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  1. Darryn Stow on his way to second place in the Sub Vet men's race. Photo credit: Theo Bruwer. The track at Bloemendal is markedly different from its predecessors in the series. Where the challenge in the tracks at Slanghoek and Rhebokskloof lay in negotiating slippery, dusty, washed out, and rutted trails, Bloemendal offered a more manicured man-made experience. The light rain on Friday did wonders to firm up the dry and dusty trails. The course includes the famed Lombard's Terra descent, the highlight of which is a sizeable gap jump which gave me sleepless nights last year. This year, we weren’t able to make it for course practice on Friday, and I chose to play it safe, and get some sleep: opting for the chicken run. We arrived in time for a quick early morning lap: enough to get an idea of what was on the course, although not enough to really iron out any issues. The rain had left the dirt in perfect condition, and the rocks were slippery from the rain, but the track looked set to dry up as soon as the sun made an appearance. The XCO events develop skills at an early age. Photo credit: Tania Horsford Photography.The course started by weaving its way through the vineyard and onto a jeep track climb, as is customary. This serves to seed the field quite quickly and limits congestion on the single track. In the ladies race, all the groups started together, and it was great fun having a bigger group than usual to ride in, and the Elite ladies to chase. The climb turns into a single file row between vineyards, before dropping down through a stubble field, making it an excellent place to attack and gain a lead before the descent. The subsequent awkward left turn and single track didn’t leave many opportunities for overtaking. There is always action on the course for spectators to watch. Photo credit: Nicole Dale KuysClimbing up past the feed zone, the gradient gets steep, and there was never much air left in my lungs for banter with the spectators. After this point, things really got interesting: a singletrack switchback climb, liberally scattered with rock gardens waiting to catch up anyone not concentrating, or running out of power. Popping out at the top of the climb, there was a short section of jeep track, another vital overtaking opportunity for anyone looking to attack before the long descent down Lombard's Terra. Graeme Kuys tackles the berms on Lombard's Terra. Photo credit: Nicole Dale Kuys. The descent is the highlight of the course, it snakes down past the feed and technical support zone with beautiful, fast bermed corners and jumps of different sizes and difficulty, so you can choose your challenges and build up confidence on the smaller jumps. Being in sight of the feed zone means there is always encouragement and a friendly word on the way down. The last climb on the course was a bit of a killer, short and relatively steep, on a rough loose surface. Another excellent spot for an exciting attack: in full view of the feed zone, before dropping down to the BMX section and heading out on the next lap. The course offers a rewarding mix of terrain, with comfortable B-lines and challenging A-lines. Photo credit: Theo Bruwer.Aside from the exhilaration of racing, supporting and watching the racing is the next best thing. The feed zone at Bloemendal offers a nearly 360 degree view of the course, and it is possible to watch the racing unfold in real time: making you feel a part of the action. For those that don’t want to walk up to the feed zone in the vineyards, the start finish area offers a view of the BMX section and all the sprint finish action your heart could desire. Bloemendal will be the venue for the Western Cape XCO Champs on 27 May, and is an inviting course for first-timers wanting to try the discipline. Most of the action is visible from the feed and technical support zone. Photo credit Nicole Dale Kuys. The final round of the Subaru Cape Town WC XCO MTB Series will take place at Rhebokskloof on 27 April. You can read more about the second event of the series, and the course at Rhebokskloof here. Follow these links for the series standings and full results for the event.More photos can be viewed at theobruwer.photofrog.co.za. For more information about upcoming events visit the WP Cycling website or the WPMTBC Facebook page.
  2. On Saturday 25 February, Rhebokskloof wine farm outside Paarl hosted the first 2017 LOAD National MTB XCO Series, in combination with the second event of Subaru Cape Town WC XCO MTB Series, and the World Junior World Series. The UCI points on offer, combined with the fact that a large number of pro riders have escaped the clutches of the European winter to train in Stellenbosch, saw a seriously stacked field line up in the Elite men's and women's categories, as well as some strong foreign contenders added to the mix in the junior field. This resulted in the biggest turnout ever recorded for a SA Cup event. Click here to view the article
  3. Photo credit: Nicolé Dale Kuys As an XCO venue, Rhebokskloof Wine Farm works particularly well with good facilities for riders and lots of viewing options with spectators having the option of enjoying a boerie roll on the shaded lawns adjacent to the finish line, or braving the heat to watch the action on course at one of the many exciting technical sections. The feed zones are superbly placed in the centre of the course making it the place to be if you want to watch the race unfold as the riders enter and exit view. The Sub Veteran mens field spreading out. Photo credit: Nicolé Dale Kuys The Elite mens field hammering up the first climb. Photo credit: Dimitri Vaindirlis The Course We discovered at Friday’s practice that the drought has hit Rhebokskloof hard, resulting in a super dry, loose, and dusty course. Heated racing and some spectacular crashes were inevitable. Fortunately on Saturday temperatures were less sweltering than they were on Friday.The first climb (as they usually are) was designed to tear the field apart and the gradient didn’t allow you to hide weak legs in the pack for a moment. A rocky undulating singletrack then took riders to the first A-line/ B-line split. The rocky sections here were lurking, waiting to catch tired riders, and some congestion was to be expected on the first lap. I found myself missing my line here on more than one occasion. The Elite ladies line up at the start The A-line took riders sharp left, down what might have been a comfortable descent, were it not for the thick dust making each change in direction treacherous. A slightly off camber granite slab caught me out at one point, and I found myself upside down like a turtle, unable to unclip, blocking the line as the leading Elite ladies entered and passed me in the rock garden. Trust mountain biking to keep you grounded! In this case, the B-line was much slower and equally treacherously dusty. I thought and it made more sense to tackle the A-line cautiously than lose time on the B-line. Kathrin Stirnemann of team Radon Factory Racing won the Elite Ladies race. Photo credit: Theo Bruwer A more successful attempt at the first A-line. Photo credit: Theo Bruwer A jeep track descent then took riders down and through the feed/ technical support zone. From here, switchbacks took riders up to the next killer climb of the day: a steep jeep track ascent, which again left no room for slacking off. Fortunately, a fairly flat traverse to another supremely dusty descent provided a brief opportunity for recovery. Some sweeping switchbacks, in full view of the feed zone, and bridge over the course, made for great viewing for support teams. The ladies field descending the first A-line. Photo credit: Nicolé Dale Kuys The final climb for the lap took riders into the welcome cool of the forest, where they faced another A-line/ B-line split. I only noticed the split on race day, and had to ignore the B-line. The A-line featured a drop off with a bit of a slippery entrance, which had me worried on each and every lap. A flowing and soothing switchback descent took riders out of the forest and back to the feed zone for the second time. Then it was on to the final challenges for the lap: a rock drop or a slightly awkward B-line around a tree. The rock drop could be rolled by the less skilled and adventurous, and I chose this option. Yet another awkward dusty turn and the course again split into a rock garden, which required a good set up and the right speed, or a slightly slower B-line. Overall the event was made very challenging by the dust, and probably the pressure of sharing a course with some of the best riders in the world. I think I messed up just about every obstacle out there at least once during the race, and left some skin, my dignity and lungs behind, but it was a learning curve like no other! It would be fantastic to see the turnout continue to grow, and the standard of racing pushed up like this at every event. The next WC series event will be held at Bloemendal on 1 April 2017. More details can be found here. The Racing With UCI points on offer for the elite riders and being a World Junior World Series stop, the racing was stacked with international riders.The Elite ladies race saw South African Cherie Redecker set the early pace but it was Swiss rider Kathrin Stirnemann who dominated the race, followed by Britain’s Annie Last, with Cherie coming home to take the bronze. Cherie Redecker took 3rd place and was the highest placed South African in the ladies Elite field. Photo credit: Theo Bruwer In the men’s field, a heated battle took place which saw New Zealander, and U23 world champion Samuel Gaze take first place. Followed by a sprint finish between Mathias Flückiger, and Nicola Rohrbach, both from Switzerland with Manuel Fumic narrowly missing a top three spot. Alan Hatherly was the highest placed South African rider, in fifth place. New Zealander and U23 World Champion Samuel Gaze won the mens Elite race. Photo credit: Dimitri Vaindirlis Alan Hatherly was the highest placed South African on the day, coming in fifth after suffering a mechanical. Photo credit: Dimitri Vaindirlis Full Results Full results can be found here. Enjoying the shade before the start. Photo credit: Nicolé Dale Kuys
  4. Mariske Strauss on her way to winning the Elite ladies race. Photo credit: Tania Horsford. The first race in the series was held at the Slanghoek Resort, just outside Worcester. We were expecting a small turnout as a result of this somewhat remote location (popping out after work on a Friday to register and practice wouldn’t be possible for many, ourselves included, in this case), and staring down the barrel of a 4am wake up call on Saturday morning, I started to question my decision to ride. I could not have been more pleasantly surprised by the turnout. Many made a weekend of it, enjoying the camping facilities and cottages on offer at Slanghoek. Others like ourselves made the trek from Cape Town early in the morning, resulting in what looked to me like a record field size in some categories. These events develop mountain-biking skills from a young age. Photo credit: Tania Horsford. We made it to Slanghoek in time to have a quick practice on the course, which was well thought out, and had clearly had a lot of hard work put into it. The first climb was a brutal, long jeep track drag, well designed to spread the field before the first single track, and ensure that heart rates did not stay low for long. A short technical descent followed, this was loose and dusty, and only got more loose and dusty as the day went on. The A-line here had a series of rock drops which were simple enough, but could easily catch you off guard if you were not concentrating, or going too fast. This downhill respite, was followed by a short punchy climb with the option of a slightly less lung-destroying but awkward B-line option. From here it was straight into a series of switchbacks which brought the course to the highest point of the day. The views of the valley from up here were incredible, but I don’t think too many of the riders were in a state to appreciate them. Hard work had gone into the many fun built features on the course: like this corkscrew. Photo credit: Tania Horsford. The descent from here was rewarding sweeping switchbacks, loose, dusty, and ready to catch out unwary, fatigued, or overconfident riders. A bridge allowed the course to cross over itself and brought you out of the forest briefly, before another heartbreaking kicker: so steep chicken wire was laid down to provide traction. Now the worst was over and a beautiful, swooping bermed descent brought you back down to the feed and technical support zone. A small jump, followed by flattish jeep track past the feed zone resulted in some spectacular sprinting on the day: keeping things interesting for the supporters. My least favourite climb on the course followed shortly thereafter: short and innocuous-looking it felt hellishly slow on tired legs. Luckily the climb brought you to a forest tunnel which provided much welcome cool shade, and a bit of flat ground to rest on. The course then split again into an A-line and a B-line. The A-line featured a challenging “babyhead” rocky section, which lurked, waiting for any slip in concentration, and required confidence and a bit of speed to ride sort-of smoothly. Another rocky descent, and the course nipped through a ruined building, before merging with the B-line route again. Shortly thereafter, another split took the A-line through a series of small rock gardens. Again, these were very ridable, but could easily catch you off guard, as the track got looser and more slippery with every lap. I felt very awkward riding through here, and could have used a bit more practice to carry speed a bit better. Hanli Cilliers on the A-line through a ruined building. Photo credit: Tania Horsford. A last slight uphill drag brought you past the feed/ technical support zone for a second time just before crossing the finish line to start the next lap. The course was perfectly pitched as an introduction to the series: it was not too challenging, and had plenty of B-line options, to keep youngsters and first-timers happy, confident, and hopefully coming back for more, but was still tricky to ride smooth and fast. The large number of dusty shoulders and roasties I saw on the day confirmed this. The track forced you to concentrate every inch of the way. I won’t go into the gory details of the race itself. Suffice to say it was simultaneously epic, and excruciating. The promise of the next downhill lures you up each climb, then trying not to look too broken as you head past your friends in the feed zone keeps your pedals turning over, while trying not to land in a tree keeps you occupied the rest of the time. It feels endless, but is over before you know it. Lots of concentration went into safely navigating the many rock gardens on course. Photo credit: Tania Horsford Aside from the exhilaration of racing: supporting and feeding my friends and teammates in the men’s sub-vet race was a completely different kind of fun. XCO really is a spectator friendly sport. From the feed zone you can see several parts of the course, and watch the racing unfold, without the pain of doing it yourself is pretty satisfying: especially if you have already had your turn. It turns out it is a lot easier to shout “pedal!” then it is to turn the cranks yourself. Supporting and feeding the racers can be hard work too. Photo credit: Tania Horsford. This series is organised and run by a group of volunteers, mostly parents of participants, and every time I attend an event I am blown away by the attention to detail and the quality of the experience. There is never a shortage of toilets, races start and run on time, the course is clearly marked, and the fun factor is through the roof. Now that the pain has subsided, and shock of the first race of the season has worn off, I am really looking forward to the rest of the series, and hope to see the turnout grow with every event. WP XCO 1-2017 Results 1.pdf
  5. After my first taste of cross country racing in the 2016 Subaru Cape Town WC XCO MTB Series, which you can read about here and here, signing up for 2017 was a no-brainer. There is nothing quite like an XCO race to get your adrenalin pumping and endorphins flowing. Click here to view the article
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