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  1. White revelled in the technical riding of KZN’s oldest mountain bike event on the calendar and ended up finishing close to two minutes ahead of young Dean Wortmann with defending champion Jedson Tooms claiming third, while Sthembiso Masango and Sipho Khupiso rounded out the top five. Tyronne White leads at the Sappi Howick MTB Classic 40km on Sunday, 4 March. Anthony Grote/ Gameplan Media In the women’s race, Bianca Haw cruised to a convincing win by almost twenty minutes over Chloe Bateson, who in turn just edged out Nadine Nunes for the runner-up spot. However, the men’s event was a day of drama and frustration for Marais. Marais, who is currently the second ranked mountain biker in the country, faced problems before the racing even started when he and Andrew Jonson locked handlebars while still in the neutral zone on the way out of Howick. Both riders fell and Johnson was forced to withdraw with an injured arm and wrist. Marais picked himself up and raced into the lead once the riders hit the trails and were allowed to race, and it seemed as if his troubles were behind him as he built an advantage of about a minute over Wortmann. White rode a well-judged race and moved past Wortmann and into second position over the latter half of the route. He was chasing Marais when the leader went over a small branch and it kicked up into his spokes with about 12km to go. The stick caused a puncture, but more seriously also broke the carbon-fibre rear swingarm of Marais’ frame. A group of racers navigate a rock garden during the Sappi Howick MTB Classic on Sunday, 4 March. "It was such a technical course! It was a proper mountain biking and in places you could not have any lapse in concentration or you would go down," said race winner Tyronne White. Anthony Grote/ Gameplan Media Marais borrowed compressed air “bombs” from White to reinflate his tyre and was able to finish, but with a severely compromised frame he was out of contention and limped home in sixth overall. It would be a disservice to White to claim he was simply the beneficiary of Marais’ bad luck. The talented Ballito rider was in his element on this route. The short steep climbs and technical sections suited his skills perfectly and he was a worthy winner. “Stuart (Marais) and Andrew (Johnson) fell before the end of the tar which allowed Dean (Wortmann) and I get a lead on the first climb,” said White after the finish. “But Stuart is very strong and riding so well at the moment that he managed to catch us and ride away. “I loved the route - it was such a technical course, it was a proper mountain biking and in places you could not have any lapse in concentration or you would go down. “Unfortunately with about 12km to go Stuart had a flat and I was able to get in front and hold on to win.” In contrast, Haw was able to dawdle to an easy victory, but she was forced to push a little harder than expected when she discovered her boyfriend, Andrew Houston, just behind her. Bianca Haw was a comfortable winner of the women's title at the Sappi Howick MTB Classic 40km on Sunday, 4 March, working hard to stay ahead of her boyfriend Andrew Houston. Anthony Grote/ Gameplan Media “I did not know how I would be feeling today so I rocked up in baggies (loose riding shorts), so if I was not feeling good I could just go slowly,” said Haw (Red Bull) after sprinting across the finish line half a bike length ahead of her boyfriend. “Housie (Andrew Houston) had just done Non-Stop Dusi on Friday and he told me his legs were tired so he would be going slow, but I looked behind me and he was on my wheel … so the race was on.” On Saturday, in blistering conditions, the enduro riders had their fun in the sun and a surprise participant was three time Downhill World Champion Greg Minnaar who, not surprisingly, was far too quick for the opposition and cruised to a convincing win. Minnaar was never really challenged over the six timed sections and as he prepares for the start of the 2018 downhill season, the man who has won more World Cup events than any other rider was able to grab a 38-second victory over Sam Bull with Sharjah Jonsson just less than a minute further back. In the women’s event young Sabine Thies won the first leg by 14 seconds and was never behind after that, despite giving back some of that advantage to Steffanie Grossmann in the second leg. Thereafter, Thies produced the top time in each leg to claim a solid 46-second win over Grossmann, while Kath Fouries’s consistent riding gave her third. In a tight and closely contested 20km men’s trail run, Perfect Dlamini and Kwenza Ngubane fought for superiority before Dlamini managed to eke out a narrow nine-second win at the finish line with Muzi Madikwa third, less than 20 seconds further back. In the women’s trail run Isla Shill was able to enjoy her two-minute win over Lisa Daniel with Kim Westbrook third. Results MTB Marathon 40km Men 1 Tyronne White 1:58:29 2 Dean Wortmann 2:00:11 3 Jedson Tooms 2:00:45 4 Sthembiso Masango 2:03:38 5 Sipho Khupiso 2:03:45 Women 1 Bianca Haw 2:12:30 2 Chloe Bateson 2:31:26 3 Nadine Nunes 2:31:58 20km Men 1 Nicholas Burczak 1:10:30 2 Rupert Taljaard 1:15:08 3 Thami Kunene 1:15:42 4 James Lycett 1:15:51 5 Brett Jarview 1:18:45Women 1 Elaine Byrne 1:48:15 2 Megan Horsley 1:49:27 3 Jane Collier 2:06:57 MTB Enduro Men 1 Greg Minnaar 17:19 2 Sam Bull 17:58 3 Sharjah Jonsson 18:53 Women 1 Sabine Thies 23:06 2 Steffanie Grossmann 23:52 3 Kath Fourie 24:09 Trail Run 20km Men 1 Perfect Dlamini 1:22:26 2 Kwenza Ngubane 1:22:35 3 Muzi Madikwa 1:22:54 Women 1 Isla Shill 1:48:30 2 Lisa Daniel 1:50:17 3 Kim Westbrook 1:53:56 10km Men 1 Mathanga Mbaloli 41:42 2 Khambule Thuliang 42:25 3 Mdu Zondi 46:58 Women 1 Ndumiso Mbambo 50:39 2 Jordan Peek 55:58 3 Carmen Cardwell 57:14 5km Men 1 Zungu Msawonosi 21:00 2 Bernard Ndlovu 21:11 3 Sphesi Zungu 22:08 Women 1 Sphumelele Gumede 25:00 2 Lusanda Gumede 26:20 3 Rachel Woodburn 26:25 More information can be found at www.howickmountainbiking.co.za or www.facebook.com/howickmtb.
  2. Local MTB star Jedson Tooms used his local knowledge and technical skills to win the Sappi Howick MTB Classic title for a second time while XCO star Bianca Haw raced away to take the women’s marathon title to add to the enduro title she won on Saturday. Click here to view the article
  3. Racing on a new course between the Curry’s Post Road and the N3 freeway, Tooms (ROAG/Quattro) paced his race well and took advantage of spills around him to take the lead and cross the line at Howick High School unchallenged. Jedson Tooms combined technical skills and local experience to win the 2017 Sappi Howick MTB Classic on Sunday 5 March. Anthony Grote/ Gameplan Media “There was a big pack together early on,” said Tooms. “I had to play catch-up after dropping a chain twice. “A couple of the other guys crashed in front of me on a slippery uphill section. “The single track here was absolutely amazing!” added the Howick local. “The technical sections really force you to raise your technical skills. “This course was forced on the race organisers but they made it spectacular,” he added. The win was a second in his local major for Tooms after he edged out Travis Walker in a sprint finish a few years ago. Tooms was quick to acknowledge the absence of several local pacesetters like Andrew Hill and another Howick local Stuart Marais, but was thrilled to claim the top step of the podium in his own backyard. RMB Change A Life rider Sthembiso Masango was elated to grab second place, ahead of former Sharks centre Jeremy Thompson. Sthembiso Masango was delighted to claim second place at the 2017 Sappi Howick MTB Classic on Sunday 5 March. Anthony Grote/ Gameplan Media “Man, they did an amazing job on those trials,” enthused Thompson, whose fun on the trails was interrupted by a high speed collision with a tree. “There was lots and lots of single track, with some really cool technical sections. That’s the way we love it,” Thompson added. Bianca “Yankee” Haw showed signs of her return to top form, as she ground away from the other women’s race contenders to take the women’s marathon title to go with her win in the enduro the day before. Bianca Haw was peerless in the women's race at the 2017 Sappi Howick MTB Classic on Sunday 5 March. Anthony Grote/ Gameplan Media “Our race started really fast,” said Haw (Red Bull). “The first climb was hard. I was riding with Tiffany Keep at that stage and she was really strong. “I managed to get away on one of the climbs and then just worked at keeping the gap,” she added. Haw had a few anxious moments as her lead shrank after several crashes in the slippery sections, muddy after overnight rains, and on tricky sections on loose pine needles. “The technical section through the rocks were really great. I need to up my technical skills! Today made me feel quite rusty,” said Haw. Haw is about to leave for a few months XCO racing in the European spring, in Italy, France and Germany. Keep duly wrapped up second place, while another regular to podium at this race Christie Leigh-Hearder secured the last spot on the women’s podium. The Howick MTB Club did an excellent job in organising all the aspects of the 2017 Sappi Howick MTB Classic on Sunday 5 March. Anthony Grote/ Gameplan Media The 20km race was won by Bradley Scott from Anthony Horter. Howick MTB club trail builder Sbu Vilikazi duly completed his first MTB race, finishing an impressive 12th overall, on the bike donated and built for him by local riders, and conceded that he needed to do more training. “It was good fun but I need to train more. Basically my training was done on one day – on Friday!” said the enthusiastic local hero. On Saturday the Sappi Howick Classic Enduro drew rave reviews as the big field took on the new and largely unknown course on the left hand side of the Curry’s Post Road that consisted of four timed stages and a fifth untimed descent. Downhill pacesetter Tiaan Odendaal took the men’s title from Keira Duncan and Sam Bull, thriving on the fast technical timed sections. “I had an absolute blast today,” said Odendaal. “I am very happy to take the win. I really enjoyed the fast flowing trails and felt really good on them. “It was an excellent event, and I am already excited for the next one,” he added. The men's podium at the 2017 Sappi Howick MTB Classic Enduro on Saturday 4 March, from left Keira Duncan, Tiaan Odendaal and Sam Bull. Gavin Ryan/ QuickPics The women's podium at the 2017 Sappi Howick MTB Classic Enduro on Saturday 4 March, from left Kathryn Fourie, Bianca Haw and Charné Dreyer. Gavin Ryan/ QuickPics The women’s title race provided a thrilling showdown between Haw and rising star Beanie Thies.The pair was almost inseparable as they pushed each other on the fast technical timed sections, until Thies’ chance of pulling off a major upset win ended with a technical mishap, when her timing chip failed to register on the timing system on one of the timed stages. Runner-up Kathryn Fourie said the event was well supported by riders across all the age categories, all of whom praised the new trails prepared for the event. “The stages were unique, fast paced and all had different types of challenges. The cherry on the top was Stage Five, which was untimed and just done for fun. “It was absolutely insane! It’s a fully European style of trail and is seriously steep and gave people an opportunity to try out proper Enduro style trail, with no racing pressure. “This is the kind of trail that will lift the standard of riding for everyone. The Howick MTB Club have promised to put in more trails of this style, in anticipation of another event later in the year. We can’t wait!” said Fourie. SUMMARY OF RESULTS Sappi Howick Classic 40km 1.Jedson Tooms 2:00:03 2.Sthembiso Masango 2:00:49 3.Jeremy Thompson 2:01:21 4.Dean Wortmann 2:03:58 5.Bongmusa Zikhali 2:04:36 6.Grant Underwood 2:06:16 7.Cian Leveridge 2:08:56 8.Andrew Kenward 2:09:30 9.Bianca Haw 2:10:11 (1st woman) 10.Warren Price 2;10:24 Women 1. Bianca Haw 2:10:11 2.Tiffany Keep 2:13:21 (1st Jnr) 3.Christie-Leigh Header 2:17:20 Sappi Howick Classic 20km 1.Bradley Scott 1:09:50 2.Anthony Horter 1:10:21 3.Craig Pike 1:11:32 4.Omar Wilson 1:13;17 5.Judy Gous 1:16:45 (1st woman) 6.Lungisani Xaba 1:17:18 7.Riley Smith 1;17:31 8.Ian Smith 1:17:47 9.Reuben Price 1:18:14 10.Matthew Strydom 1:18:50 Sappi Howick Classic Enduro Men 1.Tiaan Odendaal 2.Keira Duncan 3.Sam Bull Women 1.Bianca Haw 2.Kathryn Fourie 3.Charné Dreyer More information can be found at www.howickmountainbiking.co.za or www.facebook.com/howickmtb.
  4. KwaZulu-Natal's oldest mountain bike event, the Sappi Howick MTB Classic is set to rock the small KZN Midlands town of Howick this weekend as elite riders and weekend warriors plan their assault on the array of events on Saturday and Sunday, 4-5 March. Click here to view the article
  5. The two-day event comprises of a number of different events catering to varying riding abilities with Saturday playing host to the budding discipline of MTB Enduro whilst Sunday hosts the more traditional 40km Marathon, 20km Half Marathon and the hit 10km Fun Ride. Young Jedson Toomes will be on the start line looking to better his fourth place overall in 2016 at the 2017 Sappi Howick MTB Classic happening this weekend from 4-5 March. Anthony Grote/ Gameplan Media The ever-growing Enduro discipline will take place on the Saturday along a new, revamped course between the Curry’s Post Road and the N3 freeway due to the harvesting of plantations, however riders will be pleased to know that organisers have unearthed trails that were covered in tree-fall debris. Last year was the first year that the Sappi Howick MTB Classic hosted the Enduro and the event was well received by all that took part and course designer Gavin Ryan hopes that 2017 will be no different as the discipline continues to evolve and attract new riders. The business end of the weekend’s action comes on Sunday with the 20km ride as well as the exciting 40km Marathon which has a history of attracting some of the province’s top riders on the day. The 2016 edition of the race was won by 2016 Olympian Alan Hatherly; however since he relocated to the Western Cape recently he has been lost to the local KZN racing circuit. The 31st edition of the Howick MTB Classic will provide riders of varying abilities a chance to test themselves on some of the oldest mountain bike track in the province. The track is also a playground for many riders on a weekly basis proving its worth amongst the best in the region. The Sappi Plantations provide the perfect backdrop for some exciting riding at the 2017 Sappi Howick MTB Classic happening this weekend from 4-5 March. Anthony Grote/ Gameplan Media As is the case with the Enduro course, the 20km route has also received a large revamp with the emphasis on up-skilling riders as they hopefully graduate to the more physically and technically demanding 40km Marathon. The 20km ride will incorporate a couple brand new sections of riding including a section overlooking Midmar Dam, providing riders will all they need from a Sunday morning’s racing. The flagship 40km Marathon is set to produce another exciting race with the elite entries trickling in slowly with 2016’s fourth place finisher Jedson Toomes currently touted as a potential winner of the men’s crown. In an eleventh hour entry, Bianca Haw has popped her name into the hat for the Howick MTB Classic. The young Red Bull rider has been working hard in the past few months as she hoped to return to her best form with a big season ahead of her. One girl who will provide Haw with a tough tussle is youngster Tiffany Keep. Keep, who is an athlete on the successful Elite Athlete Development Programme based out of the Prime Human Performance Institute, has been in fine form both on the mountain bike and the road bike over a number of months. It will be a tough tussle between the two and the men’s race will in all likelihood take shape on the morning of Sunday’s race. More information can be found at www.howickmountainbiking.co.za or www.facebook.com/howickmtb.
  6. Intermediate mountain bikers heading for the 20km ride at the popular Sappi Howick MTB Classic can expect a totally revamped course that will ask a lot more questions of a conventional intermediate ride. Click here to view the article
  7. “If there twenty 20km races on the local calendar, at least eighteen of them are really easy. The Sappi Howick MTB Classic 20km is meant to be a meaningful stepping stone for the intermediate rider aiming to race a 40km marathon in the near future and looking for a benchmark to see if they are ready,” said Course designer Gavin Ryan. Photo credit: Anthony Grote/ Gameplan Media “We have taken the view that our 20km race needs to be more challenging,” said course designer Gavin Ryan. “If there twenty 20km races on the local calendar, at least eighteen of them are really easy. We want to provide a meaningful stepping stone for the intermediate rider aiming to race a 40km marathon in the near future and looking for a benchmark to see if they are ready,” said Ryan. The shift in the route has been largely to accommodate the harvesting of the Sappi plantations that play host to much of the oldest MTB race on the KZN calendar, but Ryan says the change has been a very positive one. “We don’t usually use track on the other side of the Currie’s Post Road,” he explained. “We will be starting from the Howick High School as usual, but then taking the 20m riders into a fun new section called ‘Goblin’s Glen’,” said Ryan. “Then the route heads into quite a technical section called ‘Harry’s’ where they will be going over quite a lot or rocks. “The 20km race then goes up to a section called ‘Dam Fine View’ which overlooks Midmar Dam,” he added. Ryan said he was confident the 20km riders would enjoy the new offering. “The trails are a lot more compacted, and I am sure they will go down well,” he concluded. The Sappi Howick MTB Classic has always pitched itself as “Raw and Unplugged”, building on its legacy as the oldest race on the provincial MTB calendar. The Sappi Howick MTB Classic takes place on Sunday 5 March and consists of a S0km Marathon, 20km Half-Marathon, and a 10km Fun Ride, with a five stage Enduro on Saturday 4 March. All entries are through ROAG. More information can be found at www.howickmountainbiking.co.za
  8. The popular mountain bike Enduro that kick-starts the weekend festival of riding at the Sappi Howick MTB Classic on Saturday 4 March is getting a bold make-over, much to the enthusiastic response of the sport's speedsters. Click here to view the article
  9. As a result of the regular harvesting of the plantations, the five-stage enduro course has been moved to the plantations between the Curry's Post Road and the N3 freeway, giving the event a total facelift for 2017. The revamped Enduro course for the Sappi Howick MTB Classic weekend has attracted the interest of many of the top Enduro and downhill pacesetters like Tiaan Odendaal. Gavin Ryan/ QuickPix The tracks that have been identified in fact return to trails that have been hidden under years of tree-fall debris, revitalising a historic section of the forest that was popular amongst MTB enthusiasts in years gone by.The established trails have been supplemented by newly cut sections and interesting features, such as the blue shale quarry at the bottom of the trail network which has been pulled into use for added fun. "All-in-all, the plantation closures have encouraged innovation and creativity, which the riders get to experience first-hand at the Enduro on the 4th of March," said course designer Gavin Ryan. The Sappi Howick MTB Classic is the oldest race on the KZN MTB Calendar, and stays true to its motto of "raw and unplugged mountain biking". The Enduro event was added to the popular Sappi sponsored MTB Classic for the first time last year, creating a festival of mountain biking in the KZN midlands, and launching a vibrant new platform where traditional mountain bikers can test their skills against specialist Enduro riders. The Enduro race format is unique in that riders are untimed on the ‘liaison stages’ which are usually stiff climbs to a high point, after which they clock in using timing chips to race one of several timed sections to the bottom of a mapped out course. Enduro racing has gained popularity across the country, with 135 entries at the first round of the KZN MTB Enduro Series held at St Ives on the 12th of February. The event saw 19 female entries from Sprog through to Masters, and it is hoped this trend will continue throughout the year. "It’s riders with an even mixture of skill, fitness, vasbyt and love of speed that will excel on these kinds of trails," said Enduro enthusiast Kathryn Fourie of the route planned for the 2017 Sappi Howick MTB Classic Enduro. Gavin Ryan/ QuickPix The revamped courses for the Enduro and the Sunday's three marathon events spanning rides of 40km, 20km and 10km are part of a natural migration around the extensive plantations in the region, as the forestry production needs change year-on-year.Coupled with the thorough communication from the Howick MTB Club advising riders of the trails that are affected by the forestry harvesting in progress, the continual retooling of the trails for the weekend serves to keep the oldest MTB event in the province fresh. The raw approach to the trails has struck a chord with MTB enthusiasts who come back to this event every year, to test their skills and soak up the unique atmosphere of the area. "Howick locals expect riders to know how to pedal – not just bomb down hills," said Enduro enthusiast Kathryn Fourie, runner up in the women's Enduro race last year to Charné Dreyer. "It’s this facet that allows even competition between XC and big travel bikes, where XC riders make up for lack of travel on the short, punchy uphills that occasionally catch the baggy brigade by surprise. "It’s riders with an even mixture of skill, fitness, vasbyt and love of speed that will excel on these kinds of trails," she added. While entries have started to flood in for the Enduro, which attracted over 100 riders last year despite a clash with the regional XCO Calendar, the Howick Enduro should attract most of the discipline's pace setters, including the likes of Craig Paul, Tiaan Odendaal, local Keira Duncan, Shane Martin. In the women's event Sabine Thies, who missed the Enduro last year could square up to Fourie and Dreyer as well as the class of riders like Amy Jane Mundy. More information can be found at www.howickmountainbiking.co.za or www.facebook.com/howickmtb.
  10. Hatherly (Kargo Pro Cycling) won a three way sprint to the line from Stuart Marais and Tyronne White to retain the title he won last year. Alan Hatherly led for most of the race to defend his title at the Sappi Howick MTB Classic & Enduro. Anthony Grote/ Gameplan Media Hatherly said that competing in the KZN XCO champs the day before had taken its toll on him. "It was pretty tough in the beginning," said Hatherly. "I definitely felt it in the legs so I decided to ride with the group for most of the day." "Stuart (Marais) had a very good race," said Hatherly. "It was only in the last five kays or so that I was warmed up. It came down to the end sprint and luckily I managed to get home ahead of him. "I could definitely see it was Stuart's home ground! He was fast on the descents," said Hatherly. "It was a lot of fun on the super single track in this part of the country." He added that the conditions and updated layout had made for a faster race. "I found it a lot faster than last year. The single track was a lot more Cross Country in style. That's what we need to get used to our tyres and our bikes." Frankie du Toit made it a double for the Kargo Pro team as she raced away to post an emphatic four minute win in the women's race over schoolgirl Chriestie-Leigh Hearder, with Andrea de Boer wrapping up the last spot on the podium. Andrea de Boer enjoying her race onto the women's podium at the Sappi Howick MTB Classic & Enduro. Anthony Grote/ Gameplan Media "We had a bit of a neutral zone in the beginning so I stuck with the group," said du Toit. "The race started on the climb and that's where I went as hard as I could.""I managed to get into the single track with quite a fast group of guys and I stuck with them. I didn't see any ladies the whole race!" She lauded the move of the race date to earlier in the year. "The conditions are far more pleasant to ride in. I remember it being freezing on the start line last year!" In the 20km Intermediate race, Clinton Bullard charged home ahead of Dreyer Botma and Sam Moore while Elisabeth Raymakers edged out Judy Gous and Tarryn Bray for the women's spoils. While the more experienced participants soaked up the technically challenging nature of the 'raw and unplugged' 40km and 20km routes, families, novices and the stars of tomorrow enjoyed their morning in the saddle during the 10km Kids race. The 2016 Sappi Howick MTB Enduro took place on Saturday the 5th of March in perfect weather conditions with an excellent turn out. 102 Enduro racers took to the hills to experience three lengthy stages, designed to suit riders of all levels and accessible on all types of mountain bikes. In the ladies overall division it was young sub-junior Charné Dreyer who took top honours over sub-vet Kathryn Fourie in second and senior Kim Westbrook in third. Dreyer, a Howick local, has recently started posing a serious threat to the senior women, having come third overall at the last Greg Minnaar Cycles KZN MTB Provincial Enduro at St Ives. “I’m so pleased for Charné," said Westbrook. "She’s really been putting in the time and training hard so it’s great to see that paying off”. Tyronne White raced onto the overall men's podium at the Sappi Howick MTB Classic & Enduro. Anthony Grote/ Gameplan Media Unfortunately, the event date clashed with the second KZN MTB Provincial XCO, meaning riders such as sub-junior Sabine Thies and junior Sharjah Jonnson were absent from the days racing. In the men’s overall division, Downhill senior rider Tiaan Odendaal took first place over senior Craig Paul and Downhill World Cup racer Sam Bull. Despite a more pedal orientated Enduro race, it seems the Downhillers can still hold their own against the cross-country riders when they need to. A group of riders during the Sappi Howick MTB Enduro take time out to pose for photos at the Sappi phot frame. Anthony Grote/ Gameplan Media Nigel Hicks, KZN MTB Downhill commissaire, also rode the event with a group of friends. “I thoroughly enjoyed the day out with my mates, it was hard work in the pedal sections but the trails are running well and the whole vibe of the event was relaxed and fun. We enjoyed messing about at the Sappi frame and taking some pics, it was fun all round”. Adding to the festivities, title sponsor Sappi's social media competition saw those a little further back in the field take time out during their ride to snap a photo of themselves when they passed the Sappi photo frame at the Shafton Fire Tower and post it on the HMBC Facebook page using #HMBC and #InspiredByLife to stand a chance of winning one of several prizes, including an Apple iPod. Living up to its reputation the Sappi Howick MTB Classic & Enduro tested the riders with technically demanding sections of single track. Anthony Grote/ Gameplan Media More information can be found at www.howickmountainbiking.co.za or www.facebook.com/howickmtb. SUMMARY OF RESULTS 2016 SAPPI HOWICK MTB CLASSIC & ENDURO SAPPI HOWICK MTB CLASSIC 40km Classic Overall 1. Alan Hatherley 1:46:48 2. Stuart Marais 1:46:49 3. Tyronne White 1:46:55 4. Jedson Tooms 1:51:12 5. Sean Merredew 1:51:16 6. Marco Joubert 1:53:13 7. Andrew Warr 1:53:52 8. Carl Calverley 1:56:27 9. Mazwi Smimango 1:57:54 10. Callan Deacon 1:58:03 Women 1. Frankie du Toit 2:09:06 2. Chriestie-Leigh Header 2:13:07 3. Andrea de Boer 2:19:26 4. Nadine Nunes 2:28:48 5. Sarah Drew 2:31:14 20km Intermediate Men 1.Clinton Bullard 1:05:35 2.Dreyer Botma 1:05:53 3.Sam Moore 1:05:59 Women 1.Sarah Ryan 1:06:00 2. Elisabeth Raymakers 1:06:53 3.Judy Gous 1:14:53 SAPPI HOWICK ENDURO Overall 1.Tiaan Odendaal 24:17 2.Craig Paul 24:34 3.Sam Bull 24:34 Women 1.Charné Dreyer 30:12 2.Kathryn Fourie 31:09 3.Kim Westbrook 32:50
  11. KwaZulu-Natal's mountain biking fraternity celebrated the Sappi Howick MTB Classic & Enduro's 30th anniversary in style on Saturday, 5 and Sunday, 6 March as Alan Hatherley and Frankie du Toit claimed the 40km Classic titles while Tiaan Odendaal and schoolgirl Charné Dreyer won the first ever staging of the event's Enduro race. Click here to view the article
  12. The Sappi Howick MTB Classic & Enduro celebrates its 20th anniversary this weekend when the all new Enduro event takes place on Saturday, 5 March followed by the ever-popular ‘raw and unplugged’ Classic on Sunday, 6 March. Click here to view the article
  13. Kargo Pro Cycling's Alan Hatherly hopes to be back to defend his Sappi Howick MTB Classic title on Sunday, 6 March. Anthony Grote/ Gameplan Media. Moved to earlier in the year to avoid the winter cold of the KZN Midlands and with the added Enduro event, organisers are looking forward to a stellar weekend’s festivities to mark the province’s oldest mountain biking event’s second decade of support from the MTB fraternity. 2015 men’s winner Alan Hatherly and his Kargo Pro Cycling team mate Marco Joubert are hopeful they will be on the start line on Sunday and to be a part of the occasion, provided all goes well for them at the KZN XCO event the day before. Callan Deacon rode to second place in 2015 and will hope to again be at the sharp end of the field of the 2016 Sappi Howick MTB Classic on Sunday, 6 March. Anthony Grote/ Gameplan Media Last year’s runner-up Callan Deacon of Callan’s Bike tech in Hilton knows the region’s spectacular trail network well and will again hope his local knowledge will see him produce another strong performance. ROAG Racing’s Jedson Tooms will be another keen to tackle the tough, technical 40km route that offers some of the best sights and scenery of the region while providing participants with a challenging yet rewarding morning in the saddle. ROAG Racing's Jedson Tooms and the rest of the 2016 Sappi Howick MTB Classic participants are in for a mountain biking treat comes Sunday, 6 March's 40km event. Anthony Grote/ Gameplan Media Hatherly and Joubert’s Kargo team mates, Frankie du Toit and Hayley Smith have confirmed they too will be in action in Howick this weekend and the pair, bringing with them some strong form, are set to start Sunday’s 40km contest as favourites for the women’s title. Sunday’s action will also see hundreds take on the popular yet still challenging 20km Intermediate route while the 10km Kids Ride will see families by the dozen enjoy their dose of off-road cycling adventure. Kargo Pro Cycling's Frankie du Toit (front) and Hayley Smith (background) will start the 2016 Sappi Howick MTB Classic on Sunday, 6 March as favourites. Anthony Grote/ Gameplan Media Preceding that, Saturday’s Enduro has the local MTB community bubbling with excitement as the three-stage event that starts and finishes at the Karkloof Farmers’ Market takes riders through the heart of the region’s popular trail system. With the likes of Hilton Frost and Kim Westbrook set to lead the men’s and women’s Enduro charger respectively, organisers are also looking forward to welcoming parents and children, novice Enduro participants and parent/child combinations to the event as well. Mark Millar and the rest of the Sappi Howick MTB Enduro entrants will be eager to be a part of the event's first ever staging on Saturday, 5 March in celebration of the Sappi Howick MTB Classic & Enduro's 20th anniversary celebrations. Paul Botma/ Gameplan Media Participants are also reminded of title sponsor Sappi’s social media competition during the event. While the racing snakes battle it out at the front of the field on both Saturday and Sunday, less serious riders are encouraged to snap a photo of themselves when they pass the Sappi photo frame. Built at the Shafton Fire Tower, the frame is a fun way to take a break from pedalling and create a few digital memories and, by posting the images on the HMBC Facebook page using #HMBC and #InspiredByLife, riders then stand a chance to win one of several prizes including an Apple iPod. The Sappi Howick MTB Classic & Enduro takes place on Saturday, 5 and Sunday, 6 March 2016. More information can be found at http://www.howickmountainbiking.co.za or www.facebook.com/howickmtb.
  14. The 2016 Sappi Howick MTB Classic takes place on Sunday, 6 March and the women’s field is looking increasingly competitive as the entry list fills up ahead of the race’s 30th anniversary celebrations. Click here to view the article
  15. The route for the 40km tussle suggests it will be a technical and challenging day in the saddle, giving those with strong rock riding skills and legs that won’t give up an added advantage. Kargo Pro Cycling's Frankie du Toit (front) and Hayley Smith (background) are looking forward to taking on the trails of the Sappi Howick MTB Classic on Sunday, 6 March. Anthony Grote/ Gameplan Media Joining their Kargo Pro Cycling male teammates, Hayley Smith and Frankie Du Toit have confirmed their participation with the pair likely to be strong forces to be reckoned with. Both Du Toit and Smith have graced podium steps regularly the province over and with the former having already impressed in her first year competing as an Elite. “I'm excited to race at the Sappi Howick MTB Classic this weekend as the route is always fun and technical!” explained Du Toit. “I'm in quite a heavy week of training and am racing the KZN provincial this Saturday, so the Sappi Howick MTB Classic will be a challenging way to end this week off but I'm super excited to do my first Classic of the year!” she added. Du Toit and Smith have just returned from a challenging weekend at the second leg of the STIHL SA XCO Cup Series in Cape Town where they placed fourth and fifth respectively in the Pro-Elite Women’s category. “Unfortunately Frankie had a crash right in the beginning of her race, which left her fighting for fourth place,” explained Du Toit’s Kargo Pro Cycling team manager, Shaun Peschl. “It’s all learning in the first year of racing as an Elite though!” While it is unconfirmed if 2015 women’s winner Cindy Theunissen will be competing this weekend or not, a number of other strong local riders will be tackling the 40km and 20km races. “The Howick trail network creates strong riders of all ages and genders because of the type of terrain that comprise the trails and because of the community of riders that support each other,” explained Howick Mountain Bike Club rider Jackie Shaw. “The ladies are pushed to keep up with the men which means that our local female riders are not shy of rock gardens or fast descents”!” While it remains unclear if women's Sappi Howick MTB Classic defending champ Cindy Theunissen will be part of the 2016 race on Sunday, 6 March, a wealth of KZN's other female MTB talent will be on the start line for the clash. Anthony Grote/ Gameplan Media Sarah Drew, a strong Sub-Vet rider who has recently started competing again in 2016, enthused that, “The Sappi Howick MTB Classic is such a good race; it’s a solid 40km where you need to concentrate on the technical aspects and then pin it in the open areas.” “I’m looking forward to the race on Sunday, particularly as it’ll be the first race on my new bike!” she added. While the Sappi Howick MTB Classic is known for its technical aspects, the 20km offers a brilliant platform for women – and men – wanting to try out their first mountain bike race or to build up their base of 20km rides. Megan Els, 2014 Motorbike Cross Country Championship winner, explains that for her the Howick trails offer something unique. “Mountain biking in general is so different to the motorbike industry,” said Els. “It’s far more social and the vibe is what’s so important!” “You can ride with your friends at a different pace and you progress after every ride. “The 20km race offers me beautifully prepared trails thanks to all the effort goes into preparing the trails for the race, and that alone makes the event worth riding, as well as the social element!” While the 40km looks to be competitive with the young guns likely to lead the pack, those out to enjoy perfectly prepped trails are in for a treat with the weather looking favourable for the weekend ahead. Participants are also reminded of title sponsor Sappi’s social media competition during the event. While the racing snakes battle it out at the front of the field, less serious riders are encouraged to snap a photo of themselves when they pass the Sappi photo frame en route. Built at the Shafton Fire Tower, the frame is a fun way to take a break from pedalling and create a few digital memories and, by posting the images on the HMBC Facebook page using #HMBC and #InspiredByLife, riders then stand a chance to win one of several prizes including an Apple iPod. The Sappi Howick MTB Classic & Enduro takes place on Saturday, 5 and Sunday, 6 March 2016. More information can be found at www.howickmountainbiking.co.za or www.facebook.com/howickmtb while entries can be submitted at www.roag.co.za.
  16. Organisers of the 2016 Sappi Howick MTB Classic are relishing the inclusion of the first ever Sappi Howick Enduro as part of the now weekend-long programme of events as the popular ‘raw and unplugged’ KZN Midlands mountain biking event celebrates its 30th anniversary on Saturday, 5 and Sunday, 6 March. Click here to view the article
  17. The newly added Sappi Howick Enduro will take place on Saturday, 5 March – the day before the traditional Sappi Howick MTB Classic – with the Howick Mountain Bike Club (HMBC) confident their recent release of the official Enduro stages on social media will aid in attracting a wide range of riders on all types of bikes to the fresh event. Mark Millar (pictured) and his fellow Enduro enthusiasts from throughout KZN and abroad are relishing the code's Sappi Howick MTB Classic & Enduro debut on Saturday, 5 March. Paul Botma/ Gameplan Media. “Enduro is a different kind of racing which allows friends to ride socially together while at the same time still enjoying the thrill of timed racing,” Gavin Ryan, HMBC Trail Steward explained. “Moms and dads can ride up liaison stages with their children and then race down the timed sections knowing their children will be waiting at the bottom for them with the time keepers, it’s quite unique being able to ride an event in that style.” The 2016 Sappi Howick Enduro comprises of three stages, all of which descend from the iconic Shafton Fire Tower. Stage 1 is a selection of fast and flowing trails on steep terrain which then enter into tighter trails with bar catching potential, stage 2 directs riders towards the Karkloof trail networks down the well-known “Sheep’s Pass” while Stage 3 is the longest collection of trails that has a number of surprising technical sections with the race ending at the Karkloof Farmers Market. The HMBC’s selection of trails for the event also means that riders will need to be committed to smooth, fast riding through tight corners in order for them to be competitive. “We’ve been mindful of making the stages doable for those on big, mid and small travel bikes alike, so anyone can give it a bash confidently!” said Ryan. “We want to grow the discipline of Enduro racing and hence we’ve created fun but still challenging sections!” “While we’ve made it beginner friendly, there are still some tricky sections where those with skills to pay the bills will benefit!” he laughed. Kim Westbrook, overall ladies winner at the KZN MTB Provincial Enduro held at St Ives last weekend, is one rider to have already confirmed she is keen to try her luck on the Howick trails at the new event. “I’m really excited because Howick has natural, rugged, tight trails that are always challenging to ride fast and are so satisfying when you read the lines right and hit them at speed!” said Westbrook. PYGA rider Hilton Frost, who came second to World Cup Downhill racer Greg Minnaar at the recent St Ives Enduro, is another looking forward to being part of the 2016 Sappi Howick Enduro’s action. “While I’ll be setting up our PYGA stand in the morning, I will definitely be racing later in the day!” said Frost. “I’m not missing this event; I’ve never had a chance to race Enduro on the Howick trails and they are perfect for this kind of riding so I’m sure it will be an awesome race!” Title sponsor Sappi will also be running a social media competition during the event. Between their timed runs, riders are encouraged to snap a photo of themselves at the new Sappi Photo Frame and post the image to the HMBC Facebook page, with #HMBC and #InspiredByLife included in the post, in order to stand a chance of winning several prizes such as an Apple iPod. “Built at the Shafton Fire Tower, the frame presents a fun way to take a brief break from pedalling and create a few digital memories of the Sappi Howick Enduro adventure!” said Matthew Drew of the Sappi MTB Project. “The idea is that riders will stop and do something fun like a hand stand, yoga pose or just showing off their Enduro steeds on the two meter wide platform behind the frame. “Hopefully this will enable us to capture the fun of the Enduro event through the competitors very own photos!” The Sappi Howick MTB Classic & Enduro takes place on Saturday, 5 and Sunday, 6 March 2016. More information can be found at www.howickmountainbiking.co.za or www.facebook.com/howickmtb while entries can be submitted at www.roag.co.za.
  18. It was in 1986 that the Howick Mountain Bike Club (HMBC) held their first mountain bike race, sending about 100 keen mountain bikers on hard tails off into the hills of the Shafton plantations to crunch out 40km of trails and jeep track. Since then, the event has become known as a challenging race with many technical elements, making the Howick trail network synonymous with the catch phrase ‘raw and unplugged’. In 2016 the HMBC have extended the Sappi Howick MTB Classic over two days to include the Sappi Howick Enduro on Saturday, 5 March. Many riders, such as Thami Kunene (pictured), will be eager to celebrate the Sappi Howick MTB Classic & Enduro's 30th anniversary in somewhat warmer conditions than years gone by as the race shifts from June to 5 & 6 March in 2016 while an Enduro event has been added to the weekend's festivities. Anthony Grote/ Gameplan Media Enduro racing is a more relaxed style of racing, where riders can ascend together at any pace to the top of several timed stages that are predominantly descents with the winners then determined by the total time of all of the descents. With the rise in popularity of the Enduro racing format over the past two years, the HMBC have realised the potential that Enduro’s hold for the overall event. “The way the trail network is set up in Howick makes it ideal for Enduro racing as generally all our long descents come down from a central point at the Shafton Fire Tower,” said Gavin Ryan, the HMBC Trail Steward. “Riders simply finish racing one stage and casually work their way back up to the same point to start another descent. “We held a trial Enduro event in October last year that was really successful and we received such good feedback from the riders that the decision was taken to include it as part of the Sappi Howick MTB Classic weekend. We’ve designed the Enduro to be accessible to first time Enduro riders too, so we encourage everyone on any kind of bike to give it a go before then staying on and trying out the 40km Classic on the Sunday too as it’s a really exciting race,” he added. Another big change to the popular event sees it now being staged in March as opposed to the traditional calendar placement of June. “We found that over the past few years the June date was quite close to the Comrades Marathon, and clashed with some of the KZNMTB provincial series events. “But, more than that, the conditions in 2015 were bitterly cold and we decided to choose a weather period that would be less stressful to the riders! “It’s also nice to hold a race at the beginning of the race season, before people experience event fatigue as our races are serious, but they’re also really fun – and we want people to enjoy them! “We may be turning 30, but we’re still evolving!” said Gordon Beard, HMBC Chairman. The Sappi Howick MTB Classic & Enduro takes place on Saturday, 5 and Sunday, 6 March 2016. More information can be found at www.howickmountainbiking.co.za or www.facebook.com/howickmtb while entries can be submitted at www.roag.co.za.
  19. 2016 sees the 30th anniversary of the Sappi Howick MTB Classic & Enduro welcome several exciting changes, including a new home on the calendar – Saturday, 5 and Sunday, 6 March – and the introduction of a three-stage Enduro event. Click here to view the article
  20. Participants of the 2015 Sappi Howick MTB Classic that takes place on Sunday 7 June in the heart of the KZN Midlands are in for a trail treat. Click here to view the article
  21. Not only has the event’s 40km route received a complete overhaul, but riders can also expect to enjoy the unique scenery, flora and fauna of the Howick region during their race. Puffer Adder Pass is certain to get the blood of participants of the 2015 Sappi Howick MTB Classic pumping however, despite the climb having been named after the region's inhabitants, Sunday 7 June's increased heart rate will be for cycling reasons only as the legless reptiles remain in hibernation. // Anthony Grote/ Gameplan Media. Renowned for its twisting stretches of pristine single track and endless mountain biking entertainment, the Howick clash is also looked forward to by hundreds annually due to its remarkable sights and sounds with views that will add to riders’ breathlessness once they summit the event’s various lung-buster climbs. “The vistas of the Mngeni Valley and Karkloof regions that riders will see during stages of their cycle are a special feature of the race and add value to Sappi Howick MTB Classic participants’ experiences,” explains race director Gordon Beard. “We are blessed in the Howick region to have some of the best trails in the country to explore by bike but the views that the race exposes riders to is another major reason why cyclists keep coming back to our event year after year,” he adds. Cyclists won’t only have the horizon’s offerings to enjoy but will ride through the various ecosystems of the Sappi forests as well. Large stretches of the route’s single and jeep tracks flow through open areas, stream crossing, grasslands and near wetlands, giving riders the opportunity to get up close and personal with nature. “A variety of buck, birds of prey, rabbits, porcupine, bush pigs, jackal and the occasional caracal have all been spotted in the Howick forests while we've even seen an otter down at the Weir Way dam!” says local mountain biker Kath Fourie. “Some of the trails have even been named after animals found in that particular area, such as Porcupine Way and Jackal Road. With this in mind Puff Adder pass that links the Howick and Karkloof trail networks, may cause a few butterflies in the tummy for some. Beard confirms that participants have nothing to worry about though. “The infamous Puff Adder Pass is very rocky and puff adders are attracted to the area because of the warmth that the rocks hold from the sun, while the terrain is ideal for hiding should they need to. “Participants of the Sappi Howick MTB Classic need not lose any sleep over this though as the hundreds of MTB wheels that will be heading through the area and with it now being winter, our legless friends won't be out on race day!” Early sections of Sunday 7 June's Sappi Howick MTB Classic will present participants will spectacular views of the picturesque Midmar Dam. // Anthony Grote/ Gameplan Media. For the race’s title sponsors, being involved in an event of this nature is the perfect fit for Sappi’s objective of engaging with activities that traverse it’s properties while living their tag line of ‘Inspired by life’ at the same time. “Sappi has established a strong relationship with the mountain biking community, a relationship that has developed over the last 25 years,” says André Oberholzer, Sappi Group Head Corporate Affairs. “Many people love to be outdoors and away from traffic and the stress of urban areas, and among those people are cyclists. “Sappi land offers the environment they are looking for and we’ve been amenable to the development of trails on our land for a long time. “We trust everyone who takes part in the 2015 Sappi Howick MTB Classic will thoroughly enjoy their ride and enjoy their adventure through the Sappi forests,” he adds. The 2015 Sappi Howick MTB Race takes place from Howick High School on Sunday 7 June with participants able to choose from the 10km Family Ride, 19km Sappi Intermediate Ride and the 40km Sappi Howick Classic. Entries can be submitted online via www.roag.co.za by 3 June and more information can be found at www.howickmountainbiking.co.za.
  22. Known to most as a raw and unplugged mountain biking experience, Thomson appreciates the simplicity of the route and the true mountain biking test that the event offers participants. “I am absolutely going to be there!” confirmed the former rugby ace enthusiastically. “The Sappi Howick MTB Classic is one that you can’t miss out on!” Prime HPI's Jeremy Thomson is relishing a return to the magical trails of the Howick region when he takes on Sunday 7 June's Sappi Howick MTB Classic. // Photo credit: Jetline Action Photo/ Gameplan Media. “I’ve taken part in this event a lot over the years and I love the trials up there.“There’s a great mix of terrain that helps to keep the course fresh and the organisers always change it up a bit each year as well,” he adds. 2015’s participants are set to enjoy a near-new cycling experience as the 40km event’s route receives a complete make-over. Many of the region’s renowned trails will however still be included – many in a the reverse direction to what they have been ridden in over the past three years – including spectacular stretches on single track through the vast Sappi plantations in the area. “Some of the single track in Howick is right up there with my favourites of all time and I cannot wait to ride them again!” explains Thomson. Having achieved a ninth at last year’s event to go with his tenth in 2012, Thomson has proven time and again that he has what it takes to mix it up with some of the province’s regular top achievers at the annual Howick showdown. Another top 10 finish in 2015 will undoubtedly be lingering in the back of Thomson’s mind, despite the Prime HPI rider still recovering from some time out of the saddle. “I am busy coming back from a bit of a break after a tough start to the year,” says Thomson. “I rode the Cape Epic with Mathew Barrow in March and recently I have been enjoying three weeks away from the bike so I will come into the Howick event a little bit underdone but I will be out there to give it my best shot, as I always do!” The 2015 Sappi Howick MTB Race takes place from Howick High School on Sunday 7 June with participants able to choose from the 10km Family Ride, 19km Sappi Intermediate Ride and the 40km Sappi Howick Classic. Entries can be submitted online via www.roag.co.za by 3 June and more information can be found at www.howickmountainbiking.co.za.
  23. A third appearance in four years at the Sappi Howick MTB Classic is one former Sharks centre turned passionate mountain biker Jeremy Thomson is relishing when the 2015 edition of the KZN Midlands clash takes place on Sunday 7 June. Click here to view the article
  24. One of South Africa’s top cross country stars Brendon Davids is eager to return to winning ways on a course he has always loved when he returns to the Sappi Howick MTB Classic this Sunday. Click here to view the article
  25. Image credit: Anthony Grote/Gameplan Media Fresh off a race-ending broken rim at the UCI MTB World Cup Pietermaritzburg, the bounce of the ball has continued not to go Davids’ way recently as a frustrating double puncture forced him out of the 60km Sappi Karkloof Marathon before a stomach bug saw him run out of steam in the final lap of the third leg of the 2014 SA MTB Cup Series in Mankele this past weekend. “The Sappi Karkloof Classic was obviously a huge bummer for me and then the UCI category 1 cross country race up at Mankele this past weekend was also very disappointing,” explained Davids. “I’d also hoped to head over to Germany for this weekend’s World Cup in Albstadt but that unfortunately didn’t work out either. “Fortunately the body is feeling strong again though and my coach, Jeroen Swart, has been working me really hard this past so hopefully I can go to Howick this weekend and try hone my skills a bit and look to work really hard on my speed ahead of the SA Cross-Country Champs in particular, as well as the SA Marathon Champs next weekend,” he added. Despite the rub of the green having not gone his way of late, the Trek South Africa competitor is hoping local knowledge of the renowned Howick trails and a passion for Sunday’s event will signal a turning of the tides for the under-23 ace. “I grew up in the area and I’ve been riding the Howick trails since I was thirteen years old so I’m really looking forward to going back to my roots this weekend!” he said eagerly. “The race is one of the longest standing events in KwaZulu-Natal and is probably one of the most popular events with the riders because of the incredible, unique single track it offers so it will be great to go back and race there again for the first time in four years! The Sappi plantations that surround the small, quiet town of Howick will come alive on Sunday and Davids was quick to rate the trails of the region as on a par with those of the renowned Karkloof area. “Sappi has such great grounds, both in Howick and Karkloof, for events to be staged and the single track through Howick, just like Karkloof, is just incredible! “The Howick course’s single track lends itself to the technically strong, cross-country type rider and the climbs are long so that is definitely another area I’ll look to take advantage of on Sunday. “The race starts and finishes at Howick High School and this just seems to really bring the whole community together and get behind the event, so it is a pretty special race at all. With 2013 winner Patrick Belton having called it a day on his competitive career earlier this year, the door is wide open for a new winner to be crowned however few would be brave enough to bet against Davids’ strength and determination, especially as he looks to put a disappointing period behind him as he moves towards the second half of the year. The popular Howick event offers participants the choice of the 40km Sappi Howick MTB Classic, 20km SPAR Intermediate Ride or the 10km Fun Ride and takes place at Howick High School on Sunday 1 June. More info can be found at www.howickmountainbiking.co.za
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