AS the 2018 Quattro ROAG Series approaches the halfway mark, the points log shows a fascinating insight into the age-old battle between consistency and speed.
Sunday’s Holla Sugar Rush Festival in Ballito is the fourth race in the province’s premier mountain bike and trail running contest, and the season-long battle for the biggest prizefund of any mountain biking series in the country is shaping up to be something special in 2018.
Riders and runners have to take part in at least six of the nine events, which means the Holla Sugar Rush Festival is a watershed event and anybody who has not participated in at least one event after this weekend will not be in line for the R25 000 first prize in the men’s and women’s mountain bike series.
Currently topping the men’s MTB log is Andrew Johnson, who is no doubt a bit disappointed by finishing 15th at the Sappi Karkloof earlier this month, but still heads the table thanks to his early season form when he won the Wartburg Classic and was third at the Husqvarna Classic in Mid Illovo.
The Holla Sugar Rush is a perfect “home event” for Johnson and he will revel in the chance to fight it out in a race on his doorstep, on trails he uses regularly for training rides. The best six results count toward the final points tally in the Quattro ROAG Series, which means Johnson will be able to discard his Karkloof result, but the talented veteran rider will be keen to keep up the pressure with another strong top-three finish.
However, the standings are tight at the top of the log with young U23 speedster Julian Jessop just ten points behind the Ballito veteran. Jessop skipped the opening event but has been dominating since then and with two sprint wins at Wartburg and Karkloof, the PYGA Eurosteel team rider is probably the early season favourite to claim to overall title.
Lurking just behind the top two is Johnson’s Ballito teammate Tyronne White, who is returning to top form after some time off the bike and he is sure to continue to pick up a steady stream of points and make sure the top two cannot afford too many mistakes.
Also lurking within 40 points of the leader is Brennan Anderson and he will be hoping his consistency adds another clutch of points to keep him in contact with the leaders this weekend.
Meanwhile, a rider who has more motivation than most is Stuart Marais from Howick. One of the country’s top cross country riders, Marais is currently unsponsored and announced this week that he may be forced to retire as a professional rider later this season if he does not find a sponsor or a crowdfunding initiative he started this week does not yield some benefit.
Marais lost a sprint against Jessop at Karkloof and did not compete in earlier events due to clashes with other major national events. That leaves him just outside the top ten, however, the cross country specialist will revel in the Holla Trails course this weekend and with the carrot of a R25 000 prize at the end of the season he will be motivated to claim the win on Sunday as a down payment toward earning his living as a cyclist.
In the women’s series, Andrea de Boer is building on her victory in the season-opening Wartburg Classic and holds a big lead over Christie-Leigh Hearder. However, Hearder has finished one position ahead of De Boer in the two most recent events and the series leaders will be aware her lead is being chipped away and once events are discarded the log will close up dramatically.
Latest Quattro ROAG Series points:
1 Andrew Johnson 210
2 Julian Jessop 200
3 Tyronne White 182
4 Brennan Anderson 171
5 Nathan Treble 138
6 Cayde Muldoon 125
7 Mazwi Smimango 122
8 David Low 111
9 Mark Misselhorn 90
10 Ndumiso Dontso 89
= Carl Adendorff 89
1 Andrea de Boer 250
2 Christie-Leigh Hearder 174
3 Nadine Nunes 125
4 Belinda Mason 117
5 Isabel Moolman 112
6 Landy Puddu 111
7 Tarryn Morgan 106
8 Bianca Haw 100
9 Rentia Denissen 91
10 Bronwyn Evans 88