MTN National Series

The MTN National Series is the epitome of mountain biking in South Africa. Starting from humble roots it has grown into the largest national mountain bike series in the world, and the envy of professional marathon mountain bike racers the world over. Its mass appeal draws average Joes and seasoned Pro’s alike to compete in one or all eight.

MTN National MTB Series driven by Nissan #3 Tulbagh.
MTN National MTB Series driven by Nissan #3 Tulbagh.

Organised by Advendurance the MTN National Series has its roots in the 2001 launch of the company and the Mazda MTB Series. The early years tracked the growth of mountain biking in South Africa from a fringe sport to the ‘New Golf’ behemoth it is today. But it wasn’t all plain sailing. The 2008 financial crisis saw Mazda withdraw its sponsorship of the National Series, and the National Cross Country and National Downhill Cups.

Since MTN’s naming sponsorship began the series has really gone from strength to strength. The 2014 series has boasted some massive numbers, for example 1 659 riders entered the four distances on offer at the Sabie leg of the series, including the 26 men who took part in the UCI accredited Ultra Marathon.

The eight legs of the series offer a fun ride, a fun race, a half marathon, a marathon and an ultra-marathon in locations as different from each other as Clarens in the Free State and Tulbagh in the Western Cape. You just have to take a look at Zoon Cronje’s amazing photos to appreciate the amazing settings that the National Series take in. Where else in the world would riders race right past the snout of a dozing crocodile or a graceful herd of giraffes?

MTN National MTB Series driven by Nissan #3 Tulbagh.
MTN National MTB Series driven by Nissan #3 Tulbagh.

The UCI accreditation for the Sabie and Clarens races mean that the 2nd and 4th legs of the MTN National Series form part of the UCI World Series while the Hilton and Tulbagh events are on the UCI International Calendar too. The UCI status brings foreign pros to race in South Africa (or brings them out of South African hiding, as quite a few spend time in training in South Africa anyway). And the size of the competitive marathon racing field is a bit of a novelty for the Europeans in particular as XCM is very much the poorer cousin of XCO in Europe while the reverse is true locally of course.

For the normal riders the ability to rub shoulders, or at least line-up behind, international mountain biking royalty is a special opportunity. But it’s the exceptional organisation that’s lead to the MTN National Series bringing the numbers in at every race.

The 2014 series has seen tough racing for overall series honours. Ariane Kleinhans, of Team RECM, has already secured the overall victory in the ladies series with a race to go after winning all the series races she entered barring the Van Gaalens race, where she finished second. The men’s series though will go right down to the wire with the defending series champion Nico Bell, also of Team RECM, and Cannondale Blend’s Darren Lill separated by only a handful of points. At the last race of the series, the MTN Crater Cruise, Lill and Bell will be focusing almost exclusively on each other, with the highest placed finisher of the two (provided they finish in the top five) claiming the title for 2014.

MTN National MTB Series driven by Nissan #3 Tulbagh.
MTN National MTB Series driven by Nissan #3 Tulbagh.

So it’s all set up for a ding-dong battle in Parys on the 13th of September. If you’d like to join Lill and Bell on the start line for anyone of the race from the Ultra to the Fun Ride you’ve got until the 9th of September at 06:00 to enter.

2014 MTN National Series – Driven by Nissan Results

#1 Dullstroom

Men: Lourens Luus (RECM)

Women: Robyn De Groot (Biogen Toyota)

#2 Sabie

Men: Urs Huber (Bulls)

Women: Ariane Kleinhans (RECM)

#3 Tulbagh

Men: Karl Platt (Bulls)

Women: Ariane Kleinhans (RECM)

#4 Clarens

Men: Nico Bell (RECM)

Women: Teresa Ralph (CBC)

#5 Rooiberg

Men: Darren Lill (Cannondale Blend)

Women: Ariane Kleinhans (RECM)

#6 Van Gaalen

Men: LourensLuus (RECM)

Women: Ariane Kleinhans (RECM)

#7 Hilton

Men: Darren Lill (Cannondale Blend)

Women: Ariane Kleinhans (RECM)

Behind the Races:

The MTN National Series is organised by Advendurance, who also bring you events like the Nissan Trail Seeker Series and the Warrior Races. Find our more at

Behind the Lens:

The great images of the MTN National Series races are shot by Zoon Cronje, one of South Africa’s top sports photographers. Do yourself a favour, make a cup of coffee and take a look at Zoon’s Xtremedia spreads on Facebook at or follow him on Twitter @ZoonCronje.

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