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Rossouw returns to winning ways at big Barberton showdown


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Seven years almost to the day after his last major marathon victory, Jacques Rossouw (FEDGROUP – ITEC Connect) made a triumphant return when he claimed a dominant victory over a strong field at the MTN South African National Mountain Bike Series Ultra-marathon in Barberton at the weekend.


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A weary Jacques Rossouw rolls towards the finish line and an stirring victory at the MTN Barberton Ultra-marathon.

Photo credit: Zoon Cronje


Four-time South African marathon champion, Kevin Evans (Nedbank 360Life) finished second with Jacques Janse van Rensburg (MTN Qhubeka) claiming third place. Defending champion, Max Knox (Decca Ghost) had to be content with fourth and South African road race champion, Darren Lill (Team Bonitas) rounded out the top five in a gruelling five-hour battle


The 120km race, which included over 3000 metres of vertical ascent, was contested by one of the strongest fields ever assembled in a South African national series event. The Barberton event marked the start of the prestigious eight-race series, which, with over 15000 participants, is the world’s largest mountain bike series.


For Rossouw, the venue of his victory was significant. In 2005 he won the Barberton Classic (as it was then known). He was one of the most dominant riders in the country at the time, but it was his last major victory before his retirement from the sport at age 24. His premature retirement was forced by illness, brought on by overtraining and a compromised immune system. But in 2011, after a six-year break, he began a comeback, wiser and hungry for success.


Patience has never been his strong point, but Rossouw displayed plenty of that in Barberton on Saturday. Power on the other hand has certainly been his strong point – his nickname is ‘Big Blade’ – and he showed plenty of that too, but only when necessary.


He raced the perfect race. He lost teammate, Brandon Stewart, after 10km due to a damaged rim, but that failed to rattle Rossouw, who sat patiently in the lead pack up the first climb, a 13km, 925m dirt road ascent, only turning an angry pedal at the summit to secure the King of the Mountains prize. He then sat in again down the long descent.


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The lead group ascends the first major climb into the mountains that form the border between South Africa and Swaziland.

Photo credit: Zoon Cronje


“Adrien (Niyonshuti) and Jacques (Janse van Rensburg) of the MTN team pushed the pace up the first big climb. I just sat on their wheels and waited for the top to get the King of the Mountain sprint. Then I waited until the start of the second climb, where I had decided before the race to make a big move,” explained Rossouw.


And it was on this steep 8km climb at 79km that he launched his race-winning move.


“I didn’t attack, but just picked up my pace. I saw Kevin (Evans) taking some strain, so I took it up another notch and only Jacques (Janse van Rensburg) and Max (Knox) and Darren (Lill) stayed with me for a while and then they dropped off. I kept a steady pace to the top and was told I had a three-minute lead. I went hard on the descent to try and increase my lead a bit, but then took it a bit easy on the next section with lots of river crossings as I didn’t want to do anything silly and risk bike damage,” recalled Rossouw.


The 30-year-old Capetonian then upped his pace again in the final 10km and claimed an emotionally charged victory in a time of 04 hours 58 minutes and 58 seconds. He slumped over his bike after crossing the finish line, clearly having given his all.


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Runner-up, Kevin Evans (far right) plays the fool on the podium with winner, Jacques Rossouw (centre). Third-placed Jacques Janse van Rensburg is on the far left.

Photo credit: Zoon Cronje


“I wanted to prove to myself and to everyone else that I am serious about this comeback. I trained really hard over the past few months and wouldn’t be able to be in this position if it weren’t for Brandon Stewart, my teammate and employer and our sponsors. Brandon has been coaching me and has also given me so much advice about race routes and other riders. It’s a good way to start our first full year as Team FEDGROUP – ITEC Connect.”


“We’re a very new team and today we went from underdog to top dog in 120km,” smiled Stewart. “Obviously it’s good to win the first big race of the season, but to beat such a strong field is very good for our confidence. We prepared very well for this race and it showed in the end.”


Download attachment: barberton4.jpg


Team FEDGROUP - ITEC Connect members Brandon Stewart (right) and Bridgette Stewart, congratulate a spent Jacques Rossouw on his victory.

Photo credit: Zoon Cronje


In the women’s race, Ariane Kleinhans (Contego Giant) claimed her first Barberton title, securing victory in a quick 03:14:49, which gave her third place overall in the event. Second place went to rising star, Candice Neethling (Team BMC), with Ischen Stopforth (Team bizhub) completing the first three positions.


Round 2 of the MTN National Series will take place on 18 February in Tulbach, Western Cape.


Leading results

MTN Barberton Ultra-marathon, 120km

1 Jacques Rossouw (FEDGROUP – ITEC Connect) 04hr58min58sec

2 Kevin Evans (Nedbank 360Life) 05:03:18

3 Jacques Janse van Rensburg (MTN Qhubeka) 05:05:13

4 Max Knox (Decca Ghost) 05:06:10

5 Darren Lill (Team Bonitas) 05:08:20

6 Nico Bell 05:13:07

7 Charles Keey (Blend Property Group) 05:15:00

8 Adrien Niyonshuti (MTN Qhubeka) 05:15:02

9 David Morison (Blend Property Group) 05:16:43

10 David George (Nedbank 360Life) 05:17:51


MTN Barberton Marathon, 75km


1 Ariane Kleinhans (Contego Giant) 03:14:49

2 Candice Neethling (Team BMC) 03:27:23

3 Ischen Stopforth (Team bizhub) 03:33:58

4 Karien van Jaarsveld (MTN Qhubeka) 03:47:04

5 Janine King 03:57:51


For full results, visit www.spectrumsport.co.za


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Rossouw caught me just before the finish (I was doing 75k) and lemme tell you it looked like he was doing a time trial... what a machine!

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