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  1. At 2pm tomorrow (Saturday, 30 April) the bell rings for the start of the penultimate round of what has been a year-long brawl for Olympic selection. Appropriately, the fight takes place at Cascades MTB Park in Pietermaritzburg, a world-class venue famous for hosting the 2013 UCI MTB World Championships and a number of UCI World Cups. Although the Pietermaritzburg MTB Festival taking place this weekend is a Cycling South Africa sanctioned event, it is not part of the Stihl SA XCO Cup Series. However, it is a UCI HC (Hors Categorie) event, carrying plenty of valuable UCI points. More importantly, it is one of the last chances South African mountain bikers get to impress our Olympic selectors. Essentially it's do-or-die for any Olympic hopefuls. The team will be chosen after Round 4 of the SA XCO Cup in Port Elizabeth on 14 May. In the heavyweight category (UCI Pro Elite Men) James Reid is locked in a tight three-way tussle for (what will hopefully be) two spots to Rio. It's a long and complex algorithm that has James, veteran Phil Buys and youngster Alan Hatherly pitted against each other. All you need to know is it boils down to tomorrow's XCO event in Pietermaritzburg with one last-ditch chance in PE in mid-May. With so much to race for the tension is already palpable and race day will feature no-holds-barred action of the highest quality over the punchy 5.4km route. The technical course will suit James's explosive riding style and although he now trains in Stellenbosch, he can claim a hometown advantage as he was raised on the loamy Pietermaritzburg trails. James holds a strong position in the eyes of selectors, with his 2015 Elite South African XCO title and two wins from three rounds at the 2016 SA XCO Cup Series. Unfortunately, he relinquished his 2015 Elite African Continental Championship title to rival Phil Buys in Lesotho in early April, falling victim to a late crash and the negative effects of racing at altitude (the African Continental Championships was hosted at a staggering 3000m). So, if you want a ringside seat for all the action tomorrow, head to www.streamit360.tv at 2pm.
  2. Jordan Sarrou is the 2020 UCI MTB World Champion and joins Specialized on a multi-year partnership. The 28-year-old Frenchman has enjoyed riding Specialized bikes from a young age and expressed great excitement in joining the factory team - “It’s a big motivation for me and I’m very excited to ride for Specialized; they are the best brand for mountain biking and cycling, so it’s a huge excitement for me to join the family now.” Winning the world title in 2020 was a dream for Jordan. In 2021 he has even bigger dreams of competing in the Olympic games and defending his world title - “Firstly, my goal is to be at the start at the Tokyo Olympic Games, then to defend my world title and be on top for the World Cup races.” Brian Gordon, MTB product manager in Morgan Hill, California is excited to work with the new team of riders. “Specialized Factory Racing is and has always been an integral part of product development at Specialized. There is no doubt that the energy and excitement around the 2021 team roster will motivate and inspire us to push the limits of product innovation in every aspect.” The close tie between the race team and product team at Specialized has been paramount in building the legacy of Specialized Factory Racing and the Epic platform. The 2021 program will only see this tie grow stronger, pushing product design further into the future. Alongside Sarrou, Specialized have signed former Italian National Champion, Gerhard Kerschbaumer. ‘Geri’ as his team mates call him has set his sights on the 2021 World Title which will be contested in his home country, Val Di Sole, Italy. Apart from chasing the rainbow stripes, Kerschbaumer will focus on the World Cup series and an Olympic medal – “I have enjoyed my short time with the team. We are set up here at our first team camp and things are going very well. I come from a very small setup and having all of this support is very exciting for me. I never had a soigneur or a personal mechanic before and I need to get used to having access to all of this new information and product. I can learn a lot from Jordan who is the world champion and I look forward to 2021 with the team.” Benno Willeit who has been with the global race team for more than 10 years makes a return to the Specialized Factory racing team as program manager. Willeit has spent the last few years pioneering the E-bike racing category for Specialized and his wealth of knowledge and experience on the world cup circuit will be invaluable to the team’s future success – “I spent the last few years with the E-bike and Enduro teams. It is great to be back with the XCO team, it is where I started my career and super happy to be here in Stellenbosch with our team. We have 3 riders who are new to the brand and it has been very educational for everyone to get a Retül fit and learn more about the equipment that they will be using for 2021 and beyond. The goal of this team camp is to get to know everyone intimately, but also generate content for our sponsors and riders. So far we are having a great time together and I am excited for the years ahead.” Sina Frei has an impressive résumé which includes U/23 World Champion, U/23 European Champion, Swiss Champion and at 23, she is undoubtedly one of the women to look out for in the Elite category. Frei joins Specialized on a multi-year partnership and is excited to get back to racing - “It is really exciting to join Specialized. I am already enjoying the team environment and it is such a great group of people to be a part of, everything is very professional”. Joining her teammates on the S-Works Epic for the first time, Sina has been impressed with the setup of her new bike and the Retül fit process – “From the first time I was on the bike, it has been super comfortable. Riding here in Stellenbosch, the bike is smooth and very precise in handling. I also had a Retül fit for the first time ever and the data is really interesting. I enjoy seeing the numbers and already, we have made a few tweaks which have improved my position on the bike.” Another talented rider who has been supported by Specialized, but now makes the step up to the factory racing team is Austrian, Laura Stigger. While she could still race in the U/23 Category, the 20 year old Stigger made the decision to race in the Elite women’s category and has already made huge impressions on the mountain biking community. “I am very comfortable in this group. It is nice to get to know everyone better and I am excited to spend the next few years with this group of people. It is my first time in Stellenbosch and it is a big change from the Cross Country skiing that I have been doing back home in Austria. The riding, the food, the people are all awesome and I am very happy to be here.” Laura has big goals for the 2021 season including a World Championship medal and podiums at the XCO World Cups. The Specialized Factory Racing Team will focus on the UCI MTB XCO World Cup season including the Olympic games, Sea Otter Classic, Specialized market activations and National Championships. The team is proud to be supported by SRAM, Rockshox, Wahoo, Cliff, HT Components, Retül, Roval, Motrex and Supacaz.
  3. Mountain bike racing is back in full flow after the December hiatus and ‘base’ training period. The downhill hooligans have already had their first provincial race and the Tankwa Trek was well into day 3 by the time the XCO at Bloemendal got underway. The first XCO of the year is always a test, and for many, it’s the first real ask of legs and lungs over a sustained 1h30(ish) effort. Tygerberg Mountain Club has taken over as headline sponsors of the series this year putting money and resources behind the series that’s producing prodigious talents. As a platform to go pro, XCO is the best option for aspiring young mountain bikers with its Olympic accreditation and recently televised races. The Western Cape series is producing the goods too, with the current top-ranked Junior in the world, Luke Moir lining up at every event. It’s not only the boys too, but the likes of Mariska Strauss and Candice Lill have also used the series to sharpen their skills before heading overseas to take part on the world stage. Changed track XCO has a bit of a reputation for being too technical or above the skill level of most club riders. For this event, the course layout was revised to make it physically tough but not technical. Time is always made on the climbs in an XCO, very rarely is there more than a few seconds to be had on a descent anyway. Tygerberg head shovel, Patrick Roberts oversaw some of the course layout, using his extensive knowledge of keeping around 8 000 club members happy to create a course everyone could ride. The Sprogs, Nippers and other younglings categories got the best of the conditions, getting their races out of the way before the mercury climbed well into the 30s and according to the odd Garmin, 40s! Out of the blocks, the track sent you skyward from the base of the Bloemendal hill to the summit. Of the 4.4km lap, this climb alone took up 800 metres but was easier to find a rhythm as it was mostly jeep track climbing. The famous (for Tygerberg riders) Lombard’s Terra descent gave you a chance to breathe for a second and try and get the sweat out of your eyes as you railed the big berms and manicured singletrack. Over the years this section has been revamped, adjusted, modified and improved to make it family-friendly but still challenging for those looking to beat the stopwatch. If you had managed to get the sweat out of your eyes down Lombards, the following singletrack climb was sure to cascade a waterfall of sweat back down your face. I don’t know if that climb has an official name but it felt like heart-rate hell. It’s not hectically steep but takes a lot out of you mentally as you pick the smoothest line through the rocks and switchbacks. A foot-down here will cost you time and a whole lot of energy to get going again. The tangible relief of every competitor was visible after this climb as the hardest part of the lap was behind them. A quick breather could be had as you traversed a small vineyard ‘block’ before ascending again to the far corner of of the farm, where things were eerily quiet and far away from the crowds. A new zig-zag section was installed for this year which reversed the climbs and descents (so we went up the down and down the up of the usual trail). This made things interesting on what would normally have been stepped log hop-overs (similar to those you see in cyclocross) except we were coming at them with speed. Many riders tried to find a rhythm through here by doubling the logs or manualing over them but the most effective route seemed to be rolling them individually as fast as you could and holding onto the bars and letting the bike dance underneath you like a professional twerker (twerkist? I dunno). One last short singletrack climb led to the main and longest descent on the track where most of it was familiar to those who rode the course last year. It’s a great descent, whether you go for the Elite and Junior only A-line or the flowy B-Line. The A-line is a treat for the skilled rider with gaps, pallet jumps and a rhythm section crammed into 350 metres of riding, nothing here is particularly difficult but if you get the flow right you can make things more comfortable for yourself, save some energy and probably a bit of time too. Most categories were detoured through the B-line here to avoid unnecessary ambulance visits. The detour was all about keeping up the minimum speed and staying on line through the off-camber corners. After this, you got to have a chat to your tech crew, take on some fluids and descend the few extra hundred metres of jeep track before starting it all over again for another lap. Huge respect must be given to the riders who took part on one of the hottest days of the year. It was excellent to see the younger categories pumping out 30 riders to a class, while most of the Elites were off doing their bit at Tankwa or even the 99er road race. The less-young crew (of which I am one) put out a respectable field of familiar riders, with the Masters Men accounting for the largest quantity of riders outside of the Junior categories. Still, more riders are always better so if you find yourself without an Epic entry, head to Rhebbokskloof for round 2 on March 14 and join in fun.
  4. Hi Guys. We are visiting the Stellies area from George this weekend. Just want to know if anyone has info on the XCO track used for the UCI Cup in 2018. I cannot seem to get any info on it, except that it is in Stellenbosch, close to or on varsity grounds? Will we be able to go and ride on it? If so do we have to buy permits and where?
  5. Pauline Ferrand-Prévot. The Frenchwoman has battled back to top form in 2019 after doctors performed surgeries on both her legs in January to correct iliac artery endofibrosis. Iliac artery endofibrosis is caused by damaged arteries and restricts the blood flow to the lower body. Ferrand-Prévot had been struggling with extreme pain in her left leg for four years prior to the surgery. She missed the first four months of the season to recover fully and her victory in the UCI MTB World Cup in Val di Sole in August was her first since 2015. Jolanda Neff. The race started badly with a crash on lap one leaving her in 15th place but she recovered to reach the contenders before passing them and speeding to the finish line. Jolanda Neff of Switzerland crossed the line second with Australian Rebecca McConnell completing the podium. American Kate Courtney finished fifth. It is a fourth world title for the 27-year-old and her second UCI XCO world title after also winning in Andorra in 2015. In 2015 she became the first person in the history of cycling to hold the World Road Race title, World cyclo-cross title and World Mountain Bike title all at the same time. Rebecca McConnell. Ferrand-Prévot said: “It is very emotional today as I had a bad start with a crash on the first lap and after that I was in 15th place. It was very far back but I gave everything I had and tried to come back step by step. I am super happy.” In the men’s event, Swiss legend Nino Schurter won the race for a record-breaking eighth time and fifth time in a row. He held off compatriot Mathias Flückiger and French rider Stephane Tempier. Nino Schurter Schurter said: “I’ve been coming to race here for 10 years, and I knew one of the key factors would be to get through without any mechanicals. I think I was the only one without any mechanicals in the top four.” Mathias Flueckiger. Stephane Tempier.
  6. Jenny Rissveds Rissveds crashed early on as Swiss hope Jolanda Neff and Anne Terpstra of the Netherlands swapped the lead before France's Pauline Ferrand-Prevot upped the ante. Neff dropped back as the pace quickened with Swede Rissveds coming back superbly to challenge the stubborn Terpstra for the lead on the last lap. Pauline Ferrand Prevot and Jenny Rissveds The 25-year-old held her nerve brilliantly after her recent battle with depression to triumph from Terpstra and Ferrand-Prevot as a late puncture for Neff saw title rival Kate Courtney overtake her for seventh and crucial points ahead of their 2019 finale in Snowshoe. Anne Terpstra Jenny Rissveds Rissveds said: "So much emotion. Two years ago, I didn't want to be alive. It is possible and never give up like Pauline said last week. I was nervous before the start as I had to start on the front row and that is why I crashed in the first lap. The circle is complete. Three years ago I won this World Cup race and I won today." In the men's race, Van der Poel started off strong after another short-track win on Friday with local hero Nino Schurter and Brazilian Henrique Avancini close behind. Nino Schurter and Mathieu van der Poel Home hope Schurter was soon joined by another Swiss favourite in Mathias Flueckiger, however they could not shake off Van der Poel who put the hammer down in the closing laps with a searing pace that Schurter could not the match as the Dutchman won by 25 seconds. It was his third win of 2019 and denied Schurter a record-equalling 33rd World Cup win, however the Swiss rider looks certain to win a seventh World Cup title as Van der Poel has opted not to race at the final USA stop to focus on the road cycling World Championship. Mathieu van der Poel Van der Poel, 24, said: "This is maybe one of the most difficult ones to win especially because Nino is super motivated to win here in front of his home crowd. I knew it was going to be a tough one and I am very happy to make it work. I will stick to my main plan. I am very happy with my (mountain bike) season." Schurter, 33, added: "He was definitely stronger and it is no shame to get second. I think my only chance to beat him was to go hard from the beginning. It is not nice if someone is missing in a tight battle, but I am also looking forward to winning another overall." Mathias Flueckiger Women's UCI MTB World Cup XCO race at Lenzerheide: 1. Jenny Rissveds SWE 1:21.09 2. Anne Terpstra NED +0.25 3. Pauline Ferrand-Prevot FRA +1.19 4. Sina Frei SUI +2.03 5. Catharine Pendrel CAN +2.12Women's UCI MTB World Cup XCO standings: 1. Jolanda Neff SUI 1625 points 2. Kate Courtney USA 1552 3. Pauline Ferrand-Prevot FRA 1225 4. Anne Terpstra NED 1210 5. Rebecca McConnell AUS 992 Men's UCI MTB World Cup XCO race at Lenzerheide: 1. Mathieu van der Poel NED 1:17.50 2. Nino Schurter SUI +0.25 3. Mathias Flueckiger SUI +1.13 4. Victor Koretzky FRA +1.44 5. Gerhard Kerschbaumer ITA +1.44 Men's UCI MTB World Cup XCO standings: 1. Nino Schurter SUI 1670 points 2. Mathieu van der Poel NED 1649 3. Henrique Avancini BRA 1360 4. Mathias Flueckiger SUI 1348 5. Gerhard Kerschbaumer ITA 970
  7. The XCO track near Trento has featured on the international calendar for many years but the 2019 incarnation was perhaps the toughest yet. Climbs had been lengthened and rocks exposed to ensure that Sunday’s XCO race would be amongst the toughest of the year. In the elite women’s race, riders warmed up in ice vests as temperatures began to soar. Heavy rain earlier in the weekend insured that the track conditions were virtually perfect with enough grip left in the earth without the dreaded arrival of dust clouds. Pauline Ferrand-Prevot Pauline Ferrand-Prevot was in no mood for hanging around and attacked right from the start. She left her rivals in her wake with the closest to her being Jolanda Neff and Jenny Rissveds. Jenny Rissveds At one stage the gap was out to 48 seconds but with two laps to go Neff set off after the leader. With one lap to go the Swiss rider, still seeking her first win of the season, was right on her multi-titled rivals wheel. Jolanda Neff But Ferrand-Prevot recognised that she needed to be in front at the top of the last descent and fended off an attack to drop in with her nose just in front. They arrived on to the final straight together and when Neff kicked in attack Ferrand-Prevot once again covered her off and rode home to her first win since Windham 2015. Rissveds held on to secure a superb third place. Jolanda Neff and Pauline Ferrand-Prevot Nino Schurter has won more races in the North of Italy than anyone else and started the day undoubtedly amongst the favourites. But the Dutchman Mathieu Van Der Poel had other ideas. Nino Schurter The newly-crowned European champion attacked early and by the end of the first few laps was in a group of three with Schurter and Mathias Flueckiger. Schurter let the pair in front of him trade blows and looked as though he may have been keeping his powder dry but when the Dutchman attacked on the first climb of the last lap, the Swiss ride could not keep up. Mathias Flueckiger Mathieu Van Der Poel Van Der Poel rode home to his second XCO win of the year and his second of the weekend having already tasted victory in Friday night’s short track XCC race. Flueckiger managed to gap the reigning World Champ to take second place whilst Schurter rode home to third. Mathieu van der Poel
  8. Spice Route Destination and Fairview Estate is one of the most visited attractions in the Winelands area . located lease than 30 min from Durbanville and 40 min from Strand and the City Bowl , it is the ideal venue to take the family or mates for a awesome day out. Spice Route has no less than 5 restaurants , a host of different artisans that include craft beer , gin , chocolate , cheese and 2 new kids play areas that include pump tracks . Developing a Hero Adventure Trail park was a no brainer and together with the land owners we have spent the better part of 18 months developing a network of trails to suit everyone . The Western Cape is blessed with many trails and trail parks .The variety and quality is probably right up there with the best in the world . But when designing and planning the trails at Spice Route our key focus was developing trails for the families and weekend warriors . With Hero - Rhebokskloof , Paarl Adventure Trails and Wild boar trails , the area is packed with great trails for the intermediate -experienced cyclist/runner . We felt there was a gap for trails for the less experienced , juniors and fun trails for tourists . Spice Route and Fairview is a venue where people visit to enjoy the views , wine , food and just have a great time . We have taken that foundation of fun and tried to put it into the trails we have developed . We wanted to develop trails that are not difficult , packed with features and provide a place where newbies - intermediate cyclists/runners can enjoy lots of fun single-track . The majority of trails on offer have very little elevation ,giving weekend warriors ,families and tourists the opportunity to get in some proper distance and experience all the great features on the farm . We have however added in a number of pockets where the more adventrous and experienced get their moneys worth . The 1st few months were not much fun . having to deal with difficult terrain and finding a happy medium between having set trails on a working farm . but as we move into the coming season we are really excited at how the park is developing . TRAILS: * 2 kids areas with obstacles and pump tracks * 3km Yellow Trail : A fun short trail through the vineyards close to the main buildings * 5km Pink Trail : A fun but pretty challenging trail that traverses down to the lower part of the farm and back up. it includes a 2km flow trail and forest , so packed with fun * 10km Green Trail : This Trail in our opinion is perfect for weekend warriors just getting started , families and tourists looking for a fun easy adventure . lots of single-tack , vineyards , olives and and .. * 20km Blue Trail : The popular trail for mates, tourists and families that want some proper distance but not technical . the blue showcases many different parts of the farm and terrain , packed with features and a great experience *35km Red Trail : The Red Trail was built for a great day out for the intermediate cyclist/runner .With all the fun and adventure of the blue but topped off with a few challenges and technical sections to get the adrenalin going . The Red trail also includes sections of the new XCO Trail we developed for provincial xco champs at Diamant Estate next door * XCO Trail : We have a dedicated 5km xco trail on the property next Door ( Diamant Estate ) where you get to experience some proper xco love , also included on the red trail * Link trails : There are also 2 link trails that go up Paarl Mountain and to Hero Adventure - Rhebokskloof . Hero Adventure - Spice Route also forms part of the Paarl Adventure Trail Network and has direct access to over 200km of other trails within the project VENUE: Spice Route is a great venue to enjoy a fun day out after your ride , run or walk . grab a shower at the venue and spend the day with family and friends enjoying all the artisans and experiences . for more info visit : http://www.hero-adventure.co.za
  9. Image credit: Meraki Media Having previously raced at Thaba Trails on his return from injury in March 2018, Hatherly noted some exciting new features to the otherwise dangerous course. "It is a classic Johannesburg track with sharp and loose rocks which are continually changing as riders make their way through the course. It's so easy to miss a line out there and ping a rim, which makes the race a lot more difficult than it needs to be." described Hatherly. In preparation for the previous two World Cup races at altitude, Hatherly had completed an altitude training block in the Free State and was thankful for his build up. " Having done the altitude training and then two World Cup races at altitude, it certainly helped keep the lungs intact for a good race." explains Hatherly. Hailing from Cape Town, Hatherly is weary of the affects altitude can have while trying to go flat out in a race situation. "Maintenance and consistency is key while racing at altitude." explains Hatherly. Image credit: Meraki Media In between the two high intensity World Cup races and long haul flights back to South Africa, Hatherly has had to manage both his form and fatigue in the build up to one of his top goal races of the year. "I have been struggling the past few weeks to keep my body on track, but thankfully some recovery during the week was enough to get me ready for the race. It's really important to me to keep the South African Flag on my chest, and I put a lot of personal pressure on myself to deliver the goods." described Hatherly. The narrow course at Thaba Trails does not offer much room for overtaking and Alan laid down a good start to put himself in the driving seat. "With so much single track on course, dead wheels and gaps form quickly so I knew I would have to work to get a gap on the rest of the field and then focus on extending and maintaining my lead." explains Hatherly. "With the risk of mechanicals, I needed to make sure I had a safe and controlled race, while keeping the pressure on." Image credit: Meraki Media Having made a gap on lap one, Hatherly lead from start to finish and is happy with his consistency over the seven laps. It was Jan Withaar who took the early charge behind Alan in second, and although briefly changing places with Philip Buys, it was Withaar who finished in second with Buys rounding off the podium in third. "It was a decent win margin of just over a minute, but a bit close for comfort as if anything had gone wrong it would have put the whole race in jeopardy." reflects Hatherly. "To come away with another National Title is a huge honour and I'm really looking forward to wearing the South African Flag on my chest at the upcoming International races." As Hatherly wraps up his local Cross-Country season, he shifts focus to the remainder of the World Cup races. "I have this weekend off from racing before I head back to Europe for the Italian and Swiss rounds, from there we head over to Canada and America at the end of August for World Champs and the final round of the World Cup in Snowshoe, USA."
  10. Kate Courtney World champion Courtney was imperious and the American moved clear on lap two to forge a gap to the field that never looked in danger of being closed. Reigning World Cup champion Jolanda Neff suffered a horror start, however dug in to fight back to seal second place that keeps her 175 points behind Courtney. Jolanda Neff German Elisabeth Brandau secured her best ever World Cup finish in third with Neff's Swiss compatriot Sina Frei fourth and home rider Pauline Ferrand Prevot fifth. Sina Frei Courtney, 23, said: "Today I rode my own race, focused on my objectives and I am really happy it worked out. Race within myself and not let the pressure get to me. Of course having a rider like Jolanda - who is so strong on the climbs but also a maniac on the descents - behind you puts some pressure on but I just tried to stay focused and keep on the gas." Neff, 26, added: "The first lap cost me a lot. I am super happy I kept it together until the finish. We still have three races to go and I am starting to feel better the longer the season goes on." Sina Frei, Jolanda Neff, Kate Courtney, Elisabeth Brandau, Pauline Ferrand Prevot stand on the podium at UCI XCO World Cup in Les Gets, France. In the men's race, it was nip and tuck with six-time World Cup champion Schurter unable to drop Brazilian Henrique Avancini and Italian Gerhard Kerschbaumer until the last lap when he pulled clear late on. Nino Schurter His 32nd World Cup victory leaves him one short of Frenchman Julien Absalon's record of 33 with Avancini matching his best ever result with third place again. Henrique Avancini Gerhard Kerschbaumer Mathieu van der Poel could only finish 16th, leaving Schurter over 200 points clear of both the Dutchman and Avancini whose consistency is rewarded in second. Ondrej Cink Schurter, 33, said: "Tough course, really physical. Gerhard was super strong. Second to last lap I was surprised that I dropped him. It is hard to get gaps and, for a long time, it was an open race. This victory today was a big step towards overall victory. I really like the Val di Sole track and it would be awesome to catch up Julien's record." Stephane Tempier, Gerhard Kerschbaumer, Nino Schurter, Henrique Avancini, Ondrej Cink stand on the podium at UCI XCC World Cup in Les Gets. UCI MTB World Cup women's XCO at Les Gets result: 1. Kate Courtney USA 1:26.29 2. Jolanda Neff SUI +0.33 3. Elisabeth Brandau GER +1.05 4. Sina Frei SUI +1.15 5. Pauline Ferrand Prevot FRA +1.32UCI MTB World Cup women's XCO overall standings: 1. Kate Courtney USA 1265 points 2. Jolanda Neff SUI 1090 3. Anne Terpstra NED 815 4. Elisabeth Brandau GER 625 5. Sina Frei SUI 615 UCI MTB World Cup men's XCO at Les Gets result: 1. Nino Schurter SUI 1:22.10 2. Gerhard Kerschbaumer ITA +0.04 3. Henrique Avancini BRA +0.38 4. Stephane Tempier FRA +0.48 5. Ondrej Cink CZE +0.48 UCI MTB World Cup men's XCO overall standings: 1. Nino Schurter SUI 1160 points 2. Henrique Avancini BRA 915 3. Mathieu van der Poel NED 899 4. Mathias Flueckiger SUI 883 5. Jordan Sarrou FRA 698
  11. "After a hard week of training, my sights were still set on the Gauteng Champs, but most importantly on the SA XCO Champs coming up," says William. "I started the race with a bit of heavy legs. My plan was to pace myself for the first two laps - as I was also riding it blind - and go all out for the last few laps. It worked well. This whole year I've just had to learn what works for me." William first won the series as an Elite rider in 2015, and has been within the top 3 places of the finals every year since then. At the end of 2018, he was diagnosed with exercise-induced asthma after being plagued by health issues for the last two years. Due to his allergies to dust, grass, pollen and other environmental irritants, the condition had worsened over time and he was not able receive adequate treatment because he was incorrectly diagnosed - usually with sinus or flu-like symptoms. This caused him to withdraw from a number of races and in some cases, he was unable to train for weeks at a time, which was also a setback to his fitness levels. Frustrated and confused at not being able to perform consistently due to these health issues, William was determined to solve the problem and did not give up on seeking medical assistance. Since receiving the correct treatment, his training has been more consistent and he has spent the first half of this year on strengthening his mental and physical condition. With the support of his new bike partner, Titan Racing, and continued investment from his title sponsor, Triviron Project Management, William has come back onto the racing circuit stronger than ever before. The race was an important part of his preparation for the SA MTB XCO Championships which will take place on the same course on 20th July 2019. "I'm really looking forward to the SA XCO Champs. It will be a very competitive race and I look forward to being on the start line with the best riders in the country," he concludes.
  12. Henrique Avancini. The men's race saw some of the leading contenders struggle early on with Czech rider Ondrej Cink eventually battling to the front with Brazilian Avancini. Nino Schurter follows Mathias Flueckiger. Cink soon fell back with a heart problem, leaving reigning champion Schurter and Swiss compatriot Mathias Flueckiger to move up alongside Avancini. Flueckiger looked on track for victory, however the Olympic and world champion summoned a great last-gasp sprint to seal his first 2019 XCO World Cup win. Mathias Flueckiger. Avancini was 12 seconds behind for his best result with Italian Gerhard Kerschbaumer and Frenchman Jordan Sarrou rounding out the men's podium. Schurter, 33, said: "It was super tough. It is the hardest to race at high altitude. You are always suffering. The sprint worked out pretty well." Nino Schurter. Avancini, 30, explained: "I am stepping up and a positive outcome for the weekend. I was not far from the win. I just missed the move towards the end." In the women, Terpstra became the first ever Dutch women's XCO winner on the World Cup circuit with a gutsy victory over reigning champion Jolanda Neff. Jolanda Neff. Terpstra had the lead for the majority of the race with Swiss star Neff unable to bridge the gap as Ukrainian Yana Belomoina hit back superbly for third place. Yana Belomoina. Terpstra, 28, said: "I knew I prepared very good for the altitude because normally it is a weakness for me. I also wanted to take a risk. I did my own race, my own pace." Anne Terpstra. Sweden's Olympic champion Jenny Rissveds produced a brilliant ride for fifth as she struggled to contain her emotion following her 2019 return from depression. Rissveds revealed: "I can't stop crying. I did not believe that I could come back and be up here. From Nové Město until now, I really started to work on my mind game again. It is incredible what your head can do if you believe in yourself. It is just amazing." Jenny Rissveds. Vallnord UCI MTB World Cup XCO men's result: 1. Nino Schurter SUI 1:19.34 2. Mathias Flueckiger SUI +0.02 3. Henrique Avancini BRA +0.12 4. Gerhard Kerschbaumer ITA +0.27 5. Jordan Sarrou FRA +0.45UCI MTB World Cup XCO men's standings: 1. Nino Schurter SUI 835 points 2. Mathias Flueckiger SUI 755 3. Mathieu van der Poel NED 700 4. Henrique Avancini BRA 655 5. Jordan Sarrou FRA 553 Vallnord UCI MTB World Cup XCO women's result: 1. Anne Terpstra NED 1:22.59 2. Jolanda Neff SUI +0.38 3. Yana Belomoina UKR +0.51 4. Daniela Campuzano Chavez Peon MEX +0.58 5. Jenny Rissveds SWE +1.03 8. Kate Courtney USA +2.04 UCI MTB World Cup XCO women's standings: 1. Kate Courtney USA 890 points 2. Jolanda Neff SUI 815 3. Anne Terpstra NED 645 4. Anne Tauber NED 499 5. Yana Belomoina UKR 486
  13. Image Credit: Michal Cerveny On Friday, Alan played a more tactical game so as not to not be enticed into the excitement upfront. “I took what I learned in Albstadt where I went out too hard and paid the price when the split occurred.” explained Hatherly. “I’m happy with my timing on the last few laps when I chose to move up and I was able to claim eighth place.” A first front row start in the Elite ranks for Alan and a solid points haul moves Alan up in the overall ranking, where after the XCO, he now sits in 20th overall. Image Credit: Michal Cerveny Hatherly’s front row start in the XCO, aided his positioning in the manic start and he was able to put in a good start loop and lap one. “I sort of rode the whole race at the same speed as lap one. I have really good form and I’m able to recover well on the descents, but laying down the extra power to fight for positions is just not something I can do right now.” Reflects Hatherly. There are certainly positives to take home from the two weeks of racing in the Elite field. “The jump from U23 to Elites is not something to be underestimated. I have the endurance for the extra lap which we do in an Elite race, I just need to work on the middle of the race so I can move up the field as well as hold my position when the pace surges." Explained Hatherly The World Cups season has a brief respite during June before it heads into the mountains of Andorra for round three on 5 July. “With the altitude factor in Andorra I am going to have to do some homework when I get back this week and try get some altitude training in.” Explained Hatherly. Riders are required to manage their efforts even closer when racing at altitude. Should they go into the red, the lack of oxygen makes recovery exceptionally hard. On the whole, to walk away having made improvements between Albstadt and Nove Mesto is a step in the right direction. “To improve in both the XCC and XCO over the two weekends is a huge positive. I definitely have a few things to tweak up, but from previous years, to be firing on all cylinders in May makes the season really long for me come September and World Champs.” Explained Hatherly.Alan returns to South Africa this week where he will focus on the upcoming block of World Cup races, and travel to Pietermaritzburg over 15-16 June for the double race weekend of the SA XCO Cup Series Round Five.
  14. Kate Courtney performs at UCI XCO World Cup in Nove Mesto na Morave, Czech Republic. Photo Credit: Bartek Wolinski/Red Bull Content Pool. Courtney won the 2019 season opener in Albstadt last week to become the first American woman to win an XCO race in 20 years and she started brightly again. Dutch rider Anne Tauber looked in control towards the finish, however suffered a bent rear derailleur on the final lap to let Courtney in for back-to-back wins. Kate Courtney performs at UCI XCO World Cup in Nove Mesto na Morave, Czech Republic. Photo Credit: Bartek Wolinski/Red Bull Content Pool. Rebecca McConnell performs at UCI XCO World Cup in Nove Mesto na Morave, Czech Republic. Photo Credit: Bartek Wolinski/Red Bull Content Pool. Australian Rebecca Ellen McConnell and Canada's Haley Smith both had career best finishes in second and third with Tauber 10th and Sweden's Jenny Rissveds 30th on her emotional UCI MTB World Cup return from depression at the scene of her 2016 World U23 triumph. Courtney, 23, said: "I am so gutted to see her (Anne) have an incident in the last lap. I was just trying to stay focused on riding clean lines. When I had my flat it was a little bit of a tough mental day, but I was able to reset and focus on my own pace." Tauber added: "I am not really sad, but really angry at myself because I am in good shape. I have improved a lot technically, but I don't know how to win yet." Sina Frei, Rebecca McConnell, Kate Courtney, Haley Smith, Malene Degn stand on the podium at UCI XCO World Cup in Nove Mesto na Morave, Czech Republic. Photo Credit: Bartek Wolinski/Red Bull Content Pool. In the men's race, Van der Poel produced a brilliant surge to finally get the better of rival Schurter and record his first UCI World Cup win on a mountain bike. Mathieu Van der Poel performs at UCI XCO World Cup in Nove Mesto na Morave, Czech Republic. Photo Credit: Bartek Wolinski/Red Bull Content Pool. The Dutchman tracked the six-time World Cup champion for the first half, then used an uphill surge on the last lap to create a winning gap. Mathieu Van der Poel and Nino Schurter perform at UCI XCO World Cup in Nove Mesto na Morave, Czech Republic. Photo Credit: Bartek Wolinski/Red Bull Content Pool. Van der Poel, 24, revealed: "It is extra sweet against one of the greatest mountain bikers. I went all in and I am really happy to finally take that World Cup win." World champion Schurter, 33, added: "I tried to break him over the last three laps, but he was just too strong today. It was the best possible result for me." Henrique Avancini, Nino Schurter, Mathieu van der Poel, Mathias Flueckiger, Ondrej Cink stand on the podium at UCI XCO World Cup in Nove Mesto na Morave, Czech Republic. Photo Credit: Bartek Wolinski/Red Bull Content Pool. Women's XCO Nové Mesto selected results: 1. Kate Courtney USA 1hr27m31s 2. Rebecca Ellen McConnell AUS +0.36 3. Haley Smith CAN +0.42 4. Sina Frei SUI +0.45 5. Malene Degn DEN +1.33 10. Anne Tauber NED +2.38 30. Jenny Rissveds SWE +1 lapUCI MTB World Cup women's XCO overall standings: 1. Kate Courtney USA 700pts 2. Jolanda Neff SUI 490 3. Chloe Woodruff USA 385 4. Rebecca Ellen McConnell AUS 378 5. Anne Tauber NED 350 Men's XCO Nové Mesto top-five results: 1. Mathieu van der Poel NED 1hr21m54s 2. Nino Schurter SUI +0.19 3. Mathias Flueckiger SUI +1.53 4. Henrique Avancini BRA +2.01 5. Ondrej Cink CZE +2.12 UCI MTB World Cup men's XCO overall standings: 1. Mathieu van der Poel NED 700pts 2. Mathias Flueckiger SUI 500 3. Nino Schurter SUI 485 4. Maxime Marotte FRA 425 5. Henrique Avancini BRA 370
  15. I have never been to an XCO race myself, but I've been following the local and international races for a while now and it looks like a lot of fun! One thing I'm curious to know is, how "beginner friendly" is local XCO racing like the upcoming Gauteng Cycling XCO Cup at Wolwespruit? It seems like the WP XCO events are really well supported, but I don't see much discussion for the Gauteng events, which makes me fear that only top riders will be participating and lapping a poor noob like me
  16. Photo credit: Ewald Sadie. Course recce A month prior to the finale, the trail building crew at Diamant Estate were happily plodding along with their new Black marked trail build. Then, the call came in with the proposal to host the WC Champs and would they mind speeding up the build a tad so the race could be held on the new trail?Plodding was no longer the right word as heavy machinery, compactors and an array of labour were drafted in to complete the new black route. This route makes excellent use of natural elements, shimmying through forests, nicking bars on bark and slaloming through the trees like a gymkhana. Rocks, boulders and embankments, we went over them, climbed onto them and even through them - yes, at one point we actually rode through a boulder. This track is unlike any of the other courses we attempted this season. Photo credit: Ewald Sadie. It was flowy and faster in the beginning, with forest singletrack and switchback climbs best to carry momentum through. This section was interspersed with rock gardens that required precise line management and log jumps which were easier the faster you attacked them. It was where you could get into a rhythm, strumming out pedal strokes with aggression. Just as well, as the second half of the 4.8km lap is the polar opposite. The course really cranked the concentration levels up to the max after the second climb. It tested balance, bike handling skill and line precision. I witnessed a few riders tumble on obstacles at speeds of less than 1kph. An old toppie even took up jogging with his bike at one point to free himself from the snags of the Paarl Rocks. I am, of course, indulging a bit, as I watched the Juniors, Elites and even the real lighties scream through these same obstacles with no mechanical sympathy or self-preservation. Photo credit: Ewald Sadie.Climbs over boulders would lead into sharp corners with concealed drops on the other side, something you had to get right from the first pedal stroke or you would struggle to line up the rest and find yourself frantically unclipping as spectators happily yelled ‘Timber’. Did I mention how fun this track was? It was technically devilish at points, but an amazingly fun challenge. With 165 metres of climbing it should have been a breeze compared to some of the monsters we had to contend with earlier in the series. However, the technical nature kept speeds low and the lap times crept up, shortening (thankfully) the lap count of a few races. The rush to finish the build may have meant that the ground has not had time to really firm up with a year's winter rainfall under its belt. It was blown out in sections but added to some of the intensity and high concentration load riders were under. Next year, this will be some trail, and it's open to everyone who gets themselves a trail permit. Go ride it, you won't be disappointed. Photo credit: Ewald Sadie. The racing The kids came out in large numbers, showing that this is the chosen form of mountain biking they want in on right now. It looked like they had a lot of fun out there, while the parents chilled on the shady grass cheering them on. I can't help but give a shout out to the older and officially old lads and ladies for bringing more numbers to the start line this year, squashing the notion that XCO is too technical for the average rider. They had a blast out there riding side by side at max heart rate with relative smiles. Now, it's on to the marathon season, again in partnership with Tygerberg MTB Club, who continually grow and support the sport we love so much. Until next year, send it! The full results from the day available here.
  17. Kate Courtney performs at UCI XCO World Cup in Albstadt, Germany on May 19th, 2019. Credit: Bartek Wolinski/Red Bull Content Pool In the women’s race, reigning overall title holder Jolanda Neff and the defending UCI World Champion Kate Courtney battled it out from the start. An out of character crash from Neff lead to Courtney putting on the pressure and pushing hard at the front. And the American, 23, was left to celebrate her first elite XC World Cup victory and America’s first elite women’s XCO win in 20 years. Neff was second while 2017 overall winner, Yana Belomoina, started from the fourth row of the grid but fought her way back to finish third. Jolanda Neff performs at UCI XCO World Cup in Albstadt, Germany on May 19th, 2019. Credit: Bartek Wolinski/Red Bull Content Pool Yana Belomoina performs at UCI XCO World Cup in Albstadt, Germany on May 19th, 2019. Credit: Bartek Wolinski/Red Bull Content Pool Courtney said: “It means everything, last year at the World Championships was a huge surprise and a sign that I could make it to the top. I am happy to start the season with a strong ride and hopefully I can stay up near the front for the rest of the year. I hope to carry the momentum forward.” Anne Tauber, Jolanda Neff, Kate Courtney, Yana Belomoina, Anne Terpstra stand on the podium at UCI XCO World Cup in Albstadt, Germany on May 19th, 2019. Credit: Bartek Wolinski/Red Bull Content Pool In the elite men’s race, a torrential downpour filled the tyre tracks with mini rivers as one of the toughest set of conditions the XCO pack had seen in years began to unfold. Reigning champion Nino Schurter attacked early alongside his teammate Lars Forster who eventually had to be carried from the track and has since travelled to hospital for scans on his knee. Mathias Flueckiger performs at UCI XCO World Cup in Albstadt, Germany on May 19th, 2019. Credit: Bartek Wolinski/Red Bull Content Pool Schurter was reined back in by the pack and it was his compatriot Flückiger who rode himself into first position. Flückiger held on for his second career win in front of cyclo-cross sensation Mathieu van der Poel, who leaves Albstadt with the points leader’s jersey. Jordan Sarou completed the podium. Flückiger said: “I had a bad start and my chain broke after 50 metres. I didn’t go on the limit at the start and I could ride my rhythm. I never had to go over my limit, just always on the edge. It was really crazy! I had a lot of patience, which was probably the key, I am so happy for this win.” Mathieu Van der Poel performs at UCI XCO World Cup in Albstadt, Germany on May 19th, 2019. Credit: Bartek Wolinski/Red Bull Content Pool The small town in the Swabian Alb had been under the microscope in the weeks leading up to the event with some riders voicing concern about track changes made in the run up to the event. A deluge the night before racing got underway had turned the re-surfaced track into a tricky maze of vastly differing traction levels. Treacherously slick dark mud was being pulled onto the new wooden sections ensuring it was a brutal weekend for all riders involved. Jordan Sarrou performs at UCI XCO World Cup in Albstadt, Germany on May 29th, 2019. Credit: Bartek Wolinski/Red Bull Content Pool The series moves on to Nove Mesto in the Czech Republic on May 24. Titouan Carod, Mathieu Van der Poel, Mathias Flueckiger, Jordan Sarrou, Florian Vogel stand on the podium at UCI XCO World Cup in Albstadt, Germany on May 19th, 2019. Credit: Bartek Wolinski/Red Bull Content Pool Women’s elite XCO result:1. Kate Courtney USA 1:26:03 2. Jolanda Neff SUI 1:26:52 3. Yana Belomoina UKR 1:27:34 Men’s elite XCO result: 1. Mathias Flückiger SUI 1:23:54 2. Mathieu van der Poel NED 1:24:26 3. Jordan Sarrou FRA 1:24:27
  18. Image: Michal Cerveny The familiar Albstadt course which is known for its punchy and steep climbs, has received a major overhaul this year. "The organizers have made the track a lot smoother and faster, so spectator wise it should make for more exciting racing." described Alan. "I'm looking forward to getting on my new hardtail this weekend, I think it will be much faster on the climbs and with the more manicured trails you don't need as much support from the full-suspension." Hatherly's first challenge will come on Friday evening at 18:15 (SA time) for the Short Track race (XCC). This flat out thirty minute dash is an exciting race to watch as the finish order determines where riders will line up for Sunday's Cross-Country Race (XCO). "I'm quite nervous for the Short Track, it will be my first one so I'm not too sure what to expect other than some burning legs." joked Hatherly. "I will be starting on the second row so that should put me in a good position for a top finish." Riders who finish in the top twenty four will be treated to a start on the front three rows for the XCO- this would be a dream come true for any first year Elite rider. A slight change from the UCI this year sees the short track numbers being issued from twenty five onwards, leaving numbers one to twenty four to be re-issued to the top finishers ahead of the XCO on Sunday. Image: Michal Cerveny The main event starts at 14:35 on Sunday as the Elite Men line up for their 7 laps of the fast course. "I'm excited to get the World Cups underway, I think I've fully recovered from the Cape Epic and managed to transfer the fatigue into some solid form and get the speed going again." explained the 2018 U23 World Champion. The first World Cup often delivers an exciting showdown as riders are eager to display their form and ability. Add in the stress of qualifying for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, and we have a recipe for incredible racing. Alongside the changes to the track, the weather forecast has been on everyone's minds. With day time temperatures consistently hitting around six degrees, and rain scheduled for Friday and Sunday, we are sure to see some fireworks. "Coming from Cape Town where I've been riding in eighteen degrees, it's been a big shock to ride in such cold temperatures." described Alan. "Albstadt is probably the slipperiest course in the wet so I think it will create havoc if the rain does come through." Despite the cool temperatures, Hatherly is in good form for his weekend exploits. "I did some opening intervals earlier this week and I hit all the numbers I was looking for." reflected Hatherly. "That definitely calms the nerves somewhat, but the buzz you get on the start line will no doubt be just as noticeable." With both the Elite Short Track and XCO races streamed live on Red Bull TV, be sure to watch all the action and keep an eye out for Alan's SA Champs jersey here.
  19. A few days prior to the event, a preliminary route was published suggesting a short 3km route with 150 metres of climbing. Not challenging by the high standards set in the first two events of the series. Come Friday practice sessions and it was clear we, the competitors, had all been Punk’d by the organisers. The full course had been lengthened and elevated to read 4.0km and over 200 metres of climbing every lap. It doesn’t sound too bad when you look at those numbers but the climbing sections were brutal on my granny gear. In fact, I think a whole lap could be done in the top sprocket without losing much time at all, such was the ferocity of the gradients. The course Nestled on the hillside above Zevenwacht Wine Estate, the XCO course wound its way around Bottelary, utilising sections of the downhill course that hosted an event a few weeks earlier. Competitors were gifted a free bottle of wine with entry, which after practice, the Vets and Masters categories clearly filled their bottles with on race day, judging by the quality of banter on the start line.Up, up and away. The start immediately got the lactic in your legs burning as you climbed to the highest point on the course, circulating a rather empty looking dam. The first descent mirrored that of the downhill course but with the monumental gap jumps removed. This still posed a few challenges, skirting around the side of pallet jumps and working out the best rhythm over six fast rollers, a hip jump and some sweeping left right berms that you could really lean on and generate pace out of. A quick refresh of fuel through the tech zone and it was back into granny gear as you regained some of that lost elevation from the previous descent. The gradients in general were steep but at least steady for the most part, allowing you to find a rhythm and push to capacity. Bar to bar dogfights ensued here all day. Some of the trickier sections on the circuit weren’t technical sections, but the off camber, slow speed corners, riddled with loose marbles, itching to snatch grip away from your front wheel and test your de-cleat reaction time. The ups often brought out the best in competitors as with the open nature of the course, multiple lines were available seeing riders overtake and then get passed back before the end of the same hill. The youngsters really put in the effort of these sections, mimicking the styles of their World Cup and local heroes, stand climbing and whipping the bike from side to side. Good to see so many of the kids out there too as this is where our future stars are born and their skills honed. By the looks of things it won’t be too long before we see another Hatherly coming out of this series. Getting back to the closing part of the lap, the only A or B line choice on the course presented itself as a rock garden. Nothing too difficult here, but as always, when the speed increases, so does the technicality. Tired bodies in the later laps were prone to mistakes here, losing time or having to take a nap in some nearby bushes. From there, a bit more effort and concentration was required to get the bike home, upping the pace as you re-entered a flowy section from the downhill course. Back to granny after that as a serious climb tested morale and staying power as you crested the finish line to start it all over again. As a whole, the course wasn’t overly technical, but provided skilled riders with opportunities to make up time both up and downhill. Line choice on steeper climbs was key to saving legs and keeping up momentum. A tough track on the body indeed but also very rewarding to complete. The racing The youngsters made up the bulk of the entries, which is good to see for grassroots mountain biking. Watching Nippers, Sprogs and Sub Juniors tear up a course like this is awesome to see and bodes well for future champs spawning from this series.While the Elites were a bit thin on numbers (probably due to Joberg2C and upcoming Sani2C) the racing was really close. A special shoutout has to go to Luke Moir, who bucks the trend by donning clothing designed for a rap video, yet laps faster than just about anyone out there, as a Junior. This kid will go places if he continues like this. The last event and Western Cape Champs takes place on the 18th May, provisionally at an undisclosed venue, but keep an eye out on Western Province Mountain Biking Commission’s Facebook page for updates.
  20. Sharing the limelight with the start of the Cape Epic is always tricky for a regional event like the Cross-Country series. Still, a healthy and excitable 200-plus riders turned out to set new heart rate and core temperature records as the heat cranked well over the 30-degree mark in Paarl. This is the third visit to this location in the last 3 years but the organisers spruced things up for competitors with a new course layout that increased the lap length and hiked up the elevation per lap. The new course The vital statistics of the new course layout read like this: 4.8 km in length and 165 metres of climbing per lap. The new course also added 900 metres to the lap length but only a further 15 metres of vert. That doesn’t tell much of the story as the new layout ran in the reverse direction for much of the lap and incorporated a few more open spaces to overtake or find a bit of rhythm. The Paarl track offers a less rocky and technically tricky lap than the opener at Bloemendal but makes up for it with sections of very steep climbing and loose, off-camber corners that test front end traction and balance. You have to be hypersensitive on these ‘marbles’ and have a sixth sense for the grip level that can unexpectedly disappear in the blink of an eye. There is great flow to this new track, with momentum being rewarded through the undulating singletrack sections. I for one, really enjoyed the new track layout, even if I lost my ability to see straight for the final laps of the race. The still heat in Paarl really tests your mettle, especially for the categories that start after 10am. The lap is split up into two halves, the first being open with more dual track and steadier gradients. The major threat in this section was an A and B line choice that dropped down an embankment. The lead up became increasingly powdery as more and more wheels locked up on their way down. A few riders got caught up here getting wheels crossed up in the sandy trenches, thankfully that same sand acted as a cushion to land in although the tell-tale ‘sand caked’ face was a giveaway to onlookers that you’d had a lie down in the sand bath. The second half of the lap threw up the real challenges starting with the murderous climb, cleverly named ‘Climb 2’ on Strava, that took you to the highest point of the lap. No shade to hide in here and even with my 50/34 combination I struggled to get my cadence into double figures up this cretin of an ascent. Even as you crested, the climb continued with an uphill stretch of singletrack where you had to keep your concentration up to make the tight switchbacks that followed. A new feature took you through a cave, offering 3 seconds of blissful reprieve from the sun, refreshing you before the assault on the slithering singletrack that culminated in the most technical point of the lap. It’s not quite Paarl Rock in terms of size or esteem, but it’s a decent slab on which you get to descend. From the top, it looked a lot more daunting than it actually was. It turned out to be quite grippy too and no more than a roll in and roll out with your weight perched behind the saddle. Each lap I got a little braver and improved my speed leading into this rock roll. A basic sequence of S bends took you to the end of the lap, which the fast kids appeared to lap in around 14 minutes. The racing Even with the heat, the turnout was acceptable across the age groups with the Sub Juniors and Youths making up most of the numbers. With school holidays having just started, they must have been amped to have some racing to do on their first day off. Many of the regular Elite riders were no doubt stressing about the Cape Epic and not in attendance, but that only opened up the field to some first-time winners. With the 3 best out of 4 events counting towards colours, this will work well in their favour. Full results here.
  21. The course A similar course was used to the one raced at last year’s Western Cape Champs. It starts off with a relatively rocky, medium incline climb, that on the opening lap turned into one mammoth max sprint interval that just would not end. After being congratulated by my Garmin on a new max heart-rate record, the first tech section gave riders limited options for recovery. The choice of A or B lines represented big gains here and during practice sessions, A-liners could string out as much as 14 seconds over the B-liners. I spent much time during the week sussing out the A-line and dialling in the fastest and safest way through it. Once you fully committed to the mountainous boulder at the start of the A line, the rest of the section comes at you like a flurry of blows from a young Manny Pacquiao. 20 seconds after dropping in you’ve negotiated three drop-offs, two high walled berms, a flat out rock garden, a floaty gap jump (I lost count of the wipeouts I saw here during practice), three more drops and a whoops section that reminded me of my old motocross days. A quick look down at my Garmin and apparently there was another new heart-rate record to be congratulated about, although probably more from panic than exertion. Five climbs a lap! And a lap is only 4km long. The climbs aren’t steep as you would see at a World Cup course in the mountains of Switzerland, but the course builders made up for that with technical features. In Durbanville’s case, the abundance of rocks makes every corner a balancing act and traction test. It never feels like you can build a nice climbing rhythm as you’re constantly fighting your bike and balance, but that’s how an XCO course should be right? Good old Lombard’s Terra came in for some serious abuse over the two days of traffic. It is the main descent line on the course, with high berms that at this time of year are dry and dusty resulting in lumps and bumps mid-corner from back brakes and sliding rear tyres. I’m sure I saw the local Tygerberg MTB Club chief trail builder, Patrick Roberts having some sort of seizure out on course as he logged all the maintenance requests coming his way. Also, to all the competitors, check your brake lines, he wasn’t just cutting off the cable ties of your number boards at the finish… As a whole, the course rode well and with its locality to Cape Town drew in a big crowd over both days, thanks no doubt to the international field in both men’s and ladies’ Elite fields. If you want to see some pretty epic start line videos, have a browse through Instagram as the dust storm created by the huge elite field at the start looks incredible, and also impossible to see through if you weren't on the front two rows. The racing Our local riders certainly put on a good show against some of the world’s best riders. Alan Hatherly was the top placed South African rider in the Elite Men on both days, placing 5th on day 1 and getting a podium (3rd) on day 2. The first day was won by Matthias Stirnemann and the second day by Henrique Avancini - he only raced on day 2. Britain's Annie Last won both days in the Elite Ladies category, with Kathrin Stirnemann and SA’s Mariska Strauss picking up second and third respectively on both days. There are certainly some exciting juniors coming through the ranks as their times were not that far off the elites and the huge fields (50 plus in the Junior Men) will only strengthen the crop of upcoming XCO talent. A final shoutout to the ‘older’ categories who turned out in record numbers too, not only in quantity but in unsubstantiated smack talk on the start line. The Junior Men podium. For the full results for Day 1 click here and Day 2 click here. Don’t forget to sign up and enter round 2 of the SRAM WC XCO Series in association with Tygerberg MTB Club, brought to you by the Western Province Mountain Biking Commission. Little is known about the next venue, but whispers are around of a new venue in Stellenbosch for the 16 March. Be sure to keep an eye open on Western Province Mountain Biking Commission’s social media for more details shortly.
  22. The race doubles as the opening round of the SA Cup offering up valuable UCI points for Juniors and Elites. The more points our locals can grab the better SA’s likely ranking, helping secure more spots for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. Hosting the event is the home of the Tygerberg Mountain Bike Club’s trail network, Bloemendal Wine Estate. Western Province Mountain Biking Commission, along with the Tygerberg MTB Club, has been instrumental in putting the series together, and will also partner for the Western Province Enduro and Marathon Series’ later in the year. The XCO format offers a chance for the whole family to partake, with Nippers and Sprogs tearing it up on a shorter track in the morning before the older ladies and gents test their tickers after. It’s also spectator friendly as most of the track can be seen from the start line and a short walk through the Renosterveld will get you a great vantage point to watch some air-time from the talented riders. Bring your own shade, this weekend looks like a scorcher. The Bloemendal XCO track underwent a facelift mid-way through 2018 that included new tech features and some skill-enhancing drops, jumps and rock gardens. The Tygerberg MTB club designed the new course with the specific intention of developing young talent that is equipped with the technical skills required to be competitive on the local and international stage. The 4.4 km track climbs a total of 170 metres over the lap, with the current Strava KOM in the hands of Matt Beers (12 mins 27 secs). Current under 23 World Champion Alan Hatherly is only a second behind Beers and won at the last SRAM XCO event held at Bloemendal. This year, Alan will not only have to contend with the local pros, but his Specialized teammates of Sam Gaze and Simon Andreassen are both on the start list. There will be a strong Swiss influence in the men’s Elites with 11 riders on the start list including Matthias Stirnemann and Nicola Rohrbach. On Sunday, current Marathon World Champion Henrique Avancini will also make an appearance. 530 pre-entries have already been confirmed with a strong international female contingent too. Briton Annie Last, Hungarian, Barbara Benko and Kathrin Stirnemann (all ranked in the top 30 worldwide) are set to test the local might of Cherie Redicker and Mariska Strauss. All in all, more than 15 different nations are represented at the event, showcasing South Africa’s position as a world-class mountain biking destination. Racing for the Pro-elites and Junior categories takes place on both days meaning there are two opportunities for UCI points and a headstart on the Europeans who are currently Zwifting indoors.
  23. Image Credit Michal Cerveny Hatherly claimed the silver medal at last year's World Championships in Cairns, Australia, and was hungry to go one better. "The Swiss course really suits me as you don't get any free speed out there," Alan said of the physically demanding 4km loop through the rooty Seewald forest. "You have to work for everything and it's about carrying speed and being smart about burning matches." Cross-country starts are critical, and in the U23 category the starter's gun signals a frenzied scrum of riders at high speed wanting to assert themselves. The bottlenecks that present themselves early in the Lenzerheide course made the Championship start even more critical. Hatherly used his front row start to manoeuvre himself into second wheel entering the first single track. "If you're any further back than about sixth wheel you'll get caught up in the bottle necking," said Hatherly. Highlights The U23 pre-race favourites and big hitters were all together through the first two laps as they jostled for position. A strong nine-man pack emerged. "The second lap was mayhem as riders took pretty big chances and were not shy to let you know where they wanted to be in the bunch," reflected Hatherly. Having tested his rivals occasionally in the lead and seen who was up to scratch, Hatherly casually moved to the front on Lap 3 and started mixing things up. "I shifted to the front and put some pressure on the climb, but also maintained that pressure through the technical descent and rolling climbs. I think this is where the gap formed as it was soon Chris Blevins [uSA] and I off the front with a few riders behind working to rejoin," said Hatherly. The two Specialized riders worked together as they had done a few weeks ago, when they found themselves in the same situation at the Canadian round of the UCI World Cup series. "We have such a similar ride style, it's awesome to sit at the front and keep the constant pressure on!" Hatherly admitted. The small gaps behind the two leaders soon stretched out substantially, with only Dutch rider David Norderman lurking ominously 20-30 seconds back. Image Credit Michal Cerveny Lap 5 offered a glimpse of how deep Blevins was in the hurt box and Hatherly quickly made plans to exploit the weakness with a monster effort late in the race. "I sat up on Lap 5 to get Chris to come to the front. When he just held my wheel I knew he was in some pain," said Hatherly. Hatherly didn't want the race coming down to a two-up sprint against his American rival, as Blevins' road race pedigree is widely known and he may have had the upper hand with only 100m of tar to cover to the line. Into the final lap Hatherly knew it was now or never, and he buried himself to snap the elastic band connecting him and Blevins for the previous three laps. Hitting the course's first technical sections at pace, Hatherly was able to put six seconds into Blevins. But that wasn't enough and Hatherly went again, forcing the gap out even further as the finish line and its throng of cheering fans grew louder. Hatherly kept pushing and crossed the line comfortable, a full 27 seconds clear of Blevins in second. Claiming the U23 World Championships title and the coveted rainbow jersey is a dream come true for Hatherly: "This is bucket list stuff and something I have dreamed of for years. For it all to come together so well... I am blown away that I actually achieved this win," an elated Hatherly said after the lung-busting effort. "It is kind of a bitter sweet moment however, as I move to the Elite category next year and won't get to rock this [u23] jersey. But to be able to call yourself World Champion is an amazing feeling and I am looking forward to stepping into the big leagues next year," Hatherly said. Alan now shifts focus to UCI Marathon World Champs next weekend, where he will join Team Spur teammate, Swiss marathon specialist Ariane Lüthi, in the Italian Dolomites for the last race in Europe for the year. Summary of Results – 2018 UCI MTB World ChampionshipsMen U23 XCO 1.Alan Hatherly (RSA) 01:21:22 2.Christopher Blevins (USA) +0:27 3.David Nordemann (NED) +1:05 4.Petter Fagerhaug (NOR) +1:24 5.Jonas Lindberg (DEN) +1:28
  24. Last year Hatherly raced to second at the UCI XCO World Championships in Cairns, Australia in a thrilling battle with New Zealander Sam Gaze that went all the way to the line. Gaze moved into the Elite age group in 2018 while Hatherly gets a final shot at the U23 rainbow jersey. He carries plenty of confidence into Friday's race, having finished fifth overall in this year's U23 World Cup series and claiming a victory in Round 6 at Mont Sainte-Anne in Canada. Image credit: Michal Cerveny But the South African is no shoo-in for victory at the high altitude race venue in Lenzerheide. The U23 category is fiercely competitive. Norwegian powerhouse Petter Fagerhaug, Swiss whiz Filippo Colombo and Frenchman Joshua Dubau represent the biggest challengers to Hatherly's dominance. But the U23 ranks run deep with talent and skill and attacks will come from any number of the highly-motivated youngsters. Hatherly's training partner, Danish superstar Simon Andreassen, as well as rising star Christopher Blevins from the US will be fighting fit and won't back down. The U23 men race at 16:30 local time (the same in South Africa) on Friday afternoon, and there will be live streaming on the UCI Youtube channel. Team Spur will also be covering the race from its twitter page. The live video streaming is a welcome development, and an opportunity for fans to see the ferocious pace and silky skills of the world's most talented young mountain bikers. Team Spur fans have been reduced to following Hatherly's exploits across the globe in 2018 via the team's live twitter feed updates, as U23 World Cup races aren't broadcast live. Hatherly starts the race on the front row with the number two board, as the highest ranked U23 rider. "The start at Lenzerheide is crucial, you have only a hundred metres or so on the straight before we turn left onto an open tar road climb," Hatherly says. "Once you're on the tar climb it's near impossible to pass riders, and diving straight into a tricky singletrack section afterwards makes tactics even more important." Rain is forecast for race week and in course practice riders are already battling to stay upright on sections of the slippery track. Hatherly has raced a few wet World Cup events this year with mixed results, but a solid understanding of how to approach a race when the weather turns against him. "It's all about being stable on the bike and controlling the slides which will inevitably come," Hatherly says. Hatherly spent the past week in Livigno, Italy, preparing for high-altitude racing on the big stage on Friday. "The altitude will also play a factor and I need to be smart about keeping my efforts constant, any overreaching and you'll pay the price."
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