The reputation of the Mandela Day Marathon MTB Dash within the country’s mountain biking community was clearly demonstrated last year when two top riders based in the Cape made the long journey to KZN to claim the titles in the prestigious Howick event.
Matthys Beukes and Candice Lill both travelled from the Western Cape to claim victory in annual MTB Dash which starts and finishes at the Mandela Capture Site just outside Howick in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands.
This year’s event takes place on August 24th and mountain bikers have the choice of celebrating the life of Nelson Mandela in a 42km race for serious competitors, an intermediate 21km event for weekend warriors or a 10km fun ride aimed at those who simply want some fun in the saddle. There will also be a development MTB short-course competition with a large contingent of over 200 youngsters from the district taking part.
This year all three longer events have also been also opened up to E-Bikes which will allow the growing band of power-assisted riders to be part of the celebration.
The three mountain bike races are part of the weekend of events that include a road running marathon, trail runs, a youth run and a triathlon, all taking place in honour of the former President at or near the world-famous Mandela Capture Site.
Twelve months ago Beukes, who recently won a stage of the Absa Cape Epic, was a surprise entry. The PYGA EuroSteel rider opted to visit the home town of his team sponsors, PYGA bicycles, and the journey ended with him relegating Howick local Stuart Marais to second position. For Marais, the defeat was particularly frustrating as it was his second runner-up finish by a few seconds in two years. Henry Liebenberg claimed third in a dice for the line with Tyronne White.
In the women’s race, Lill, who was last week crowned South African cross country champion, combined a visit to her family to take part. She was able to ride away from her rivals soon after the start and was never in danger as she recorded a convincing 10-minute win over Jeannie Dreyer with young Tiffany Keep third.
The importance of the event was highlighted by Beukes who was prepared to spend two days travelling to get to the MTB Dash. The George resident drove to Cape Town before flying to Durban and then driving on to Howick to compete in the prestigious event.
Lill, who used the 2018 Mandela Day Marathon MTB Dash as preparation for some racing in Europe, believes the event is a fitting tribute to the former South African President.
“It is so cool to see all the different sports — mountain biking, trail running, road running and triathlon — all coming together over this weekend. I know Nelson Mandela would have smiled if he has seen all of this out here today.”
Dr. Ray Ngcobo, the Municipal Manager, for the uMgungundlovu District Municipality which hosts all the events, is not surprised that athletes travel from far to take part in the various events.
“There are two reasons why I think the competitors in the various events are prepared to make such sacrifices to take part,” said Ngcobo this week. “The first is simply because all the events are slick and well organised events that take place with the athlete in mind. If you put on an event that has decent prize money and is well organised, then you are likely to get the best athletes taking part, and we do our best to make sure all the Mandela Day Marathon events are well organised.
“The second factor is of course the person in whose honour we hold these events. The Mandela Marathon and other events such as the MTB Dash are a fitting tribute to South Africa’s first democratically elected president. He was known and loved around the world for his commitment to peace and reconciliation. I think athletes love being able to honour Nelson Mandela by doing what they do best, competing for trophies in his name.”