Stars set to shine at 11th Nedbank sani2c

Himeville – Much of South Africa’s top mountain biking talent rolled into Himeville on Wednesday ahead Thursday’s start of the Race event of the 2015 Nedbank sani2c while their more leisurely Adventure and Trail counterparts enjoyed their first and second stage outings respectively.

The ominously in-form RECM teams were quietly confident as they wrapped up their final preparations, sizing up the prospect of podiums in both the men’s and women’s races – if not better.

For Erik Kleinhans 2015 affords him the opportunity to erase the nightmare on 2014 when he and team mate Eric Bell saw their hopes of clinching the prized title evaporate in a high speed crash late on the second stage that left Kleinhans with sever shoulder injury.

“Last year we came so close before the accident put a damper on everything,” said Kleinhans. “This is a major title and one that we really want to win.

“This is such a difficult race to race because the younger cross country guys make it harder for us in the beginning on the single track. But we love that level of competition.”

He added that most of the elite riders were in between peaks after the Cape Epic and the upcoming SA Marathon Championships, which would add a new dimension to the elite race.

The RECM men’s team will find themselves drawn into a title tussle that looks certain to include the duo of Kevin Evans and Max Knox (Biogen-Volcan), one or both of whom has been on the race podium every year bar one since the race’s inception.

Kleinhans believes Biogen-Volcan chances hinge on Evans’ stamina, particularly after his recent announcement of his impending retirement from competitive racing, and was also certain that Blend’s Darren Lill and Waylon Woolcock would be influential, as would the USN Kargo Pro MTB pairing of Alan Hatherly and Brendan Davids, Contego Pro MTB’s Luke Evans and Adriaan Louw as well as EAI Wheeler’s Johann Rabie and Swiss powerhouse Konny Looser.

On the women’s front an intriguing tussle seems to be looming between the RECM duo of Adriane Kleinhans and Cherise Stander, Specilaized South Africa’s last minute cross country entrants Bianca Haw and Candice Neethling as well as Sasol Racing’s Yolande de Villiers and Catherine Williamson.

Defending champ Jennie Stenerhag of Sweden has had to adjust her race plans at the last minute of regular Ascendis Health partner and South African Marathon Champ Robyn de Groot was forced out of the race due to post viral fatigue syndrome.

Stenerhag will now take to the line with Namibian Marathon, Road and Time Trial Champ Vera Adrian.

Meanwhile, Wednesday’s action saw 1500-plus Adventure riders set off from the race’s new start venue at Glencairn Farm at the base of Sani Pass, soaking up the near perfect conditions on their way down to the first overnight stop at Mackenzie Club near Ixopo.

The a star-studded field enjoyed the presence of countless former South African sporting greats such as former Proteas fast bowler Makhaya Ntini, 1995 Rugby World Cup winning flyhalf Joel Stransky and former South African canoe sprint sensation Andrew Blackburn.

Riding under the South African Rugby Legends Association (SARLA) banner, Stransky and partner Shaun Payne obliterated all but three of the Adventure field as they crossed the line in 3:14.01, paving the way for fellow former Springboks Stefan Terblanche, Butch James, Brent Russell and Trevor Halstead – amongst others.

SARLA Chairman Terblanche explained that his squad of rugby legends was looking forward to a good three days both on and off the bike.

“All the (SARLA) guys are here at sani2c for a great three days of cycling but it’s also just as much about us all having a braai, some beers and lots of fun together as well!” explained the 37-capped Springbok and former Cell C Sharks captain. “Hopefully Joel (Stransky) and Shaun (Payne) can go quite nicely though and then they can look to give it a full go on Friday.”

“There isn’t too much rivalry amongst the guys but once you get out there onto the trails then that natural competitiveness definitely does kick in and you don’t like seeing any of the (SARLA) guys in front of you!” added 2007 Rugby World Cup winner Butch James.

While a little off Stransky and Payne’s blistering pace, Super Group’s Ntini crossed the finish line in front of a vocal and welcoming crowd with the former fast bowler receiving their welcome and enjoying the moment with the same energy and broad smile he was known for throughout his time in green and gold.

“I loved every second of that first stage and I cannot wait for tomorrow!” he beamed afterwards.

“Thank goodness for all the hill training I’ve been doing with my son back in East London; it definitely paid off today.

“I’m still not 100% comfortable on the single track through the trees but I’m getting there and I still really enjoyed it all!” he laughed.

Ntini was also thrilled to rub shoulders with his fellow former national heroes out on the trails. “It is great to see others who had done well in other sports previously now coming together again through cycling!”

“There isn’t too much rivalry between the different sportsmen out there on the course, everyone is just motivating each other along the way.”

Meanwhile Wednesday saw the Nedbank sani2c Trail participants tackle the event’s legendary King stage from Mackenzie Club to Jolivet Farm near Umzinto, including the world renowned descent into the spectacular Umkomaas Valley

It was a weary start for a number of the Trail riders who were nursing a few bumps and bruises following a hectic opening day of the 2015 Nedbank sani2c and were slightly apprehensive when heading out on their 98km journey to Jolivet Farm.

Along with the breath-taking descent into the Umkomaas Valley, the second day included a tough section of climbing out of the valley that tested a number of the riders as they looked to conserve enough energy for the final assault towards the finish line.

The mercury continued to rise throughout the day and a number of riders commented on how tough a stage of racing it was but were happy to get to Jolivet Farm’s new-look race village ahead of their final 84km stage down to Scottburgh.

Thursday promises to be a day crammed with polarizing action as the event’s racing snakes take to the trails for the first time during Race’s opening stage while at the same time the Trail’s participants look to round out their three day journey at Scottburgh Main Beach. The Adventure’s competitors will also be in action as they make their way down from Mackenzie Club to Jolivet Farm. More information can be found at

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