Kruger and Krisafor victorious at 2014 Trans Karoo

The Ouberg Pass forced every rider to walk at some point. Photo by
The Ouberg Pass forced every rider to walk at some point. Photo by

After 240 gruelling kilometres across the plains and passes of the Karoo, from Eselfontein outside Ceres to the Jupiter Guesthouse in Sutherland, Johan Kruger emerged victorious at the 2014 Trans Karoo MTB. Kruger completed the route in a new record time, for the up-ride, knocking 9 minutes off Raynard Tissink’s 2012 time to stop the clock at 9 hours, 30 minutes and 6 seconds. In the ladies race Liesbet Kristafor claimed the Trans Karoo title in a time of 11 hours 58 minutes and 15 seconds.

The 2014 Trans Karoo started at the Eselfontien Farm outside Ceres just as the sun was cresting the Martroosberg Mountains. Kruger had made his intentions for victory clear and a leading group of ten or so riders formed from the start. Each took a turn at the front as they worked together to combat the headwinds which marked the middle phase of the race across the Tankwa Karoo. The group worked through check points one and two but by check point three the headwinds and Kruger’s relentless pace had whittled the group down.

UCT’s Bruce Hughes in particular was suffering badly by check point three, battling cramps and nausea. From check point three to the foot of the Ouberg Pass, the pace slacked off slightly, as the leaders looked to conserve energy for the main trial of the Trans Karoo.

The Ouberg Pass saw riders gain 820 meters over 10.4km, on loose shale surfaced jeep track. The Ouberg Pass shattered the leading group, with no one able to stay on Kruger’s wheel. Every rider was reduced to pushing their bike at some point on the pass and while Tissink’s record may have been broken he remains the only Trans Karoo finisher to have ridden up the entire Ouberg Pass – though it must be said the pass was in a better condition when he did so in 2012.

From the top of the pass and check point four, Kruger simply had to avoid mechanical issues to claim the victory, but he continued to set a blistering pace with Tissink’s record firmly in his sights. The final 40km over undulating Karoo Hoogland saw the ultimate shake out of the men’s race with Izak Visagie settling into an unchallenged second position, 8 minutes down on Kruger and 10 ahead of third placed Hermias Nieuwoudt. Jaques Van Zy claimed fourth a minute and 54 seconds over the 10 hour mark with Hughes recovering strongly from his bout of cramps to finish fifth.

In the ladies race Kristafor proved too strong finishing nearly 2 hours ahead of her nearest rival, Elizma Kock. Nan Kirtley, Elishia Drotschie and Maryka Burger, who had ridden most of the day together, came home within 4 minutes of each other to claim third, fourth and fifth respectively. Kristafor’s excellent performance was highlighted by the fact that she placed 31st overall in a highly competitive field.

At night pass seemed never-ending, with no crest in sight and only the mere meters ahead illuminated. Photo by
At night pass seemed never-ending, with no crest in sight and only the mere meters ahead illuminated. Photo by

For the less competitive riders the 17 hour cut-off and the Ouberg Pass proved to be the greatest challenges. Many walked the entire pass, taking over an hour and a half to reach the summit. The relentless trudge was made worthwhile by succulent Karoo lamb braaied to perfection by the hospitable Karoo farmers manning check point four. The remaining 40km from check point four to Sutherland must have seemed like 100km for the exhausted riders, the majority of whom took in excess of 13 hours to complete the Trans Karoo route. After sunset the temperature plummeted to near freezing making the undulating roads, which allowed little respite, and the savage corrugations, which tested the comfort of even the plushest full suspension bikes, all the more challenging.

Every rider who finished the 2014 Trans Karoo can feel immense pride in their achievement. They overcame the physical and mental challenges dished out by 240km of rugged Karoo roads. From the record setting Johan Kruger, to the last rider to cross the finish line – Rudi Van Rooyen, who finished 16 hours 53 minutes and 25 seconds after leaving Eselfontein – congratulations on conquering the Trans Karoo!

To view the complete 2014 Trans Karoo results click here, or to recap on the race like the Trans Karoo Facebook page or follow @TransKarooMTB on Twitter. The Trans Karoo highlights show will be broadcasting on SuperSport soon so keep an eye on the race’s social media channels to ensure you don’t miss the show.

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