Exciting wins in mountain bike series opening round
PHILIP Buys and Candice Neethling powered to exciting victories in the elite men’s and women’s categories of the opening round of the Stihl SA National XCO Cup Series in the Baakens Valley at the weekend.
More than 140 competitors took to the hot and dry conditions in an event where UCI points were up for grabs in the elite men’s and elite women’s UCI Category 1 event, which contributes to rankings for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Buys (Scott Factory Racing powered by LCB) and James Reid (Team RECM) were the only riders to post a sub-16-minute first lap when they leapt off the start to get an early lead in the elite men’s race.
The end of lap one saw Buys ahead followed by Reid, Gert Heyns (Scott Factory Racing powered by LCB), Brendon Davids and Alan Hatherly (both Kargo Pro MTB Team), Rourke Croeser (Team Full Dynamix), Swedish national champion Emil Lindgren (Kargo Pro MTB Team), Matthys Beukes and Arno du Toit (both Scott Factory Racing powered by LCB) and German Martin Frey (Bulls).
The penultimate lap saw Buys still ahead, but Davids and Hatherly were closing in fast, posting lap times that were 14 seconds faster than Buys’s.
Davids’s teammate, Lindgren, also put the hammer down and gained substantial ground to move up to third place, passing teammate Hatherly.
In the end, Davids caught Buys but could not close the 1.1-second gap just metres to the finish line as he chased hard, with world-ranked No 9 Lindgren finishing in third place, 26 seconds off the winning time.
The technical rocky track suited Buys as he continued increasing the pressure to extend his lead, stretching it to almost a minute at one point in the race.
“I wanted to go hard from the start to test the legs,” Buys said.
“I knew the contenders were close on my wheel and I had to increase the pressure, but I could see the guys coming back strongly. I then had to slow a bit to keep something in reserve for the last punches if they caught up to me towards the end.”
The elite women’s race saw Neethling (Pam Golding/Freewheel Cycology/Specialized) take full command on the demanding course, leading from the start on the five-lap race.
Neethling’s closest rival, Cherie Vale, finished the race 6½ minutes back.
Neethling’s victory came despite a big crash on the second lap, where it appeared that a branch had pierced her leg.
“The course was quite technical and I was going down a very steep descent with a sharp right turn at the bottom, which was quite powdery,” the London 2012 Olympian said.
“I could see that I wasn’t going to make the turn and I fell down. I really don’t know what happened, but I must’ve fallen on some branches. I didn’t know anything bad had happened until I looked down at my leg later on and saw a hole there.”
She received five stitches after the race.
The junior men’s race was a tussle between local rider Marco Joubert (Kargo Pro MTB Team) and Julian Jessop (Specialized Concept Cyclery).
Joubert – who spent a lot of time building the top-class course in Port Elizabeth with his father, Charl – won by a large margin of two minutes 51 seconds ahead of Namibian Tristan de Lange.
Jessop finished in third place without a saddle, which would have been most taxing on his legs on the demanding course.
Genevieve van Coller took the title in the junior women’s race, covering three laps of the 4.7km track ahead of Christine Roda (2nd) and Saffron Vosloo (3rd).
- See results on Page 17 THE high-riding Walter Sisulu University All Blacks, who have set the Eastern Cape Super 12 alight, finished the group stage in the sumptuous form they started it, humiliating Kruisfontein 29-13 at the Humansdorp Country Club at the weekend.