SA National XCM Champs

Sus the SA National XCM Champs

Date: 8 June 2014

Location: Cascades, Pietermaritzburg, KZN

Distance: 70km (Elite Women) & 95km (Elite Men)

By: Diana Carolin @di_carolin

It was all quite an adventure going to Cascades for the first time! “Cascades” where I watched the UCI XCO and Downhill World Championships and World Cups on TV! HUGE! The last three months of intense training, going to the MTN National Series races, eating healthily, early nights and making sure I stay healthy was all for the month of June which holds the two biggest one day races of my mountain biking career. SA Marathon Champs and World Marathon Champs. As an amateur who has only been riding a bike for three and a half years now, it is quite a thing to be racing against not only SA’s best professional riders but soon the best in the world!

The journey to this point started with wanting to do races in other parts of the country and to test myself against the best at the National Series races. And it has all been a self sponsored adventure so far!  Then I qualified for the Elite World Marathon Champs by coming 12th at the UCI accredited MTN National Series Sabie race. Why not the Rainbow Challenge for amateurs you wonder? Yes, it makes more sense but I was working the weekend of the qualifying race in the Western Cape so the only other way to get to such a momentous event was to qualify for the Elites.

Back to SA Champs… where I was racing in the Elite ladies’ race.  It was about 4 degrees the morning of the race. Though, I have to be honest I was so nervous I didn’t feel the cold much. I warmed up a bit and went and lined up at the start. There was quite a large bunch of us. So off we went jostling for position. Now I am a bit of a diesel engine and take quite a while to get warmed up. So I let the front bunch go and focused on a pace just outside of my comfort zone, but that I could sustain. I had learnt from the MTN Clarens race that killing yourself to keep up with the pros, at an altitude above what you are used to, at the beginning spells a big fat BONK about 50kms into the race.

The course was a challenge right from the start. I pride myself in the fact that I ride technically challenging routes well and the second bit of single track that we literally dropped into, my bar end caught a tree and I fell into a pile of branches and then one of the girls fell in front of me. A bit shaken after that, it took me a long time to get settled in and find a rhythm. By the time we had reached 30km we had already done 1 280m of climbing and ridden over high bridges, rock gardens, deep muddy puddles and ground up some ridiculously steep hills. Then at last there was some open road riding, it offered no break though because it was all uphill. At some point the guys started passing and I managed to catch two of the girls ahead of me.

Picture by: Quickpix (
Picture by: Quickpix (

Then it all became a blur of single track, climbs, breath-taking scenery, wondering where the next water point was, falling in a lot of mud, passing a few more of the girls, more steep climbs, James Reid and Rourke Croeser passing me up a single track chatting away like they were on a social ride (urgh), cramps, popping Rennies for the cramps, more insane single track, more climbs, another water point more cramps and at last, the decent to the finish. Only to see the 11th place lady crossing the line a mere 17 seconds ahead of me! I had had hopes of a top 10 finish but they were dashed. 12th (in a time of 4 hours and 52 minutes) seems to be my place. We always think how we could have done better, but as I had done the best I could do I was satisfied with that. A big lesson learnt was that caffeine and I do not work well together as it was without doubt the cause of the cramps!

That was the most technically challenging Marathon race I have ever raced, more like a stretched out XCO course. Well done Nick Floros on setting a great route. Leon Evans is an angel compared to this guy!

Well done to James Reid and Robyn De Groot on your well-deserved wins. In fact hats off to all who completed that course!! A big thanks to CSA and the organisers for a great event and to all the friends that were there in support. You guys are the best! It makes it that much more of an experience with you there.

Next up World Elite Marathon Champs! Where I will very proudly be riding in South African kit!! It will be momentous and awesome experience for sure.

Support Di and the rest of the South African contingent at the UCI XCM World Championships at the Cascades in Pietermaritzburg on the 29th of June 2014. Follow @XCMWorlds2014 on Twitter.

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