Wednesday, 10 September 2014

The York Enduro Mountain Bike Rally

Upon receiving the email inviting me as one of the pros for The York Enduro I replied immediately with YES!!! I was invited to the inaugural event which was held this time last year. It proved to be a huge success and possibly the most fun any fun-loving mountain biker could hope to have!
It is a huge privilege to take part as a pro and York treated us like stars with an appearance fee, a Salomon goodie bag with shoes and a jacket, accommodation at Floriet, lovely food and great prize money for the races.

So basically what the race boils down to is for each pro, there is a corporate team. This year there were 24 pro riders and 24 corporate team (of four riders). Day 1 is a downhill race for the pros. Based on the results, or whatever other reason they would want a particular pro, each corporate team bids or “buys” a pro. I’m not 100% sure how it works.
For the 3 subsequent days the corporate team, with their pro, would race against other teams. Some teams raced seriously for the win, and some just there to have some good clean, dirty fun J. The main aim of the event is to raise money for the upliftment of the community by providing disadvantaged youngsters with the opportunity and resources to start up their own businesses. An inspiring and moving initiative by York.

Wednesday evening was a dinner for the pros, where we got the low-down of our roll in the race and a basic introduction to each of us. The pros this year were:
Arno du Toit, Lourens Luus, Oliver Munnik, Kallen Williams, Matthew Beers, Adriaan Louw Justin Victor, Darren Lill, Max   Knox, Kevin Evans, Waylon Woolcock, Dylan Rebello, Ben Swanepoel, Owen Hannie, Gawie Combrinck, Timo Cooper, Charles Keey, Nic White, Willie Smit, Yolandi du Toit, Theresa Ralph, Leana de Jager, Dalene van der Leek, Stuart Marais, Andrew Hill, and myself.

Day 1: The Downhill stage.

The downhill course was about 3 or 4 km of mountain biking nirvana! The twisty turny descent consisted of steep switch back corners, rocks, drop-offs, berms, more berms and some table-tops to end off the awesomeness. Do not be deceived, there were a few sections where frantic pedalling was required leaving you shaky with endorphins and adrenaline. Me and my little 650B hardtail Scott Scale 710 nipped through the course I won the race in a time of 7:17. Yolandi du Toit came in 2nd with Theresa Ralph rounding off the podium.

Arno du Toit took the win in the men’s race with a time of 6:04 beating last year’s record set by Lourens Luus who came 2nd and Oliver Munnik 3rd.

Day 2: 35km, 4 timed stages.

My corporate team was Team Cashbuild; Chris, Chris, Johan and Brett. They were fit, fun and part of the Joberg Single Speed crowd so we got along really well! I won the 3 downhill stages and Dalene van der Leek won the uphill stage. The ride finished at “Cuddle Puddle” with an awesome lunch and some beers, everyone comparing their war stories. Once again I was in my element on the downs, loving what York had set out for us. That evening was festive with live music, great food, wine and fantastic company!

Day 3: 35km, 4 timed stages and the Duel Eliminater.
Pretty much the same setup as the previous day, except the hill climb was longer which suited me. I ended up on the podium in 3rd behind Theresa who took 2nd and Dalene in 1st. I won the downhills again but they involved a lot of pedalling, some had a decent amount of uphill which left my legs tired and sore. A proper day in the saddle!
A highlight of the day, for riders and spectators alike, was the Duel Eliminator. The course: two strips of single track running parallel to each other with tight berms and jumps. Riders raced against each other twice per round, once in each lane. Each round eliminated the slower rider until there was a winner. Oliver Munnik cleaned up the men’s race with Arno du Toit in 2nd.
Erika Green and I duelled it out for 1st place. The left line was the race favourite as it was a few seconds quicker. I won the first round in the left lane but Erika pipped me in the second round when we swapped lanes. I won a lucky draw for lane choice for the final, I chose the left one, focussed and went as fast as possible taking the win! It was a super fun and exciting addition to the York Enduro!  
Once again an awesome day of riding was concluded with an amazing dinner and more festivity.

Day 4: 40km, 20km and kiddies race. XCO race for pros.
About an hour after the 40km ride, the pros raced the beautifully built XCO track. My legs were sore from the previous day’s efforts and I was quite grateful that they shortened our 2 laps to just 1. When the gun went off, it was a flat-out sprint up a climb into the single track. Yolandi du Toit managed to get into the single track just ahead of me. Up the switch back climbs, my chest closed up and felt my lack of racing the past few months. Theresa passed me up one of the splits, pulling a gap. I managed to minimise the gap through the technical sections like an uphill rock garden, a downhill log section and the duel eliminator course but finished in 3rd behind Theresa. Yolandi took a well-deserved win!

This weekend was the most fun I have had on and off the bike in a while. Hats off to York Timbers for going the extra mile, not only in making it a special weekend of fun for the pros and corporates, but also for all they have done for the community. 

If I get that email next year, I will definitely reply with a YES!!!

For the full set of results go to:

To see more pics, see the album on our Valencia Facebook page:

Monday, 1 September 2014

Nkomazi MTB Challenge - a Good Kick Back Into Racing!

The Nkomazi MTB Challenge would be my first race and first time mountain biking since marathon World Champs exactly 3 months ago. I have been recovering from an Achilles’ Tendon injury since SA Marathon Champs which was on the 8th of June. This was a huge disappointment as I was on the best form of the year and had been chosen to represent South Africa as part of the national team for the World Champs which took place 3 weeks later. I entered a forced rest with a few easy “test rides” in between, in hopes of being healed and well rested by the time World Champs rolled along.
About 25km into the race there was a hair raising portage section where I started to feel the dreaded twinge in my Achilles. The twinge turned into a stabbing pain that came and went. I ignored the pain until it became constant agony and pedaling unbearable. I pulled out at 60km in, devastated at 1) having pulled out and 2) the realisation that it would be long time before I’d be reunited with my bike.

Anyway, 1 month and loads of physio later, I was back on the bike. Although I felt super sluggish and I had this terrible pain in my cheek bones (the butt ones) that I hadn’t felt since I first started riding, I feel the rest was a good thing. I was hungry to ride again! For two months I just rode wherever and whenever I felt like, no intervals, just riding for the love of it. Confidence that my Achilles was ok started growing and I found myself doing long rides like to Sabie and back, sometimes taking the long way round resulting in entire days of riding. It felt good to be back in the saddle and the great outdoors!  
In hindsight the injury was a good thing in many ways. Insanity preventative measures included starting a clothing line - Over the Bars - which will be launching in the next few months (watch this space!) Over The Bars ladies mtb skills will be starting mid-September. I am very grateful for the support of Valencia and Coach Bosseau for their support during my down-time.

Now, back to the Nkomazi MTB Challenge… I was really excited to be racing again, to feel the burn and taste some blood J It felt weird preparing for the race, I hadn't worn my proverbial race-face in ages, nor has my heart rate been anywhere close to race pace in 3 months. This would be interesting!
The race was held in the small local town of Malelane about 40km from Nelspruit. The R50 600 of prize money for the event was good motivation to do well but I had no expectations considering my current form so I thought I’d focus on doing my best but most of all have fun!

The start was quite chilly but warmed up fast as the pace was hot from the gun, well, it was a canon actually that they set off which was original, fun and kicked us off for a fiery start! The first few k's was undulating and took us through some beautiful farmland. It felt good to feel the burn in my legs and lungs, I found myself in the lead from the canon and kept a good steady pace I felt I could maintain. The profile was something like this: __/\__. The climb in the middle was seemingly never-ending with 2 sections that were too loose and steep to ride. I still felt strong at this point, with the help of my PowerBar gels and energy drink I was diligently fueling with. On the other side we were rewarded (some may disagree:) ) with the local downhill course. It was so steep that I spent a good deal of time almost sitting on my back wheel to prevent going over the bars! To add to the steepness there were switchbacks which made it even more challenging. Just how I like it.

The last section was probably the toughest. It was undulating and mostly downhill actually but it seemed to go on forever and although I started passing people, it was getting super hot and I was getting tired. I was happy to see the finish with a welcoming crowd and hug from my awesome sponsor, Naeem Omar. The feeling of emptying the tank is priceless. It’s good to be back!

Thanks again to my sponsors Valencia, ADIDAS, PowerBar, Continental, and coach Bosseau from Infinita for your constant support.

Also big ups to Laerskool Malelane, event sponsor Toyota Malelane, Carine Van Der Wershuizen, Dirk and everyone else who made this event so festive and well organised with a proper mountain bike race!