZulu-Natal event in November. Photo: www.nickmuzik.com Green said giving Spioenkop its own hill climb challenge had proved so popular with spectators and participants alike that it was decided to expand the concept to the three-day Descent feature race. The KwaZulu-Natal event, which comprises three racing options, starts with the Descent on October 9 and concludes with the two-dayer from October 17. Green said the Spioenkop dash would take place on the Saturday evening during each of the two weekend events but would not be a feature of the mid-week Great Trek. “The cyclists traditionally drive up to the top of the mountain for sundowners and a history talk. “We think it will be great entertainment for those watching from the top and hope to create an Alp d’Huez, Tour de France-style, feel where spectators line the road and shout encouragement.” Participants start at the boom gate at the bottom of the climb and cover the first 500m on gravel at a maximum gradient of 20 per cent. “The next 500-metre section is flat and has been recently tarred,” said Green. “Then the last section is again very steep and will take the cyclists through the crowd and onto the summit.” The first man and woman to the top in the Descent version will pocket R20 000 each. This is in addition to the R30 000 prize for the overall winning men’s and women’s teams, which sees some of the country’s top elite riders in action. “With this type of prize money we believe it will definitely become a serious race within a race,” said Green. See the newly revamped website www.bergandbush.co.za for more details. Alternatively, find the race on Facebook or follow @bergandbush and @FarmerGaryGreen.
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