Karkloof blossoms into Autumn MTB carnival

Howick – The popular Sappi Karkloof MTB Festival turns 21 this weekend and gets underway at the Karkloof Country Club on Friday evening with 20km Karkloof Night Race, setting the tone for an action-packed mountain biking weekend in the region.

Thousands of cycling enthusiasts are expected to head for the area for their share of the weekend-long festival on some of the country’s top MTB trails, entrenching its status as a premier national mountain biking festival.

Sunday’s 60km Sappi Karkloof Marathon is the pinnacle event of the three day festival and will once again attract some of the sport’s biggest names as they go in search of the coveted winner’s trophy while another big field of less serious riders will tackle the 40km aQuellé Half Marathon, 20km aQuellé Family Ride and 10km aQuellé Kids Ride.

Amongst the leading men Biogen’s former race winner Max Knox, in-form Kargo Pro MTB youngster Alan Hatherly, TIB Insurance’s Andrew Hill, 2014 third place finisher Julian Jessop of Concept Cyclery Ballito – Specialized SA and temporary KwaZulu-Natal resident Darren Lill will all fancy their chances of victory.

The women’s clash sees USN/Hi-Tec’s Jeannie Dreyer take to the start line as firm favourite with the 2013 race winner and 2014 runner-up eager to add another title to her CV.

Dreyer’s rivals are likely to come in the form of Jowett Cycles’ Natalie Bergstrom while Time Freight eTeam youngster Frankie du Toit will also be hoping for a strong showing.

As much as Sunday will be focused on cycling enthusiasts in the family having a good time out of the various trails of the day’s four events, it will also be a day of appreciation and thanks to everyone’s special woman in their life – their mom.

In celebration of Mother’s Day, event title sponsors Sappi will once again offer complimentary pedicures to all women in attendance of Sunday’s programme, regardless of whether they have taken part in one of the festival’s races or not.

The celebration won’t stop there though as Friday’s night race sees Michal du Plessis turn 17 years-old, Saturday’s enduro signals Gavin Drysdale’s 39th birthday while Anton Jasen van Vuuren and Paul van Niekerk will both turn 42 during their respective 20km and 40km outings on Sunday.

Sandwiched in between the unique experience that Friday’s evening’s night race brings and the world class events of Sunday’s programme, Saturday’s STIHL Karkloof Enduro has those with a slightly stronger thirst for adventure drooling in anticipation.

Hilton Frost was recently crowned KZN Enduro Series champion and the PYGA Industries rider will be hoping to add the coveted Karkloof crown to his collection this weekend.

He will however have to overcome the stiff challenge from the likes of national downhill talent Tiaan Odendaal, Jedson Tooms and Craig Paul along the way.

With participants set to travel from far and wide – many from as far as Gauteng, Eastern Cape, Free State, Mpumalanga, North West, Western Cape and even abroad – the event also plays a vital role in the region’s economy with scores set to spend a night or two in the local bed and breakfasts, fill the seats of the local cafes, coffee shops and restaurants while also exploring the various activities of the popular Midlands Meander.

The 20km Karkloof Night Race gets underway on Friday 8 May at 18h00 while the STIHL Karkloof Enduro takes place at 12h00 on Saturday 9 May. Sunday 10 May’s busy programme commences at 07h30 with the 60km Sappi Karkloof Marathon and is rounded out by the 10km aQuellé Kids Race which starts at 10h00.

Riders and spectators can follow news and developments via the event’s Facebook page (Karkloof Mountain Bike Club) or on Twitter (@KarkloofMTB) while more information can also be found at www.karkloofmtb.co.za and entries can be submitted via www.roag.co.za.

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