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  1. This season I decided to fund my European race block myself, even if it meant that the World Championships was a self-funded event, as I believed I stood a chance to better my previous results and it was my main goal of 2019. de Groot My goal was to finish in the top five. Considering I had surgery in January, I never expected to get a podium. However, this has been amazing and for sure it is a great feeling and accomplishment. It certainly gives me good energy for the remainder of the season and 2020. The racing conditions were good on the day. It was quite a technical route, so I think all the riders were really happy that the weather held. I arrived a few days earlier to inspect the route which was a worthwhile exercise. Compared to previous World Champs, the course had a lot of elevation in relation to the distance and it required a lot of focus. In terms of her preparation for the event she mentioned: I have really been focused on maintaining balance. While I have been focused where necessary, I have also made time for my friends, family, and even ensured to find time to continue to play some golf. I felt relaxed going into the race and it has been a combination of so many things coming together at the right time. De Groot won the Rothaus Bike Giro in Germany last month, as well as had a strong performance at the M3Montafon ultra marathon in Austria in May. She has been working closely with her coach to train things she was previously unable to do due to the problem with blood flow she had to her leg. It was so nice to address things in my training we could not focus on for the past few years. I also learnt a lot from Sabine Spitz who played a huge role in helping me achieve this. The support from the dormakaba family has also been wonderful with my teammates really being supportive leading up to the event and Shaun Frayne, (MD of dormakaba South Africa) and the other sponsors ensuring I have the equipment needed to race to the best of my abilities. This week she will take some time off structred training, although looks forward to keeping active and riding at leisure before returning to South Africa next week. She is looking forward to the remainder of the season on home turf. I’m looking forward to race Berg & Bush with Amy (McDougall) as well as Wines2Whales late October, and potentially a few one day races before wrapping the season up. Of course, it is now about managing timing as well as resting up before the 2020 season We are so proud of Robyn and her accomplishments this season in Europe. She has quickly become an indelible part of team dormakaba and we cannot wait to see her race in South Africa again. Shaun Frayne, MD of dormakaba South Africa About dormakaba South Africadormakaba South Africa is an established 30-year old provider of smart and secure access solutions across South and Sub-Saharan Africa. Our premium products and creative solutions are crafted to the highest quality and include the supply and installation of door hardware, entrance systems, interior glass systems, electronic access and data, master key systems, safe locks, lodging, movable walls, key systems, and we deliver comprehensive service contracts. With more than 150 years of experience, millions of products and countless successful installations, we are your reliable partner in secure and flexible access installations across all industries and requirements.
  2. With the cold front passing through the Cape, spectators and riders faced the cold morning breezes with lots of coffee and warm up sessions. Pro riders were yet again responsible for bringing the heat to the start of the SA XCM Champs. The pro men were first out of the blocks with Shaun-Nick Bester in the lead within the first 10-kilometres. Rain poured down and made the trail even muddier and more slippery after the previous night’s rain. Matt Beers caught up with the leaders and soon after Gert Heyns attacked along with the rest of the batch where they to take over the lead. Their positions stayed unchanged throughout the day and left the rest of the field consistently playing catch up. Gert Heyns claimed the title of Elite Men SA XCM Champion when he crossed the line with a phenomenal finish. The pro ladies stepped up to the start and headed onto the cold wet track. Samantha Sanders took the lead, along with Amy Beth McDougall, Sarah Hill and Robyn de Groot at 14-kilometres. Robyn de Groot lead the climb with Samantha and Amy Beth close behind. 35-Kilometres in, Amy Beth took over the lead and set the pace for the long climb ahead. Robyn de Groot dominated the rest of the race, increasing the gap with every kilometre she covered. A strong finish after a tough day out, made Robyn de Groot the Elite Women SA XCM Champion for the sixth time. The Oak Valley Wine Estate and surroundings provided a memorable day out for both spectators and the competitors. Congratulations to all who finished the race. Robyn de Groot in the lead at the Nissan Trailseeker MTB Series #3 Grabouw. 2018 Nissan Trailseeker MTB Series #3, Western Cape Oak Valley, Grabouw Leading results: Elite Men Podium Gert Heyns – 03:29:30 Matt Beers – 03:33:25 Gawie Combrinck – 03:34:09 Elite Women Podium Robyn de Groot – 03:58:47 Amy Beth McDougall – 04:00:05 Samantha Sanders – 04:20:23 Nissan Trailseeker Event #3 | Grabouw Winners
  3. Sabine Spitz leading teammate Robyn de Groot. Photo credit: Marc Sampson. Absa Cape Epic. Sportzpics. The German star crashed hard 15km from the end of Stage 6, snapping her handlebars which resulted in a significant amount of time being used to fix her bike. It meant that any hope she and Team Ascendis Health partner Robyn de Groot had of winning the Absa Cape Epic were gone. The two eventually won four stages together, but luck deserted them. “It does feel a little surreal to have won four stages and still finish third overall,” said De Groot. “When we were able to ride without lady luck falling out of favour with us, we made a formidable team and we really raced well together. That’s why Lange Sports have paired us up together again for 2018.” De Groot was full of admiration for the courage shown by Sabine, the former Olympic gold medallist, in finishing the race after her second big crash of the race, the first happening during Stage 1. “We both couldn't believe what had happened in that crash,” said De Groot. “There was no time to waste. It was amazing how we started looking at options to make the bars rideable. We knew we lost a lot of time, but giving up was not an option.” “We lost our second place that day and the gap between us and Meerendal CBC was impossible to close. We could not dwell on what could have been. We just had bad luck and dealt best with what the race threw at us. In a way, the hardships we endured made our other stage victories that much sweeter, and also helped us realise what a great team we made. Winning the Grand Finale after the handlebar stage was a great feeling.” Photo credit: Marc Sampson. Absa Cape Epic. Sportzpics. While De Groot has had to take some time off to overcome an injury in the build-up to the Absa Cape Epic, she is back on track and has been training with Sabine in South Africa. “She has been paramount to helping me through this injury mentally and physically. Her preparation is going well and she has really enjoyed exploring more of South Africa on her bicycle.” The South African Marathon Champion has enjoyed much success in Prologues at the Absa Cape Epic, having won it twice and taken a second place in her three races. “I’ve enjoyed the Prologues and really just focussed on enjoying starting a race you prepare so hard for... it always feels great to finally start. It’s a small part of the race, but, none the less, they are hard stages where we push our limits, so winning them is just as big a win as the longer more endurance based stages. “I wouldn’t say you can jump to conclusions based on the Prologue performances. So much can happen in eight days. Last year was certainly a testament to this for us.” De Groot does not like to over-analyse the route of the race too much. She knows the stages will be tough, the drought in the Western Cape will make the trails more challenging, and feels the time trial on Stage 5 will bring a new dynamic to those racing at the sharp end with.
  4. The Queen Stage of the 2017 Momentum Health Cape Pioneer Trek, presented by Biogen, saw the Team Spur/Red-E combination to Alan Hatherly and Matt Beers distance NAD Pro MTB in the final meters to claim a potentially decisive stage win. The sixth stage of the race, on Friday the 20th of October, featured a mammoth 2 700 metres of climbing and was won by the Team Ascendis Health duo of Robyn de Groot and Sabine Spitz in the UCI women’s competition. Click here to view the article
  5. The Swartberg Pass is an iconic feature of the Cape Pioneer Trek and after its absence in 2016, Dryland Event Management took the decision to reinclude the grand old dame in the 2017 event. The 95 kilometre long stage might have ended on the Swarberg Pass, but the National Monument’s roads – which date back to 1886 – only accounted for 800 metres of the total elevation gain, making the stage exceptionally brutal. Alan Hatherly and Matt Beers distanced Nico Bell and Gawie Combrink in the final 300 metres of the Swartberg Pass climb to claim victory on the Queen Stage of the 2017 Momentum Health Cape Pioneer Trek, presented by Biogen. Photo by Hayden Brown. Once again the NAD Pro MTB team did their best to drive up the pace in the early phases of the race, but without a second equally strong general classification team to counter punch and put Team Spur/Red-E under pressure they could not force a split from the yellow jersey wearers. Despite crossing some typically technical Klein Karoo terrain, which shook off the other UCI men’s teams Spur/Red-E and NAD Pro started the final climb together. “I tried to set a tough pace in the hope of dropping Alan [Hatherly]” Bell explained at the top of the Swartberg Pass. “It is impossible to set the pace and attack so Gawie [Combrink] tried to attack a few times, with the idea of me riding across to him if he got away. But Alan [Hatherly] and Matt [beers] were too strong and could follow every move” he concluded. “My legs felt terrible on the final climb, but somehow I hung in there. Then in the last 500 metres they started to feel better, miraculously, so I thought we might as well go for it and see if we could gain a few seconds” Beers said. “Alan [Hatherly] is like a little rat, he climbs so fast” he laughed, “and I’m like an ogre, so I just have to hang in there.” Matt Beers looks back as he makes the decisive attack on the upper reaches of the Swartberg Pass. Photo by Hayden Brown. The sixth stage win of 2017 Momentum Health Cape Pioneer Trek, presented by Biogen, for Team Spur/Red-E saw them cross the line 8 seconds ahead of NAD Pro MTB and extend their general classification lead to 1 minute and 43 seconds. The third placed team on the general classification, KMC Fruit to Go, crossed the finish line on the summit of the pass 6 minutes and 41 seconds behind the stage winners. The result sees Bram Rood and Gerben Mos slip to 17 minutes and 31 seconds down on the overall time sheets. In the women’s race Team Ascendis Health made the going brutally tough for Team Spur/Valencia. By the 45 kilometre mark De Groot and Spitz had established a lead of 2 minutes and 45 seconds. It looked for all money as if Ariane Luthi and Amy-Beth McDougall would falter, allowing the pink jerseys to slip from their shoulders. Robyn de Groot reaches across to congratulate her Ascendis Health teammate, Sabine Spitz, on another stellar stage. Photo by Hayden Brown. After three stages of struggling to match her partner’s pace McDougall put in a race saving ride on stage 6. The Valencia rider was the dominant partner in the team on the stage and rescued Team Spur/Valencia’s Cape Pioneer Trek title hopes. “Amy [McDougall] was so strong today, she really helped me so much” a grateful Lüthi said. “We gave it our all today” a visibly spent De Groot accounted from the top of the Swartberg Pass. “But it was not to be.” “That is racing” her partner Spitz concluded. An exhausted Ariane Lüthi recovers while Amy-Beth McDougall smiles in the knowledge that the Team Spur/Valencia pairing did enough to hang on to their pink leaders’ jerseys going into the final stage of the 2017 Momentum Health Cape Pioneer Trek, presented by Biogen. Photo by Hayden Brown. Both the men’s and women’s races are far from decided however; the final stage, which takes in 1 150 metres of climbing in its 64 kilometre distance, dished up drama in last year’s edition of the Cape Pioneer Trek. The loose shale surfaces of Chandelier Game Farm provide for exhilarating mountain biking, but they can lead to serious mechanicals and spectacular implosions too. In 2016 both the Team Spur and Cape Brewing Co Elite squads lost their podium positions; after a side wall puncture for Julian Jessop, of Team Spur, and a complete draining of his energy reserves for Daniel Gathof saw both teams lose massive chunks of time. It remains all to race for then, with NAD Pro MTB and Team Ascendis Health afforded one final opportunity to topple Team Spur/Red-E and Team Spur/Valencia from the top of the men’s and women’s general classifications. To follow the action as it unfolds mountain biking fans can follow the event’s Twitter handle, @CapePioneerTrek, from 07:30 on Saturday morning. In addition to the live coverage on Twitter the highlights from every stage of the race can be viewed on the Cape Pioneer Trek Facebook page and the Dryland Event Management YouTube Channel from 20:00, Central African Time, daily. For more information on the Momentum Health Cape Pioneer Trek, presented by Biogen, please visit www.capepioneer.co.za. Results: 2017 Momentum Health Cape Pioneer Trek, presented by BiogenUCI Men | Stage 6 1. Team Spur/RedE, Alan Hatherly & Matthew Beers (4:07:08) 2. NAD Pro MTB, Nico Bell & Gawie Combrink (4:07:17 | +00:08) 3. KMC Fruit to Go, Bram Rood & Gerben Mos (4:13:50 | +06:41) 4. Kelly’s Bikeranch Team, Jiri Krivanek & Marek Rauchfuss (4:14:09 | +07:00) 5. KTM Pro Team, Moritz Bscherer & Manuel Pliem (4:22:57 | +15:48) UCI Women | Stage 6 1. Team Ascendis Health, Robyn de Groot & Sabine Spitz (4:33:12) 2. Team Spur/Valencia, Ariane Luthi & Amy-Beth McDougall (4:35:50 | +02:38) 3. Junto Ladies, Nicky Giliomee & Frankie du Toit (5:41:41 | +1:08:29) 4. Team Cape Brewing Company, Ila Stow & Marianne Bergli (5:44:29 | +1:11:17) 5. Team Bicycling, Jenna Borrill & Tandy Kitching (6:02:16 | +1:29:04) UCI Men | General Classification after Stage 6 1. Team Spur/RedE, Alan Hatherly & Matthew Beers (19:27:51) 2. NAD Pro MTB, Nico Bell & Gawie Combrink (19:29:35 | +01:43) 3. KMC Fruit to Go, Bram Rood & Gerben Mos (19:45:23 | +17:31) 4. Kellys Bikeranch Team, Jiri Krivanek & Marek Rauchfuss (20:01:56 | +34:04) 5. SPOT Africa, Derrin Smith & Timothy Hammond (20:13:33 | +45:41) UCI Women | General Classification after Stage 6 1. Team Spur/Valencia, Ariane Luthi & Amy-Beth McDougall (21:42:30) 2. Team Ascendis Health, Robyn de Groot & Sabine Spitz (21:45:00 | +02:29) 3. Junto Ladies, Nicky Giliomee & Frankie du Toit (25:09:30 | +3:27:00) 4. Team Cape Brewing Company, Ila Stow & Marianne Bergli (26:18:35 | +4:36:05) 5. Team Bicycling, Jenna Borrill & Tandy Kitching (27:57:59 | +8:30:08) For all the results from the 2017 Momentum Health Cape Pioneer Trek, presented by Biogen please click here.
  6. The Team Spur/Red-E combination of Alan Hatherly and Matt Beers sprinted to victory on stage three of the Momentum Health Cape Pioneer Trek, presented by Biogen, on Tuesday, the 17th of October. Their female compatriots were not able to match their winning streak, however, as Team Ascendis Health raced to their first stage win of the race crossing the finish line, in George, first in the elite women’s competition. Click here to view the article
  7. The 99 kilometre long stage, from Mossel Bay to George, took in 2 000 metres of climbing, but the largely smooth road surfaces made for an easier day than on the preceding, rocky, stage. Once again the wind played its part, but unlike during stage two the South Westerly wind blew the riders towards their destination rather than impeding their progress towards it. In the elite men’s race the tailwind kept the leading group of riders together until the final water point at the 75 kilometre mark of the stage. By then the NAD Pro team, of Nico Bell and Gawie Combrink, and the Spur/Red-E combination had whittled the initial group of eight teams down to the four main contenders. Joining the general classification leaders and their nearest rivals at the front of the race were the Dutch KMC Fruit to Go team, of Bram Rood and Gerben Mos, and the Czech Kellys Bikeranch team, of Jiri Krivanek and Marek Rauchfuss. Alan Hatherly and Matt Beers further secured their grip on the yellow leaders’ jerseys with their third stage victory of the 2017 Momentum Health Cape Pioneer Trek, presented by Biogen, in George on Tuesday, the 17th of October. Photo by Zoon Cronje. Krivanek and Rauchfuss were the first to falter in the stage’s first singletrack after the final water point. Then an acceleration from Hatherly reduced the group to just NAD and Spur/Red-E. “They are just stronger than us, so we are focusing on third” Rood confessed post stage. “We tried to race smart today and conserve energy for the final hour” Hatherly said. “We attacked on a sharp singletrack climb and got a little gap on NAD, but then I slipped and moved over on the next little climb – because it is the sporting thing to do – which allowed Nico [bell] and Gawie [Combrink] past” Beers elaborated. “Then we had to work hard to catch back up to them, and when we did we knew it would come down to a sprint” the Red-E rider concluded. The blustery conditions made for tactical rather than aggressive racing as the riders made their way through the foothills of the Outeniqua Mountains on their way from Mossel Bay to George. Photo by Zoon Cronje. “I’m not known for my sprint so I knew we would have to go early and make it around the corner onto the sport fields first to take the stage win. I went with about 300 meters to go, but we could not hold them off” Combrink reflected on the decisive moment of the stage. Hatherly powered passed the NAD Pro pairing and Beers hung on as best he could to secure their third successive stage victory by a single second. The women’s race was also a war of attrition, with the last two days taking their toll on Amy-Beth McDougall in particular. “Yesterday was really hard and I struggled a lot, so I think it’s accumulative. I’ve been having a little bit of a chest problems too, so from 85 kilometres onwards I was suffering” McDougall elaborated. “Robyn [de Groot] and Sabine [spitz] were leading through the singletrack and after a slippery section, which we had to walk up, I lost concentration and fell. It was not a bad crash but they got a gap and we could not close it” she concluded. Robyn de Groot and Sabine Spitz, of Team Ascendis Health, pose for a post-stage photo after their first victory of the 2017 Momentum Health Cape Pioneer Trek, presented by Biogen. Photo by Zoon Cronje. De Groot and Spitz raced to victory and in so doing clawed back 1 minute and 22 seconds to Team Spur/Valencia in the general classification standings. “Today went smoothly” De Groot said, after completing her first stage win of the race. “There was a lot of wind at the start and a few obstacles which kept the bunches together. We were fortunate to have a tailwind which blew us along the contours and towards George. It was pretty muddy and chilly. But I’m happy with how it went” she summarised. Ariane Lüthi and Amy-Beth McDougall remain in the pink jerseys, as the leading women’s team, though their advantage shrunk to 5 minutes and 47 seconds, after their second position on stage 3. Photo by Zoon Cronje. Stage four marks the Momentum Health Cape Pioneer Trek, presented by Biogen’s first ever mid-race time trial. After a hint of the singletrack conditions in the forests above George, in the final ten kilometres of stage three, the riders by-in-large know what to expect from Wednesday’s 31 kilometre long stage. “It is going to be muddy and slippery, especially on the new trails” Bell predicted. “The downhill sections are fine because you can ride off the track on the grass, but the climbs are going to be tricky.” The leading men will probably take just over an hour to complete the route and while it is unlikely to provide a race winning time gain; it could cost a team the race, should they suffer a serious crash or mechanical. On the muddy trails, with the added pressure of the time trial, emerging unscathed could well prove more important than gaining a few seconds. To see how the action unfolds, during stage four, mountain biking fans can follow the event’s Twitter handle, @CapePioneerTrek, for live updates. The highlights from every stage of the race of the Cape Pioneer Trek can be viewed on the event Facebook page and the Dryland Event Management YouTube Channel from 20:00, Central African Time, daily. For more information on the Momentum Health Cape Pioneer Trek, presented by Biogen, please visit www.capepioneer.co.za. Results: 2017 Momentum Health Cape Pioneer Trek, presented by BiogenUCI Men | Stage 3 1. Team Spur/RedE, Alan Hatherly & Matthew Beers (3:58:17) 2. NAD Pro MTB, Nico Bell & Gawie Combrink (3:58:18 | +00:01) 3. KMC Fruit to Go, Bram Rood & Gerben Mos (3:59:44| +01:27) 4. Kelly’s Bikeranch Team, Jiri Krivanek & Marek Rauchfuss (4:03:40 | +05:23) 5. SPOT Africa, Derrin Smith & Timothy Hammond (4:04:57| +06:40) UCI Women | Stage 3 1. Team Ascendis Health, Robyn de Groot & Sabine Spitz ( 4:22:33) 2. Team Spur/Valencia, Ariane Luthi & Amy-Beth McDougall (4:23:54 | +01:21) 3. Junto Ladies, Nicky Giliomee & Frankie du Toit (5:02:54| +40:21) 4. Team Cape Brewing Company, Ila Stow & Marianne Bergli (5:21:40| +59:06) 5. Team Bicycling, Jenna Borrill & Tandy Kitching (5:31:31 | +1:08:58) UCI Men | General Classification after Stage 3 1. Team Spur/RedE, Alan Hatherly & Matthew Beers (10:36:07) 2. NAD Pro MTB, Nico Bell & Gawie Combrink (10:37:10 | +01:03) 3. KMC Fruit to Go, Bram Rood & Gerben Mos (10:42:35 | +06:28) 4. Kellys Bikeranch Team, Jiri Krivanek & Marek Rauchfuss (10:53:09 | +17:01) 5. SPOT Africa, Derrin Smith & Timothy Hammond (10:53:52 | +17:44) UCI Women | General Classification after Stage 2 1. Team Spur/Valencia, Ariane Luthi & Amy-Beth McDougall (11:45:48) 2. Team Ascendis Health, Robyn de Groot & Sabine Spitz (11:51:35 | +05:47) 3. Junto Ladies, Nicky Giliomee & Frankie du Toit (13:24:49 | +1:39:01) 4. Team Cape Brewing Company, Ila Stow & Marianne Bergli (14:15:02| +2:29:13) 5. Team Bicycling, Jenna Borrill & Tandy Kitching (15:12:09 | +4:36:02) For all the results from the 2017 Momentum Health Cape Pioneer Trek, presented by Biogen please click here.
  8. The riders have been selected in line with the 2017 CSA-MTB Selection Criteria. Elite Men: Nico Bell Max Knox Philip Buys Sithembiso MasangaWomen: Robyn de Groot Amy McDougall Nico Bell (NAD Pro Team) claimed the top honours in the Elite Men's race at the 2017 SA MTB Marathon Championships at Cascades MTB Park in Pietermaritzburg on Sunday 21 May. Photo: BOOGS Photography Those riders who qualified through the UCI World Marathon Series that intend to participate in the Marathon World Champs are required to send their information to Dellah Paul dellah@cyclingsa.com so that the entry can be processed. The 2017 edition of the UCI Mountain Bike Marathon World Championships will take the Elite Men along a 98-kilometre route and the Elite Women along an 80-kilometre route in the Hegau area of Germany, just north of the German/Swiss border. Climbs will be short but characteristically steep as the riders traverse the German countryside in pursuit of the rainbow jersey and the accolade of being dubbed the World Champion. Congratulations on your selection and we wish you every success.
  9. Cycling South Africa’s Mountain Bike Commission has great pleasure in announcing that the following riders have been selected to represent South Africa at the 2017 UCI Mountain Bike Marathon World Championships in Singen, Germany, from 24-25 June. Click here to view the article
  10. Robyn de Groot (Ascendis Health) made her five out of five victory when she claimed the gold medal in the Elite Women's race at the 2017 SA MTB Marathon Championships at Cascades MTB Park in Pietermaritzburg on Sunday 21 May. Photo: BOOGS Photography De Groot raced to her fifth National Marathon Championship victory in a time of two hours 51 minutes 59 seconds when she beat Amy Beth McDougall and Christie-Leigh Hearder to the winning position in the 60-kilometre race. “The race was pretty tough,” said De Groot. She had been nursing a cold for the past week and had finally felt okay on the day of the race. “I wasn’t feeling so well at the first water point and thought about calling it a day. Amy was racing very hard and had me under pressure. I pushed on and put some pressure on Amy and got a nice gap and just maintained that until the end. It’s really nice to make it five of five,” she said. Defending Men's Champion Max Knox struggled with a puncture close to 20 kilometres into the race and had to pull out. Strong contender Gawie Combrinck was also forced to withdraw from the race due to an injury at the sani2c a week prior. Going up the concrete climb towards water point three, Pyga Eurosteel’s Philip Buys could feel an onset of cramp beginning to hit him after a week of being unwell, forcing him to stop for close to two minutes while the rest of the riders caught up, falling into fourth place. On the last 20-kilometre loop, Buys fought a tough battle to get back to second place, and Ascendis Health’s Gert Heyns finished in third. Nico Bell (NAD Pro Team) claimed the top honours in the Elite Men's race at the 2017 SA MTB Marathon Championships at Cascades MTB Park in Pietermaritzburg on Sunday 21 May. Photo: BOOGS Photography When chatting about his race, Elite Men’s winner, Nico Bell said: “It was a hard route today. There was a lot of climbing and at 35 kilometres in there was a very steep climb. When we hit the concrete section, Philip (Buys) upped the pace and I was on his wheel. As he sat up I went past him and I kept going harder and harder. I tried hard to open it up even more.” Bell opened up a gap of over two minutes and forty seconds then kept it safe and risk-free to claim the victory in 3:33:11 over the 80-kilometre distance. “I realised that I was quite a gap ahead and knew that they wouldn’t catch me on the downhill. I’m just really happy to walk away with the win today,” he said. Pieter du Toit raced to the Junior Men's victory at the 2017 SA MTB Marathon Championships at Cascades MTB Park in Pietermaritzburg on Sunday 21 May. Photo: BOOGS Photography In the 50-kilometre Junior race, Pieter du Toit took the top honours for the Men and Tiffany Keep won it for the Women in a time of 2:31.08 and 3:09.31 respectively. Du Toit said: “We were all together for the first 15 kilometres and then there were four of us who broke away. Somewhere in the big climb Rossouw Bekker and I broke away and soon after that I broke away from him. I’m very happy with today’s win.” Keep said: “Today’s Marathon was probably the toughest I have ever done. The course is very different to most of the marathons across the country. It was very hot today and the climbing was insane. Hydration was absolutely key to staying on top. “I tried hard to catch a few people in front of me and kept pacing myself until the very end. The last bit of single track was my favourite part of the whole race.” Tiffany’s father, Tim Keep was in charge of the Cross-country Eliminator Series for the younger age groups, as well as anyone who was willing to give it a try. The Series was an absolute entertainment for those on the ground waiting for friends and family to return from the marathon racing. Riders endured the sun and tough climbs at the 2017 SA MTB Marathon Championships at Cascades MTB Park in Pietermaritzburg on Sunday 21 May. Photo: BOOGS Photography SUMMARY OF RESULTS FROM SA MTB MARATHON CHAMPS (Sunday 21 May)Elite Men – 80km 1.Nico Bell 3:33.11 2.Philip Buys 3:36.06 3.Gert Heyns 3:36.16 Elite Women – 60km 1.Robyn de Groot 2:51.59 2.Amy Beth McDougall 2:54.03 3.Christie-Leigh Hearder 3:12.47 Junior Men – 50km 1.Pieter du Toit 2:31.08 2.Rossouw Bekker 2:33.08 3.Mark Oliver Pritzen 2:33.48 Junior Women – 50km 1.Tiffany Keep 3:09.31 2.Azulde Britz 3:17.00 3.Thana Groenewald 3:26.18 Youth Men – 50km 1.Jamie Penfold 2:35.22 2.Joshua Laughton 2:36.23 3.Tristan Nortje 2:45.28 Youth Women – 50km 1.Kelsey van Schoor 3:16.40 2.Zandri Strydom 3:31.54 3.Natalie Strydom 3:34.03 Sub Vet Men (30-34) 1.Leeroy Emslie 2:43.44 2.Mitchell Ginsberg 2:50.24 3.Andrew Stockwell 2:53.16 Sub Vet Men (35-39) 1.Sean Merridew 2:39.08 2.Andrew Johnson 2:40.09 3.David Louw 2:45.13 Sub Vet Women (30-34) 1.Jeanie Dreyer 3:12.47 2.Mandy Human 3:32.09 3.Riana Niehuis 3:34.32 Vets Men (40-44) 1.Grant Usher 2:45.42 2.Warren Price 2:57.28 3.Hendrick Bester 2:59.33 Vet Men (45-49) 1.Andrew Westaway 3:05.24 2.Sean O’Flynn-Madden 3:10.17 3.Ewan Cochran 3:10.34 Vet Women (40-44) 1.Natalie Bergstrom 3:22.31 2.Belinda Mason 3:44.35 3.Charmaine McCullum 4:02.20 Master Men (50-54) 1.Jeremy Thomson 2:55.46 2.Shane Daniel 2:58.30 3.Alan Martin 3:16.36 Master Men (55-59) 1.Charles Nienaber 3:19.00 2.Greg Anderson 3:05.01 3.Martin Buck 3:19.26 Master Women (50-54) 1.Bonny Swanepoel 3:34.39 2.Rentia Dennissen 3:54.26 3.Ilsa van Niekerk 4:05.34 Grand Master Men 1.Colin Gibbings 3:46.38 2.James van den Berg 4:05.19
  11. Two-time KAP sani2c winner De Groot has teamed up with the young cross country specialist after seeing up close how her new teammate can “suffer”, and how well she works in a team scenario. Having battled it out against one another at the recent Absa Cape Epic, Team Ascendis Health's Robyn de Groot (pictured) will join forces with cross country powerhouse Mariske Strauss in an effort to win the overall women's crown at the upcoming KAP sani2c from 11-13 May. Anthony Grote/ Gameplan Media De Groot and Strauss are both South African champions: De Groot as a marathon rider while Strauss has become the country’s leading cross country specialist, but the youngster has proven she can battle it out over the longer distances as well. The new Team Ascendis Health pairing were in opposite trenches last month when they traded mountain biking blows at the ABSA Cape Epic, an encounter which was won by Strauss and her English partner Annie Last when they clinched a narrow second place in the women’s category, just ahead of De Groot and her German partner Sabine Spitz. “With my team set up at the moment I always need to be looking for partners for the big stage races,” said De Groot this week. “So just before the Epic I asked (team principal) Malcolm Lange to keep an eye on Mariske at the Epic, with a view of me doing the sani with her. “She was so good at the Epic and so after that he chatted to her and has put something together for us to race. “We both had very good form at the Epic, but a lot can change in the time between the Epic and sani, however, I am really looking forward to racing with Mariske and I think we can do really well. “I don’t see any problems with our compatibility as a team, and I think we will work really well together. She can suffer a lot – we saw that at the Epic – and I believe I will enjoy riding with anybody who can suffer like that because I think I can also suffer. “Mariske is a person who will do anything for her teammate. At the Epic she had times when she was taking strain and there were times when Annie was hurting, and when Annie was in trouble Mariske looked after her partner. I like that.” The 34-year-old De Groot will be hoping her partnership with Strauss will bring a change in fortunes after a series of mishaps have cost her potential race victories over the past two years. Last year at the KAP sani2c De Groot and Swedish partner Jennie Stenerhag ended their victory hopes when a navigational error handed the lead to Candice Neethling and Vera Adrian. And a few weeks earlier, at the 2016 Epic, Stenerhag suffered heart palpitations when leading the women’s category with De Groot and they were forced to retire. And finally, Last and Strauss, who turns 26 three days after the KAP sani2c, inherited second place at the recent Epic from De Groot when her German partner crashed and broke her handlebars on the penultimate day. “We are certainly going for the win at the sani2c and I think we have a good chance. I think if we don’t go for the win then questions need to be asked, especially as a professional rider you have to always go for the win,” added De Groot. This year is the 13th edition of the KAP sani2c, the world’s largest mountain bike stage race, which takes place from Himeville to Scottburgh during the second week of May. There are three races which form the event. On May 9, the Trail riders set off from Himeville for MacKenzie Farm near Ixopo. Then on the next day, while they are heading for Jolivet Farm in Highflats, the Adventure riders take on stage one. As the Trail riders dash to Scottburgh on May 11, the serious Race riders set off on their three-day journey from Himeville. For more information on KAPsani2c: Info@KAPsani2c.co.za or www.sani2c.co.za.
  12. South African marathon champion, Robyn de Groot, was crowned the queen of Clarens when she won both stages and the overall title at Round 3 of the Ashburton Investments National MTB Series at Clarens in the Eastern Free State at the weekend. Click here to view the article
  13. Vera Adrian Leads Candice Lill and Robyn de Groot up the slick rock section during stage 1 of the Ashburton Investments National MTB Series in Clarens. Photo Credit: www.zcmc.co.za The Ascendis Health rider outsprinted her main rivals to win the 69km Stage 1 narrowly and then pedaled to a more convincing win on the 54km Stage 2 to secure the maximum points for the event and claim the Round 3 victory. Second place went to Team dormakaba’s Candice Lill, with her Namibian teammate, Vera Adrian claiming third place. On Stage 1 a lead group of six riders formed after the first long climb comprising De Groot, Lill, Adrian, Theresa Ralph (Galileo Risk), Yolandi du Toit (Garmin) and Samantha Sanders (Valencia). Just before halfway on the main climb of the day, De Groot, Adrian, Lill and Sanders rode clear with Sanders dropping off higher up on the ascent. De Groot let the dormakaba pair set the pace to the finish and then outsprinted them to claim the victory in a time of 2:51:28. Lill was second and Adrian third. Candice Lill reaches the Porcupine Trail plateau as she makes her way onto the final stretch back into Clarens, during the second stage of the Ashburton Investments National MTB Series Clarens. Photo Credit: www.zcmc.co.za On Stage 2, Sanders was the primary aggressor, setting the pace on the early singletrack and ascents. But De Groot managed to get a solid lead up the main climb near the finish and stayed clear to win in a time of 2:21:05. Lill followed her home less than a minute and a half later in 2:22:28 with Adrian rounding out the podium another 45 seconds later. “I managed to ride clear of the others up the main climb near the end. I had a little tumble, which slowed me down and I lost a bit of my rhythm, but I managed to pick it up again and stay ahead until the finish,” said De Groot after the finish of Stage 2. An Aerial view of Robyn de Groot as she leads the elite women, consisting of Candice Lill, Vera Adrian, Theresa Ralph and Samantha Sanders during Stage 2 of the Ashburton Investments National MTB Series in Clarens. Photo Credit: www.zcmc.co.za “The trails were really nice today compared to yesterday. A lot more challenging with more singletrack and some beautiful views. It’s been great to spend a weekend racing in Clarens,” smiled De Groot. “The two-day format makes the racing a lot more competitive and you have to plan well to ensure you are in contention for both days and the overall. It’s a lot more exciting than the previous format,” added De Groot. “Robyn went on one of the climbs near the end, which is what I was expecting. I was trying to stay within sight of her but just couldn’t get any closer before the finish,” said Lill. “Racing with Candice I have had to up my mountain bike game. I’m very happy with my result. I enjoyed these two days because they were short and fast and the scenery here is just amazing,” said Adrian. Robyn de Groot (Ascendis Health) catching her breath in the finish chute after a fast paced 1st stage of the Ashburton Investments National MTB Series in Clarens. Photo Credit: www.zcmc.co.za With both stage times combined, De Groot’s winning time was 5:12:33, 1:24 ahead of runner-up Lill with Adrian rounding out the podium in 5:14:49. Sanders ended up in fourth place with Du Toit claiming fifth. Round 4 of the 2017 Ashburton Investments National MTB Series is another two-day race format on 10 and 11 June at Champagne Valley in the Central Drakensberg. To enter or for more information, visit www.nationalmtbseries.com Candice Lill and Vera Adrian elated on the finish line after their 2nd and 3rd place positions of the 1st stage of the Ashburton Investments National MTB Series in Clarens. Photo Credit: www.zcmc.co.za Ashburton Investments National MTB Series 2017 Round 3, Clarens Marathon Women Stage 1: 1 Robyn de Groot (RSA) Ascendis Health 2:51:28 2 Candice Lill (RSA) Team dormakaba 2:51:29 3 Vera Adrian (NAM) Team dormakaba 2:51:31 4 Samantha Sanders (RSA) Valencia 2:55:10 5 Theresa Ralph (RSA) Galileo Risk 2:55:15 6 Yolandi du Toit (RSA) Garmin 2:55:24 7 Heidi Wahl (RSA) 2:57:41 8 Sarah Hill (RSA) Liv Giant 3:15:34 9 Hayley Smith (RSA) Bell Equipment 3:18:29 10 Maricel Bekker (RSA) 3:22:16Women Stage 2: 1 Robyn de Groot (RSA) Ascendis Health 2:21:05 2 Candice Lill (RSA) Team dormakaba 2:22:28 3 Vera Adrian (NAM) Team dormakaba 2:23:18 4 Samantha Sanders (RSA) Valencia 2:25:53 5 Yolandi du Toit (RSA) Garmin 2:26:46 6 Theresa Ralph (RSA) Galileo Risk 2:27:40 7 Vanessa Bell (RSA) Bells Cycling 2:28:35 8 Hanli Cilliers (RSA) 2:30:00 9 Sarah Hill (RSA) Liv Giant 2:40:08 10 Hayley Smith (RSA) Bell Equipment 2:40:26 Women combined final positions: 1 Robyn de Groot (RSA) Ascendis Health 5:12:33 2 Candice Lill (RSA) Team dormakaba 5:13:57 3 Vera Adrian (NAM) Team dormakaba 5:14:49 4 Samantha Sanders (RSA) Valencia 5:21:03 5 Yolandi du Toit (RSA) Garmin 5:22:10 6 Theresa Ralph (RSA) Galileo Risk 5:22:55 7 Hanli Cilliers (RSA) 5:54:00 8 Sarah Hill (RSA) Liv Giant 5:55:42 9 Haley Smith (RSA) Bell Equipment 5:58:55 10 Jessica Alcock (RSA) 6:05:47 Half-marathon Females combined – final positions 1 Nicola van der Walt 3:18:16 2 Tanya Kotze 3:18:29 3 Monique du Toit 3:23:39 For full marathon and half-marathon results, visit www.saseeding.org
  14. The event has attracted the likes of Max Knox and Robyn de Groot, Team Ascendis Health add to the mix Erik Kleinhans, Gordon Gilbert, Jeannie & Martin Dreyer, Julian Jessop, Natalie Bergstrom and Pierre Smith and there is sure to be some exciting racing up front for the lucrative prize money. The THIRSTI Extreme is not just about the prize money though, and offers a little something for everyone, including friends and supporters who join you for the long weekend, leave them to relax in the Wimpy Chill Zone whilst you hit the trails. There are a number of other activities on including day rides and a trail run, a big screen, beer garden, jazz and wine evening, clay pigeon shooting, Battlefields history evening, fishing, physios and bike shop repairs, all guaranteed to keep you busy between all the racing with MC Max Cluer, who is sure to keep you entertained. The THIRSTI EXTREME, South Africa’s Biggest Solo Stage Race, is taking place from the 28 – 30 April 2017, in the rolling foothills of the Northern Drakensburg, on the THIRSTI Natural Spring Water property. THIRSTI EXTREME 225: 3 days | 225 km | 4537m ascent | From R2400THIRSTI EXTREME JUNIOR 130: 3 days | 130km | 2600m ascent | From R1700 Entries Close: 5th April 2017 Don’t miss out on the limited tickets available: ENTER NOW. www.thirstiextreme.co.za https://www.facebook.com/bikehubza/videos/vb.118790128143556/1327564233932800/?type=3&theater
  15. The 2017 Absa Cape Epic sports the strongest men’s field in the 14-year history of the race, with up to six teams aiming for the top step of the podium. Several years of a special focus on the women’s race has born fruit in recent editions: the standard of the field has steadily got stronger and the racing more exciting. The trend continues in 2017 and the racing is bound to be thrilling as a number of the world’s top marathon racers pit themselves against one another. Click here to view the article
  16. Elite Men Nino Schurter competes in the men's cross-country race at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games 2016. Pascal GUYOT / AFP There will be many races within the race, but two stand out: The battle of the Olympic gold medallists: Switzerland’s Nino Schurter, who took home the gold in 2016, will be in the field racing against his great competitor Jaroslav Kulhavy of the Czech Republic, the 2012 Olympic winner. Schurter will be riding with compatriot Matthias Stirnemann (SCOTT-SRAM MTB Racing) and Kulhavy with Swiss Christoph Sauser (Investec Songo Specialized). The battle of the five-time winners. Sauser has been tempted back from a one-year retirement in a bid to beat his great rival Karl Platt to being the first to six wins. German Platt won the inaugural event in 2004 and bagged his fifth win in 2016. Platt will be riding with Swiss Urs Huber (Bulls) again this year. Karl Platt [front] and teammate Urs Huber in action during the 2016 Absa Cape Epic. Photo credit: Nick Muzik - Sportzpics But there are several others who will also be eyeing the top step of the podium. Foremost among these may be Austrian strongman Alban Lakata, who has finished second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth in the Absa Cape Epic and is desperate to add a first to his long list of accomplishments. He will be riding with Czech Kristian Hynek (Topeak Ergon), himself a former winner of the race, and hoping that the bad luck that has dogged him over the years is finally a thing of the past. Another team that will be hoping their luck has turned will be Centurion Vaude’s German combination of Markus Kaufmann and Jochen Kaess. They appeared headed for a win in 2014 before falling foul of a broken frame and have since been held back by injuries. And dark horse Italians Damiano Farraro and Samuele Porro (Trek Selle San Marco) raced to third place in their first Absa Cape Epic in 2016 and showed they have the pedigree to challenge for an overall win. Christoph Sauser racing the 2016 Absa Cape Epic. Photo by: Gary Perkin/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS. A South African with an eye on the podium will be national marathon champion Max Knox, riding with Columbian Hector Páez (Plascon). The South African has been in great form in 2016 and his partner is a tough and experienced rider who has notched up a series of successes over the years: expect them to be at the sharp end of the racing. Significantly, all of these teams have strong back-up teams – a prerequisite to winning the Absa Cape Epic these days. Other teams in the race who will be targeting stages include Manuel Fumic of Germany and Brazilian Henrique Avancini (Cannondale Factory Racing), the South African pairing of Philip Buys and Matthys Beukes (Pyga), Germans Martin Gluth and Julian Schelb (Silverback OMX Pro), and Switzerland’s Konny Looser, who is riding with up-and-coming South African Matt Beers (RED-E Ryder), another who has been in great form recently. Hansgrohe Women The winning team from the past three years has broken up with Annika Langvad returning to her studies after winning the Cross Country World Championships and the Absa Cape Epic in one year. Her partner Ariane Luthï of Switzerland – but South African-based – will be riding with German Adel Morath (Spur). Team Spur Specialized's Ariane Kleinhans and Annika Langvad on their way to overall victory in the ladies category during the final stage of the 2016 Absa Cape Epic. Photo by Ewald Sadie/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS Luthï is vastly experienced at stage racing and her success at the Absa Cape Epic – she has also won the Mixed Category on two occasions – will give them some edge in a race that demands both cool heads and strong legs. Morath debuted at the race in 2016 and finished third overall with Briton Sally Bigham. They will face a huge challenge from German mountain biking legend Sabine Spitz, who will be riding with South Africa’s Robyn de Groot (Ascendis Health). The 45-year-old German raced her first Cape Epic in 2016, finishing second overall with Ukranian Yana Belomoina, after a career that has seen her win gold, silver and bronze medals at the Olympic Games and world championships in both cross country and marathon disciplines. Spitz’s appetite for the Absa Cape Epic was clearly sparked in 2016 and she and Belomoina dominated the second half of the race, winning the last three stages. Team Sport for Good's Sabine Spitz and Yana Belomoina on their way to stage victory during the final stage of the 2016 Absa Cape Epic. Photo by Ewald Sadie/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS De Groot, by contrast, was in imperious form early on in 2016 and she and partner Jennie Stenerhag of Sweden won the Prologue and Stage 1 before the latter fell victim to a heart condition. There are other teams that will be aiming for the podium and perhaps getting on to the top step. Switzerland’s Esther Suss is a former Women’s and Mixed Category winner and will be riding with the aforementioned Stenerhag (Meerendal CBC). Both are wily competitors and while they might not have the firepower of the top two teams they will know that a lot can happen over eight days. Another European pairing, Hielke Elferink of the Netherlands and Switzerland’s Cornelia Hug (Meerendal CBC1), will also be poised to strike if the top teams falter. The former has two Top 10 finishes at the Absa Cape Epic and Hug is an accomplished marathon specialist with some excellent results over the years. Candice Neethling and Vera Adrian of Team Dormakaba will be the African team to watch in the challenge for the women's title Besides De Groot, South African interest will focus on local youngster and rising star Candice Neethling and her Namibian partner Vera Adrian (Dormakaba). They come off wins at both the Berg&Bush and Sani2c and will fancy their chances of a stage win or two. Another young and promising South African, Mariske Strauss, will be teamed up with Briton Annie Last as Hansgrohe Cadence OMX Pro and will also be hoping to make an impression. Dimension Data Masters There are always several races within the race at the Absa Cape Epic and few are as fiercely contested as the Dimension Data Masters category.In 2016 it was won by Dutchman Bart Brentjens and Brazilian partner Abraao Azevedo (CST Brentjens MTB) for the third year in succession, but they had to see off strong challenges in all those years. Besides winning the category for riders of over 40-years-old, Brentjens and Azevedo finished 14th overall in 2014, 16th in 2015 and 21st last year – remarkable performances given the quality competition from the phalanx of professional riders. Brentjens is a former overall winner, taking the title in 2005 with Belgian Roel Paulissen. Bart Brentjens and Abraao Azevedo on their way to victory and the overall lead in the Masters category during stage 3 of the 2016 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race held from Saronsberg Wine Estate in Tulbagh to the Cape Peninsula University of Technology in Wellington, South Africa on the 16th March 2016. Photo by Ewald Sadie/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS. In 2017 Brentjens and Azevedo will face a formidable challenge from two Absa Cape Epic debutants who have a long and distinguished mountain biking pedigree. Germans Thorsten Keller and Max Friedrich (Craft Rocky Mountain) have been at or near the top of the sport in their country for many years. 44-year-old Keller has raced internationally since 1991, was a member of the German national mountain biking team and has notched up several podium positions since he started racing in the master's category. Friedrich has a similarly stellar career and in 2012 finished just 0,97 seconds behind winner Brentjens in the four-day Alpen Tour Trophy stage race. He has been the German marathon champion in the master's category six times and is familiar with South African conditions, having twice won the mixed category at the Cape Pioneer Trek. Then there’s one of the biggest names in world cycling, former Tour de France winner Cadel Evans. Evans started his career as a mountain biker and won the World Cup series in 1998 and 1999 before turning to the road. He will be racing with another Tour de France veteran George Hincapie (BMC Absa Racing Team). Although they have played down their chances of success, they are both pedigreed racers and will go for it if they get a sniff. The South African challenge is likely to be headed by the crack combination of Hannes Hanekom and Ben-Melt Swanepoel (@40). Both have finished the Absa Cape Epic eight times, with the former’s best finish being 17th overall and the latter eighth. Their experience and familiarity with the conditions should make them strong challengers. But keep an eye out for the Lamond brothers Nic and Simon (Podium Sports), who have both been consistently near the front of the race over the years and are skilled riders. Grand Masters Two teams are likely to dice it out for this category, which was introduced in 2013 and has proved to be far more competitive than anticipated.Swiss legend Barti Bucher and his Austrian partner Heinz Zoerweg (Meerendal CBC 3) have won the category twice since then and finished second overall in 2016 after a poor Stage 1 set them back. Bucher knows the top step of the Absa Cape Epic podium well – he has also won the Master's category twice and the Mixed once. Besides his two successes with Bucher, Zoerweg won the Grand Masters category with Andrew McLean in 2014. Robert Sim [L] and Udo Boelts [R] during stage 4 of the 2016 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology in Wellington, South Africa on the 17th March 2016. Photo by Sam Clark/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS They will, however, have to overcome 2016 winner Robert Sim and his fellow South African Doug Brown (Robert Daniel) if they are to win the category this year. Sim took the Grand Masters trophy in 2016 with German Udo Boelts and has a long history of podium finishes in the Master's category. Brown has twice won the Master's category and is looking to add a first to his second and third-place finishes in the Grand Masters. They will give the Europeans a stern test and Sim will be aiming to repeat his amazing performance in 2016 when he and Boelts finished 25th overall. This race should provide a thrilling sub-plot to the 2017 Absa Cape Epic. Virgin Active Mixed The presence of Olympic gold medallist Jenny Rissveds is bound to fire up the racing in the Virgin Active Mixed category.The Swede has suggested that her objective will simply be to finish the race, but she has such outstanding ability that she is likely to be at or near the front anyway. The 22-year old will be riding with team manager Thomas Frischknecht of Switzerland (SCOTT SRAM Next Level), a former cross country and marathon world champion and still very strong on a bike at 47. Catherine Williamson and Johan Labuschagne at the 2016 Old Mutual joBerg2c mountain bike race. Photo: Full Stop Communications Two other teams are likely to be among the front-runners. The English/South African combination of Catherine Williamson and Johan Labuschagne (RBI Tech-Mitas) have both performed excellently in the Absa Cape Epic before: Williamson has won the Women’s category and Labuschagne notched up a second in the Mixed category. She has a reputation as a tough and determined competitor and their combination should be formidable. Then there is 2016 Olympic triathlete Mari Rabie, who will be racing with Corrie Muller (Fairtree Capital). Rabie has never done an Absa Cape Epic before but is a strong cyclist and her partner has finished the event seven times – including the very first race in 2004– and notched up a second in the Master's category. Rabie thrilled South Africans by competing strongly at the Olympics, where she finished 11th overall.
  17. South African marathon champion, Robyn de Groot (Ascendis Health) won a tight tussle with Amy Beth McDougall (Valencia) to capture the overall honours in the women’s division of the Ashburton Investments National MTB Series in Sabie at the weekend. Click here to view the article
  18. The Elite women line up on start for the first stage of the new two-day format of the Ashburton Investments National MTB Series in Sabie. Photo Credit: ZC Marketing Consulting It was the inaugural two-day format race in the prestigious seven-round series and it delivered the exciting racing it was designed to, as De Groot held off McDougall in a sprint to win the 64.5km first stage in wet, muddy conditions. Much drier conditions greeted the competitors on Sunday and De Groot and McDougall were once again locked in battle on the shorter 44km leg, held predominantly on the York Timbers trails. De Groot managed to move away near the end though to secure the stage win and the overall title. McDougall finished in second place, 36 seconds later and sealed her second place overall, while Vanessa Bell (Bells Cycling), third on both stages, grabbed the final overall podium place. Amy Beth McDougall (Valencia) a second ahead of Robyn de Groot as they battle it out in the various sections in the first stage of the Ashburton Investments National MTB Series Sabie. Photo Credit: ZC Marketing Consulting “Going into today I was nervous. I’d never ridden any of these routes used on Day 2. I know Amy knows the trails really well. But out there it was cat and mouse. We both have different strengths so we were yo-yoing past one another at different sections. I’m glad to have been able to take the win overall,” said De Groot. “I think from a professionalism point of view, it would be good to have all the pro ladies competing at these races, especially since Ashburton Investments increased the women’s prize money to be equal to the men’s,” added De Groot, when asked about the lack of depth in the women’s field. “I absolutely love these trails. I know them very well from having competed in the York Timbers Enduro; and from living here for a year. I had a bit of bad luck today with my wheel, but it was a great battle with Robyn, who was the stronger rider today,” said McDougall. Robyn de Groot (Ascendis Health) content as she crosses the finish line in a sprint finish against Amy Beth McDougall. Photo Credit: ZC Marketing Consulting The Ashburton Investments National MTB Series now moves to South Africa’s Free State province for Round 3, on 8-9 April. For more information or to enter, visit www.nationalmtbseries.com. Ashburton Investments National MTB Series 2017 Round 2, Sabie Leading results MarathonWomen Stage 1: Robyn de Groot (RSA) Ascendis Health 3:06:06 Amy Beth McDougall (RSA) Valencia 3:06:06 Vanessa Bell (RSA) Bells Cycling 3:25:59 Sarah Hill (RSA) Cycling Specific 3:38:52 Emily Clarke (RSA) 3:40:18 Kristen Louw (RSA) 3:53:54 Julia Kotze (RSA) 3:55:34 Janice Venter (RSA) 4:11:30 Melanie Roux (RSA) 4:20:30 Kerry-Leigh Tomaselli (RSA) 4:31:28 Women Stage 2: Robyn de Groot (RSA) Ascendis Health 2:16:24 Amy Beth McDougall (RSA) Valencia 2:16:59 Vanessa Bell (RSA) Bells Cycling 2:27:46 Emily Clarke (RSA) 2:32:00 Sarah Hill (RSA) Cycling Specific 2:37:43 Julia Kotze (RSA) 2:40:23 Kristen Louw (RSA) 2:43:12 Jessica Alcock (RSA) 2:46:50 Melanie Roux (RSA) 2:59:09 Janice Venter (RSA) 3:03:30 Women combined – final positions: Robyn de Groot (RSA) Ascendis Health 5:22:29 Amy Beth McDougall (RSA) Valencia 5:23:05 Vanessa Bell (RSA) Bells Cycling 5:53:45 Emily Clarke (RSA) 6:12:18 Sarah Hill (RSA) Cycling Specific 6:16:35 Julia Kotze (RSA) 6:35:57 Kristen Louw (RSA) 6:37:06 Janice Venter (RSA) 7:15:00 Melanie Roux (RSA) 7:19:39 Heather Slabbert (RSA) 7:45:07 Half-marathon Females combined – final positions: Tanya Kotze 4:19:20 Anjenel van der Walt 4:32:28 Rimari Sutton 4:47:03 For full marathon and half-marathon results visit www.saseeding.org.
  19. Photo credit: Nick Muzik | Sportzpics Sadly, Stenerhag fell ill on Stage 3 and had to pull out of the event. Later in the event German mountain biking legend Sabine Spitz, racing with Ukranian Yana Belomoina, stormed home over the closing passages, winning Stage 5, 6 and 7 and ultimately finishing second in the Hansgrohe Women's category. Now De Groot and Spitz have joined forces (Team Ascendis Health) and the formidable combination will be aiming to win the whole thing. “After finishing second in my first Cape Epic in 2016, I wouldn't be going for third place,” Spitz laughs. “So of course the overall win will be the goal for this year … but it is a long race and a lot of things can happen.” To get there they will have to topple Ariane Lüthi of Switzerland, who has won the category for the past three years with Dane Annika Langvad (the team that won Stages 2, 3 and 4 last year). Significantly though, Langvad has study commitments at the time of the 2017 Cape Epic and Lüthi will be riding with German Adelheid Morath (Team Spur). The Ascendis Health and Spur combinations will start as category favourites with the Swiss/Swedish combination of Esther Süss and Jennie Stenerhag (Meerendal CBC). “The ladies field for 2017 offers great depth, riders of class, and some really strong partnerships, so I have no doubt the race is going to be very exciting,” says De Groot. Photo credit: Ewald Sadie | Sportzpics Among her many achievements, Spitz has won gold, silver and bronze medals at the Olympic Games and world championships in the cross country and marathon disciplines. After retiring from a distinguished road career in 2012 De Groot has won the national mountain biking marathon championship for four consecutive years. So how did the partnership come about? “Last November (Team Ascendis Health manager) Malcolm Lange asked me if I'm interested in racing with Robyn. So that was a great opportunity for me,” Spitz says. The pair only met last year at the Cape Epic: “But we are in touch and I think we are a very good match,” adds Spitz. “We have both been professional riders for a long time and I'm sure we can work great together.” De Groot says: “I have to thank my management team from Lange Sports, who run Team Ascendis Health. Malcolm really went out of his way to source and secure a world class partner for this year’s Epic. I couldn’t have wished for better.” “I don’t know Sabine all that well: we are in touch and slowly getting to know one another as time goes by. Based on my interactions with her last year at the 2016 Epic and so far to date, she has a wonderful personality and I have a feeling we will get along really well. I like the outlook she has on life and racing as well as the energy she carries,” says De Groot. “On the bike Sabine brings so much experience with her. She is an incredible technical rider and a well-rounded cyclist … I think her palmarés (the list of races a rider has won) speaks for itself.” Asked about her impressions of the Cape Epic, Spitz said: “If you do a race like the Epic for the first time, you can't ride like in a cross country race. I always tried not to go over the limit, so maybe that was the secret. I really enjoyed competing in the Epic, not only because of the routes but also because it was well organised.” “It's good to have Robyn - a local - as my teammate. I'm sure she can help me with information about the stages,” says Spitz. “I had a look at the route, and it seems to be harder then last year.” “The Cape Epic is a total different challenge compared to European Stage Races. The percentage of technical riding is very high,” Spitz says. “In Europe it’s the opposite: we have a lot of tarmac, forest and dirt roads … sometimes boring mountain biking. So I'm sure there will be a lot of very challenging parts on the Cape Epic route in 2017.” In April last year the German ruptured a cruciate ligament but she seems to be well over that now: “So far everything is okay and I'm fully into my training schedule. My knee is so far okay … I did the whole season last year and it worked well and it is also no problem at the moment.” De Groot says her training is going according to schedule: “Fortunately summer has allowed me the opportunity to start my preparation well. I’ve been enjoying the process and I guess that is what it is all about.”
  20. In 2016 South Africa’s Robyn de Groot, riding with Swede Jennie Stenerhag, started the Absa Cape Epic like a house on fire, winning the Prologue and Stage 1. Click here to view the article
  21. Annika Langvad (right) and Robyn de Groot lead the women’s front pack during the early stages of the Fairview Attakwas Extreme MTB Challenge that took place in South Africa on Saturday. Photo credit: Ewald Sadie It was Langvad’s debut appearance at the demanding 121km event, which is considered South Africa’s toughest one-day mountain bike race. She clocked a time of 05:25:55 to slice almost five minutes off the previous record of 05:30:58, set by five-time winner, Ariane Lüthi in 2015 in cooler, calmer conditions. South African champion and 2016 winner, Robyn de Groot (Ascendis Health), finished second in 05:30:00 with Swedish champion, Jennie Stenerhag (CBC/Abro) rounding out the podium places. Lüthi (Team Spur), the Swiss champion, finished fourth, with South Africa’s Amy Beth McDougall in fifth. From the first climb at 5km, it was essentially a four-rider battle for the coveted title. De Groot, Lüthi, Stenerhag and Langvad moved off the front and stayed close together for the next 25km through the Karoo, an inhospitable semi-desert region. But at the summit of Sonnop, a technical ascent at 30km in, Langvad held a 15-second lead over De Groot and Stennerhag with Lüthi cresting a minute-and-a-half later in fourth. Robyn de Groot on her way to second place at the Fairview Attakwas Extreme MTB Challenge that took place in South Africa on Saturday. Photo credit: Ewald Sadie De Groot and Stennerhag then rejoined Langvad and the trio entered the Attakwas Reserve together with De Groot impressing on one of the technical climbs, riding away briefly from Langvad and Stenerhag, who had to climb off and push. But Langvad, a former three-time marathon world champion, three-time Absa Cape Epic winner and current XCO World Champion, was in her element through the Attakwas Reserve, an isolated wilderness region, which includes a series of impossibly steep climbs and rough, rocky descents. She took the lead, claimed the Queen of the Mountain title and went through Waterpoint 4 (with 35km remaining) holding a 2:00 lead over De Groot. Jennie Stenerhag on her way to third place at the Fairview Attakwas Extreme MTB Challenge that took place in South Africa on Saturday. Photo credit: Ewald Sadie “I had a really good time. I tried to keep reminding myself to just enjoy this. But you know, when you’re sitting there pedalling in so much pain, it’s hard to enjoy the views. But when I did look up it was amazing, especially coming out of the Attakwas valley. It was so beautiful, but you could have turned down the headwind at the end of it,” smiled a content Langvad. Annika Langvad on her way to victory and a new course record at the Fairview Attakwas Extreme MTB Challenge that took place in South Africa on Saturday. Photo credit: Ewald Sadie “Obviously we come here to win, but losing to Annika isn’t too bad. It’s an honour to race against her. I was pretty surprised that I was able to stick with her as long as I did. I enjoyed the race. It’s a good start to the year, I’m happy with where I’m at,” said De Groot. The 121km race from Chandelier Game Lodge, Oudtshoorn to Pine Creek Resort, Groot Brak includes 2900 metres of vertical ascent. For the first time this year it holds International Cycling Union status, which allows top finishers to earn UCI rankings points. The women’s 2017 Fairview Attakwas Extreme MTB Challenge podium (from left): Ariane Lüthi (4th), Jennie Stennerhag (3rd), Annika Langvad (1st), Robyn de Groot (2nd) and Amy Beth McDougall (5th). Photo credit: Ewald Sadie 2017 Fairview Attakwas Extreme Challenge 121km, 2900m ascent, OudtshoornLeading results: Overall women: 1 Annika Langvad (DEN) Specialized 05:25:55 2 Robyn de Groot (RSA) Ascendis Health 05:30:00 3 Jennie Stenerhag (SWE) CBC/Abro 05:42:11 4 Ariane Lüthi (SUI) Team Spur 05:44:35 5 Amy Beth McDougall (RSA) Valencia 05:54:52 For full results and other race information, visit www.atta.co.za.
  22. Denmark’s multiple mountain bike world champion, Annika Langvad (Specialized) beat off a strong field to win the Fairview Attakwas Extreme MTB Challenge in a new women’s record time in South Africa on Saturday. Click here to view the article
  23. South Africa’s traditional season opener, the Fairview Attakwas Extreme MTB Challenge, takes place on Saturday the 21st of January. Along with a stellar field of local challengers, a number of European mountain biking stars are set to line-up for the 2017 edition. Click here to view the article
  24. Defending champion Karl Platt (left) raced to victory by riding with teammate Tim Bohme (right) in 2016, but for the 2017 Fairview Attakwas Extreme MTB Challenge he will be the lone Team Bulls rider. Photo by www.zcmc.co.za. The race’s newly acquired UCI Status and its formidable reputation as the Hell of the South combine to make the Fairview Attakwas Extreme MTB Challenge South Africa’s premier one day mountain bike event. The depth of the elite racing field certainly supports this claim. Amongst others Christoph Sauser, Karl Platt, Kristian Hynek and Annika Langvad will be taking on the one hundred and twenty one kilometre route from Chandelier Game and Ostrich Show Farm near Oudtshoorn, through the rugged Attakwaskloof, to Pine Creek Resort in Groot Brakrivier. In December 2016 Sauser announced his return to racing following a season in retirement. Though his form is untested his experience and competitive nature will surely see him compete with Platt, Hynek and the leading South African riders – Dylan Rebello, Waylon Woolcock, HB Kruger, Gert Heyns, Max Knox and Erik Kleinhans – for victory. Sauser has won two of the last four Fairview Attakwas Extreme MTB Challenge titles, in 2015 and in 2013 when he was the first rider to break the five hour barrier. On both occasions he went on to win the Absa Cape Epic alongside Jaroslav Kulhavý, with whom he is teaming up for the 2017 Cape Epic. Christoph Sauser returns to racing after a year in retirement; though he still took part in the 2016 Absa Cape Epic, riding with Sipho Madolo. Photo by Dominic Barnardt | Cape Epic | SPORTZPICS. In the race for a sixth Absa Cape Epic title between Sauser and Platt the Fairview Attakwas Extreme MTB Challenge plays a major psychological role. Last year Platt backed up his Attakwas success with victory in the Cape Epic, highlighting that the Attakwas is the ultimate proving ground. Unlike in previous years Platt is the lone Team Bulls rider entered into the race and will have to rely on his extensive Attakwas experience to neutralize the threat of Sauser, who will have the support of Investec-songo-Specialized’s Sipho Madolo, and Hynek, who will be able to rely on his Topeak-Ergon teammate Kleinhans. Hynek’s entry into the 2017 Fairview Attakwas Extreme MTB Challenge is part of Topeak-Ergon’s bid to gain more experience in the harsh South African conditions ahead of their Absa Cape Epic bid. Like Team Bulls and Investec-songo-Specialized Topeak-Ergon will also be competing in the Momentum Health Tankwa Trek, presented by Biogen, in February. The Attakwas therefor provides an early opportunity to gain a psychological edge and establish winning momentum ahead of the teams’ stage racing goals this season. The South African charge will likely be led by Kleinhans, Woolcock, Heyns and Knox, though first time Fairview Attakwas Extreme MTB Challenge entrants Rebello and Kruger are not to be written off. Rebello’s slight build and climbing prowess could see him excel on the rocky climbs in the first half of the race. Heyns and Kleinhans are proven Attakwas campaigners, both boasting third place finishes in recent years; while South African Marathon Champion Knox is eager to set right his past struggles in the race. The women’s field boasts, for the first time a reigning World Champion; the current cross-country rainbow jersey wearer Annika Langvad. Langvad will be up against her Absa Cape Epic partner Ariane Lüthi, 2016 Attakwas champion Robyn de Groot, the ever competitive Jennie Stenerhag and Mariske Strauss; while Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio and Olympic triathlete Mari Rabie are unknown forces in the race for the women’s title. Kristian Hynek, seen here in action in the 2016 Cape Epic, will be taking part in his first Fairview Attakwas Extreme MTB Challenge. Photo by Nick Muzik | Cape Epic | SPORTZPICS Langvad’s goals for the first half of the year revolve around finishing her dentistry studies, so her entry into the Fairview Attakwas Extreme MTB Challenge came somewhat as a surprise. That said she is the three time Marathon World Champion making her the clear favourite to break Lüthi’s course record of five hours, thirty minutes and fifty eight seconds. Having returned to racing under her maiden name after a turbulent couple of years, during which she divorced from Erik Kleinhans, Swiss star Ariane Lüthi looks to be back to her early 2015 form. Off the bike she’s more relaxed than ever and the chance to go up against Langvad will surely spur Lüthi on to prove she can win the Absa Cape Epic without the Danish rider at her side. The first step toward that goal is winning the Fairview Attakwas Extreme MTB Challenge, but Team Ascendis Health’s South African Marathon Champion, de Groot, will not allow the two Europeans to have things all their own way. De Groot, has dominated in the South African ranks for the best part of three seasons, and has stepped up to an international level over the last year. She will be looking to continue that progress with a victory over an in form Lüthi and one of women’s mountain biking’s biggest stars, Langvad. World Cross Country Champion Annika Langvad (front) will not be racing the Cape Epic in 2017 but she will be lining up against usual stage race partner Ariane Lüthi in the Fairview Attakwas Extreme MTB Challenge. Photo by Mark Sampson | Cape Epic | SPORTZPICS. Strauss, Stenerhag and Moolman-Pasio could use the attention focused by the three favourites on each other to launch a surprise attack, with the climb to the Queen of the Mountain point at crest of the Attakwaskloof neck the ideal location for a move of that nature. Aside from the elite racing the side story of the 2017 Fairview Attakwas Extreme MTB Challenge is the attempt by Colleen Jacobs, Kel de Moura, Nico van Zyl, Ian Robertson, Jacques Brink, Wayne Hodgson, Petrus Senekal and Jandri Ferreira to join the prestigious ten times Attakwas Finishers Club. All eight riders have only missed one of the eleven previous races, making them near as remarkable as the eleven current double Ratels who completed all ten of the first ten Fairview Attakwas Extreme MTB Challenges. Robyn de Groot (front) and Ariane Lüthi will be back to resume their Fairview Attakwas Extreme MTB Challenge rivalry this year. Photo by www.zcmc.co.za. If you are not taking part in the 2017 Fairview Attakwas Extreme MTB Challenge you can follow the action live on Twitter, by following @attakwas. Oliver Munnik will once again be providing updates and insights into the racing at the sharp end of the field. You can then relive all the action from Saturday afternoon on Facebook, by liking Attakwas MTB, where you’ll be able to view photos by Ewald Sadie and Oakpics, as well as the news highlights video by Bigshot Media. Plus read all about the 2017 Fairview Attakwas Extreme MTB Challenge right here on your favourite mountain biking news platform.
  25. Photo credit: ZC Marketing Consulting Part of being a professional sportsperson is coping when things don’t go to plan. 2016 had some ups and downs for you, including losing your Epic partner after a very promising start, and a shoulder injury that saw you off the bike for several weeks, missing some big races. How did you deal with these setbacks, and did you manage to find a positive side to these events? 2016 certainly threw some difficult times my way, it is part of being an athlete I guess. I never really dwell too much on disappointments, but rather use them to grow, learn and find motivation.In terms of Epic last year I decided to continue as an outcast, which was the best decision I could have made. It kept my mind positive, it kept my heart free from disappointment, and by the time I reached Meerendal on the final day I had enjoyed a “pressure-less” ride at Epic. I got to see the event from a perspective that one doesn’t usually get to enjoy when you have your head in race mode. My shoulder injury tested me properly, however. I am a firm believer that things happen for a reason. I learned to be patient, and funnily enough, it all happened during a time when I needed to focus my energy on my family - which I was then able to do. Robyn de Groot and Jennie Stenerhag winning stage 1 of the 2016 Absa Cape Epic. Photo by Sam Clark/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS You will be riding the 2017 Cape Epic with Sabine Spitz, whom you raced against last year. What characteristics do each of you bring to the team that might see you take the win? Yes, I am extremely excited and honoured to be racing Epic with Sabine. I don’t know her well, but we did have some interactions at last year's Epic. Her personality, energy, and mannerisms were things I certainly noticed as a drawcard. We are both professional and serious, yet relaxed. I only rode a few days of last year's Epic alongside Sabine, but I feel we will compliment one another’s riding style. She has so much experience and I have no doubt that I will learn a lot riding with her. Team dynamics are very important for stage racing: are you looking forward to racing with Sabine, and will the two of you be doing any races together as preparation? Yes, I am looking forward to racing with Sabine. I am not a partner that requires a lot of maintenance, or pre-race interaction and it seems that Sabine is the same in this regard. At this point in time, we will be doing our own separate preparation. Photo credit: ZC Marketing Consulting Has your training been going well? Will you be doing any special preparation during the build up to Epic? Yes, my coach tells me we are on track, and I have absolute faith in him. I guess there is always specific preparation leading up to an event like the Epic. Who are the other women’s teams to watch this year, and who will you be keeping an eye on at the start line? I believe that we are in for another thrilling women’s race this year - there are some really strong ladies teams that have been made public, and I am certain there will be more to come within the next few weeks. It is wonderful for the sport and for women's cycling. I hope not to leave any names out, but for now these names come to mind:Ariane Lüthi & partner Jennie Stenerhag & Esther Süss Sally Bigham & partner Hielke Elferink & Cornelia Hug Candice Lill (nee Neethling) & Vera Adriaan Yolandi du Toit & Theresa Ralph What do you think of the 2017 Absa Cape Epic route? Will it play to your strengths and which stages might you see as key? I’ve taken a brief look at the route. My approach, as always, is just to prepare, remain focused and be able to adapt and overcome the route as the race unfolds. My coach looks into the routes in more detail and prepares me accordingly. I actually keep my mind off the route itself until just before the race, and then I take one day at a time. Beyond Epic, what are your goals for 2017? You have unfinished business with SA Marathon Champs and World Marathon Champs, will these be an area of focus for you? It is always such a gamble as to what state the Epic leaves you in: it can leave you completely broken, or relatively unscathed, so we will have to see how it goes this year.Beyond Epic, we have a National XCM series (Ashburton Marathon series) which offers one-day races and an entire series country wide which I will focus on. It suits the format of Team Ascendis Health this year for me to focus on these kinds of events. National Champs has, and always will be a goal, as I am sure it is for many others. Marathon Worlds qualification is an objective for sure, as my plans for last year's Marathon Worlds came to an abrupt end with my crash and shoulder injury. Robyn de Groot and Jennie Stenerhag on their way to winning the Prologue of the 2016 Absa Cape Epic. Photo by Mark Sampson/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS Your Ascendis Health teammate from last year, Jennie Stenerhag will be riding for CBC this year, which means you no longer have a female teammate for local stage races. Do you have a partner in mind for the year, or will you be taking it race by race? That is correct, at this stage I do have some ladies in mind to team up with for various stage races throughout the year. I think as the season develops, I will get a better idea as to my form, and other ladies form, and we can take it from there in terms of forming a compatible team. So if there are any ladies looking for a partner, they are more than welcome to chat to me or my management at Lange Sports: for now the door is open…. You are riding the new Scott Spark RC 900, which has seen some serious design changes from 2016. How are you enjoying the updated design and geometry so far? There have been some major changes, and it has been an absolute pleasure to ride, with a noticeable improvement in terms of the suspension, stiffness, and responsiveness of the bike. I am proud to be associated with the Scott brand and very thankful for the support the provide to me and the team.
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