The 3rd and final KZN MTB XCO/Enduro/DHi took place over the weekend of 1st and 2nd of March 2014 at Cascades MTB Park, Pietermaritzburg. As the final event in the Series it was guaranteed to be a humdinger of a day. Nick Floros had designed a course that had eyes wide and tongues wagging…tough! Over 280m of climbing per lap which, for the elites, equates equivalently to 2000m in a 45km course. There were not many technical sections, but the challenging short steep climbs had everyone wishing they had a spare set of legs in feed/tech zones!
Cascades is traditionally a tough venue and with the SA Cup Series #1 in 2 weeks’ time, followed by the opening round of the UCI World Cup Series and then the KZN Provincial Championships, this was deemed to be the perfect opportunity to test the routes and act as a 1st draft for big events. The bigger rock gardens were not utilised as they are being prepared and repaired but these are definitely on the cards for the upcoming events. Several of the existing routes were ridden in reverse, giving both the riders and the spectators a new appreciation for how much skill goes into designing a course.
The junior riders (Nippers/Sprogs) rode a reduced distance as a concerted effort is being made to attract riders. They still had to race the majority of the full route, including the infamous CorkScrew section as well as the B line of Over The Top and Buck Jump Alley. These sections take immense concentration and skill to ride and have been used in the previous World Cup and World Champ events.
The racing amongst all categories was second to none. Positions changed often as the riders tested out each other’s endurance. The medals won were hard fought for and well deserved! And all finishers could depart with a great sense of achievement.
The juniors, under 23, elites, sub-vets, vets and masters all had their turn to race. The pace was hard and it was soon evident that there would be no chance to slack off.
In the U23, Brendon Davids (Team Trek Racing) took an early lead and held onto top spot for the duration of his race. Stuart Marais (Team Kargo MTB) was on form and took top position in the Elites.
The third round of the KZN MTB Enduro series was held at Cascades MTB Park in Pietermaritzburg on the same day as the XCO. This allows both XCO riders as well as DH riders to take part as the Enduro format suites both. Enduro is a relatively new sport in the country, but KZN MTB has gone all in by providing the first and only Enduro series in the country.
The Enduro format is quite unique in that participants race a few ‘special stages’ that are mostly downhill with some obstacles thrown in, and the uphill ‘liaison’ stages aren’t timed, giving the riders the freedom to ride up to the next stage at their own pace. The KZN MTB Enduro #3 race consisted of three stages and the the first stage was the most technical and longest, with a long pedalling section and small climb in the middle of the stage. The second stage had some small pedalling sections in the first half, and then opened up to some fast switch backs and a few obstacles near the bottom of the track. The third stage was an extremely fast rooty stage that didn’t require much pedalling, but if you go off line you could cause some serious damage to either yourself or your bike (preferably yourself as you can heal and bike parts are expensive!).
Hilton Frost had this to say about the Enduro #3: “I had a fairly clean run on the first stage, but made some stupid mistakes near the bottom of the stage, that caused me to lose some time. The second stage went quite a lot better and I managed to hit all the lines that I practiced and felt good on the pedalling section so I was happy with it. The third stage went extremely well for me and I managed to get everything perfect. Unfortunately someone after me broke the tape near the bottom of the track, causing quite a few people to get lost. Due to this they had to cancel the third stage to make it fair to everyone as some people were coming in to the finish on the wrong trails or from the wrong side. In the end with the two stage times added up I ended up with the second fastest time, with Tiaan Odendaal taking the win and Craig Paul third.”
On a very hot and sunny morning a good couple of boys and girls got together to have some serious fun on a short, good flowing track. With technical sections and some loose but somewhat dusty to almost tacky parts, this is the most versatile of tracks that has been used up to now and the most entries for an event in the series.
To cater for almost 70 riders is not an easy task and with the uplifts being diverted due to slippery conditions on the road (a huge shout out and thanks needs to go to all that helped out!) The second run saw most of the riders’ times improve as they got their ducks in a row or shall I say their lines in order despite the track deteriorating in sections to deep ruts and loose berms.
At the finish line a very festive vibe with music and commentating helped us conquer the extreme heat and a fairly injury free race was concluded. We wish Andrew Martin our KZN Junior Men Champion a speedy recovery as he crashed on Saturday during practise and injured his leg badly. Hang in there Ginger Snap, we hope to have you back for the National Championships.
The results show a huge consistency with the previous race and the first CSA National event could see the KZN riders dominate as they grow stronger with each race and the newbies’ skills are improving by the day.