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  • Writer's pictureMountain Abandon

March Race Recap

Any outdoor-loving South African will surely agree that our Autumn weather is some of the finest! Still pleasantly warm country-wide, slightly drier up north and in the eastern regions, and a little rain in the cape (if they’re lucky!) March of 2023 certainly didn’t disappoint and many of South Africa’s top athletes embraced their first significant race of the season in splendid conditions. But for Cape Epic riders it wasn’t all sunshine and roses… Here’s what went down out on the roads and trails last month.


MOUNTAIN BIKING


Cape Epic 2023 – 19-26 March


Once a year aspiring amateur mountain bikers and professional riders from around the world toe the line of an eight-stage MTB race of epic proportions. It is the only event if its kind to be classed a hors categorié (referring to a climb that is beyond categorization) by the UCI, setting the stage for the ultimate test of competitive mountain biking.


The 2023 route of 648km with 15475m of ascent saw riders pushing personal boundaries, those of their partner, and at times their bikes… The first four days of racing provided clear conditions but some extreme winds. From stage 5 onwards riders faced torrential rains, mud baths and all the normal associated mechanical issues. A few were defeated, but the following teams triumphed:


UCI Women:

1. Kim le Court & Vera Looser (33:11:37.7) - Efficient Infiniti Insure

2. Amy Wakefield & Candice Lill (33:44:02.3) - e-FORT. net | SeattleCoffeeCo.

3. Sofia Gomez Villafane & Katerina Nash (33:54:55.4) - NinetyOne-songo-Specialized


UCI Men:

1. Matthew Beers & Christopher Blevins (26:17:04.0) - Toyota-Specialized-NinetyOne

2. Georg Egger & Lukas Baum (26:20:53.5) - ORBEA x Leatt x Speed Company

3. Nino Schurter & Andri Frischknecht (26:21:15.6) - SCOTT-SRAM MTB Racing


Mixed:

1. Ibon Zugasti & Alice Pirard (34:35:07.5) - Orbea Factory

2. Riaan Weideman & Samantha Sanders (35:15:42.4) - Toyota Gazoo Racing

3. Jasper Lefevre & Ariadna Rodean Pascual (36:28:02.4) - Bikehigh


Female MTB race winner throwing arms up.
Team Efficient Infiniti Insure of Kim le Court and Vera Looser claim victory at the 2023 Cape Epic.

King Price Trailseeker #2 Buffelsdrift – 11 March


On Saturday, 11 March 2023, the second King Price Trailseeker MTB race of the year took place at the beautiful Buffelsdrift Trail Park on the outskirts of Pretoria North. After the postponement of this event due to heavy rains in February, riders were grateful for the dawning of a crisp, clear day that later warmed up just a tad too much…


2200 avid mountain bikers from all over the country flocked to Buffelsdrift, a well-loved bushveld trail destination for passionate mountain bikers. Participants could choose between riding a 70km, 40km, 20km or 10km distance based on their level of fitness and expertise.


“The race was relatively flat and fast, and the guys were gunning it. Until just after halfway that is… Then came all the technical climbs, tricky single tracks and rough terrain. Those that had gone out too fast and not paced or fuelled well for part 2 started to fall apart!” – Pierre Jordaan, 70km finisher.


In the 70 km Marathon Phil Buys, current SA XCO Champion, raced home to comfortably claim the overall win in a time of 02:31, with Shaun-Nick Bester in second with a time of 02:34 and Michael Foster clinching third in a time of 02:35.


Samantha Sanders proved victorious in the Ladies Marathon, clocking a speedy time of 03:00, with Sarah Hill second in a time of 03:01 and Elrika Harmzen third in a time of 03:07.


The King Price Trailseeker events, organised by Faces Advendurance, have become much-anticipated events on the South African MTB calendar, not only attracting serious competitors, but also families looking for a fun and active day out.


“Our aim is not just to promote the sport of mountain biking but also to get people of all ages and abilities to experience the thrill and beauty of the great outdoors on their bicycles. Our events are a testament to the power of sport in bringing people together and promoting a healthy, active lifestyle.” – Fritz Pienaar, MD of Faces Advendurance


Next up in the Series is King Price Trailseeker #3 Van Gaalen on 10 June 2023.


Results

70km Men:

1. Philip Buys (02:31:02)

2. Shaun-Nick Bester (02:34:25)

3. Michael Foster (02:35:04)


70km Women:

1. Samantha Sanders (03:00:32)

2. Sarah Hill (03:01:25)

3. Elrika Harmzen (03:07:12)



TRAIL RUNNING


Magoebas Forest Marathon – 19 March



At 5:30am on Sunday the 19th of March, Magoebaskloof saw just shy of 120 trail runners set off into a hidden dawn and the depths of the Woodbush Forest. They were mostly silent, just a gentle pattering on the soft, loamy trails alluding to their presence. As the early morning sun began to dapple the forest floor and chirping birds stirred above, the runners crested their first substantial climb of the day and a happy chattering of voices welcomed them at a well-stocked aid station.


Hosting their first event in 2022, Handré and Eliza Hay are the proud owners of the Magoebas Ultra Trail and Forest Marathon in Limpopo. Situated between Tzaneen and Haenertsburg, this gem of a destination for birding and hiking is rapidly becoming a trail mecca as well. Distance options this year included a gruelling 50km, a 35km, 20km and a 10km for beginners. All the routes started and finished at the spectacular Debengeni Falls - the perfect backdrop to an afternoon spent swimming, laughing with friends and enjoying good food and drinks.


The 2023 event’s weather was perfect with pleasant starting temperatures and a fairly hot midday for those that happened to be running the more exposed ridges at that time. Under the canopy of the forest athletes were well-shaded but the humidity was not to be taken lightly… Fortunately this season’s good rains meant the streams were full the forest was alive with sound of flowing water.


“The highlight of my day was hearing the screeches of the endemic Cape Parrots in the early morning,” said Nicolette Griffioen, female winner of the 50km. “It’s so cool that the race organisers have called their sub-7 hour finisher’s medal the Cape Parrot Medal. My goal for the race was to earn one of those… Next up is a sub-6 hour attempt, and I reckon it should be for a Green Twinspot Medal.”


The Green Twinspot is another of Magoebaskloof’s twitching specials, along with the Orange Ground-thrush, Black-fronted Bush shrike and the elusive Bat Hawk.


Both the men’s and women's races were well attended by athletes from Gauteng and the lowveld. In the men’s 50km Colin Kanyimo of Zimbabwe proved his trail prowess once again, smashing the route in a phenomenal 05:29:27. The race for second was extremely close with Cornelius Rall passing a cramping Jacques Buys very close to the finish and making up 2 minutes on the well-known Hoka athlete.


In the female division Griffioen broke away from Karine Bezuidenhoudt and Mari Marincowitz at about 12km and managed to build on her lead through to the end. Again, the fight for second place was tight with Mari passing Karine on the flatter sections of the route but losing time on the last 10km of technical hiking trail. Karine fought hard to close the gap but ultimately finished just 2 minutes and 20 seconds off second place.


In the 34km event, Arlo van Heerden and Marzelle van der Merwe battled it out for the top podium step. In the end it was Arlo who took the overall win with Marzelle doing the ladies proud and finishing second overall just under 4 minutes behind Arlo.


50km Men:

  1. Collin Kanyimo (05:29:27)

  2. Cornelius Rall (05:47:25)

  3. Jacques Buys (05:49:26)

50km Women:

  1. Nicolette Griffioen (06:29:34)

  2. Karine Bezuidenhoudt (06:47:38)

  3. Mari Marincowitz (06:49:58)

34km Men:

  1. Arlo Van Heerden (04:26:36)

  2. Ryan Ball (04:37:54)

  3. Pieter Minnaar (05:04:30)

34km Women:

  1. Marzelle Van der Merwe (04:30:03)

  2. Carine Gagiano (04:59:19)

  3. Trude Carstens (05:05:22)

Trail runner in the forest at Magoebaskloof forest marathon.

Addo Elephant Trail Run - 17-19 March


Set in the tranquillity of the Eastern Cape’s spectacular Addo Elephant National Park, many call this race “Africa’s wildest ultra.” All three distances of 100 miles, 76km and 44km take athletes on a journey of exploration through indigenous forest, subtropical thicket, heath and grassland. The Addo Elephant race provides a unique opportunity for trail runners to experience the sights, sounds and smells of this diverse conservation area on foot.


Addo 2023 was one of the better years in terms of conditions, the norm of the past few years being deathly heat. This time around athletes only had a tolerable degree of heat, an afternoon thunderstorm for the 100 milers, wet underfoot conditions, and thick bush riddled with spiders to navigate…


But in true trail-running style, the competitors pulled it off gracefully and produced some sterling results:


Men's 100 miler Men's Podium

  1. Leon Roode (24:29:07)

  2. Anele Bans (26:00:11)

  3. Chris Sadie (26:07:15)

Ladies 100miler Podium

  1. Lodelia Kombrink (25:56:32)

  2. Sylvie Sherzinger (29:56:20)

  3. Nikola Ramsden (30:03:43)

Mens 76 km Podium

  1. Grobelaar Bason (07:08:31)

  2. Mathew Bouch (07:23:48)

  3. Gabriel Kriel (07:45:18)

Ladies 76 km Podium

  1. Nadia Jooste (08:20:36)

  2. Simone Malan (08:51:14)

  3. Kirsty Van Niekerk (09:31:08)


ROAD CYCLING


Cape Town Cycle Tour – 12 March 2023


The 2023 CTCT witnessed some intense and exciting moments in the Men’s Elite racing category over the iconic 109km coastal route around the Cape Peninsula. The weather on the day was perfect for racing, with sunny conditions and a light south-easterly breeze. Perhaps due to the ideal weather, there were several early attacks, but the big teams worked to bring all the riders back together. Up the deceptively tough Smitswinkel climb, five riders got off the front and forged the break. This group stayed together until Hout Bay when Nick James (DMS) dropped back. “That’s when the realisation kicked that we were going to go to the finish, and a podium was a potential,” said Andries Nigrini (TEG), who finished second.


The breakaway didn’t always seem to work together in consistent fashion, with the youthful Loubser doing the bulk of the work. With no other teammates in the break, he seemed to create something of an allegiance with Chris Jooste (TufoBMC), whose experience was evident throughout. Jooste went on to win the race, showing his class in a sprint against Nigrini, Jaedon Terlouw (Honeycomb), and Daniel Loubser, and claiming the title in a time of 02:36:14.


The chasing bunch got organised up Chapman’s Peak, driven by DMS. They were closely watched by the team of Honeycomb, represented by Terlouw up front. In Honeycomb’s ranks was defending champion Marc Pritzen (although riding in the colours of his team Team EF Education-NIPPO Development). However, the bunch left it too late and couldn’t bring back the breakaway.


Speaking after the race, Jooste expressed his delight at what is undoubtedly the biggest win of his career. “This is an incredible feeling,” he said. “I’ve won every age category since u/12, so this is amazing.”


The Cape Town Cycle Tour is one of the world’s most iconic cycling events, attracting thousands of participants and spectators each year. The Men’s Elite racing category is just one of the many highlights of the race, which also includes elite and age group categories for women, hand cyclists, and tandem riders. The event this year also debuted the inclusion of a 42km route.


The event organizers expressed their satisfaction with the outcome of a cycling celebration, praising the participants for their skill and endurance. “The Cape Town Cycle Tour is a celebration of cycling and the human spirit,” said David Bellairs, Director of the Cape Town Cycle Tour. “The Women’s and Men’s elite categories were a true testament to the passion and dedication of these athletes, and we are proud to have them as part of our event.”

  1. Chris Jooste: TufoBMC

  2. Andries Nigrini: TEG

  3. Jaedon Terlouw: Honeycomb

  4. Daniel Loubser: Cycling Friends

  5. Gert Heyns: Valley Electrical


In the women’s race, defending champion Kim le Court of Mauritius won her fourth consecutive Cape Town Cycle Tour. The Efficient Infiniti Insure rider had to work hard for this one though, after Candice Lill broke up a select group who had entered the finale together with an audacious attack in the final kilometre.


Beginning in Fish Hoek, the elite women complete 79 kilometres of the classic Cape Town Cycle Tour route, including the significant ascents of Smitswinkel, Chapmans Peak Drive and Suikerbossie. A blustery South Easter affected this year’s ladies race, which led to a bigger group staying together deeper into the race and regroupings later in the morning.


By the foot of Chapmans Peak Drive, 40 women remained in contention. Moolman-Pasio shred the field into splintered groups on the famous climb. The 2012 winner was joined by Lill, Le Court, Preen, Willeit, and Pallant-Browne over the summit. The descent, which is a sweeping drag initially before steepening into Hout Bay, allowed several other key riders to make it back to the leaders before Suikerbossie kicked uphill once more.


On Suikerbossie Moolman-Pasio attacked again, and this time only Preen, Lill, and Le Court could follow. Pallant-Browne was the best of the rest over the summit, 10 seconds behind the group. The British triathlete Grove, Willeit, and Van de Winkel then fought their way back to parity before the race reached Bakhoven. In Camps Bay, the group swelled once more, with Keep and two of Grove’s Rennen Racing teammates also making contact. This set the women up for a likely sprint finish.


“This race is always good fun and games,” Lill smiled at the finish line. “I always find it’s very difficult to stay away after Suikerbossie, though. We had a good group going over there of four riders. But then the other women started to catch us, and it became a bit hectic towards the end. I tried a bit of a flier because I know I’m not much good in a sprint. So I’m proud of that move, even if it didn’t pay off.”


Lill’s kick forced her rivals to open up their sprints earlier than they would have liked. “It was a bit tense, to be honest,” Le Court reflected. “With most of the sprinters back in the bunch, I was pretty nervous going into the finale. Then Candice did a flier from the back, which was really a good move. We struggled to bring her back, and as I did, I thought it was too early to start the sprint. But everyone else was sprinting too, and I just opened it up, and no one came past. I could see a wheel looming up on my left… I know it was Vera [Looser] now. But I just hung on.”


Le Court’s fourth CTCT moves her to joint four alongside Anke Erlank on the all-time standings.


Women’s Results:

  1. Kim le Court: Efficient Infiniti Insure (2:13:20)

  2. Vera Looser: Lapierre-Elysator

  3. Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio: AG Insurance Soudal QuickStep

  4. Hayley Preen: Freewheel Cycology

  5. Cherise Willeit: Santon City Cycle Nation



ROAD RUNNING


Umgeni Water Marathon – 19 March 2023


The 25th staging of the Umgeni Water Marathon race was enjoyed by around 1 200 runners who ran an exciting route around Midmar Dam, KZN, with the weather perfect and the vibe colourful. The competitive spirit of the runners was matched by solid work from the organisers, Collegians Athletics Club and Howick Athletics Club, and title sponsor Umgeni Water.


The overall winner of the 42km distance was Lesotho-based Jobo Khatoane of Maxed Elite, who completed the course in a record-breaking time of 02:22,14. Last year, Phantane AC athlete Bonginkosi Zwane ran 02:34,37.


“The route is great, but it’s not easy at all because the Umgeni Marathon race is a bit like cross country, with potholes here and there. I enjoyed it though and will definitely come back in 2024,” said Khatoane.


In a pre-race interview Khatoane said his plan was simple and straightforward.

“When we started the race I was able to quickly realise that the 21km guys were running too fast and if I stayed with their pace, I would be able to clock a better time for the marathon. So, I led the race from the start, mixing myself with the half marathon guys and never looked back.”


Second position was claimed by Sahele Sibisi (02:27,45) of Entsika AC and in third was former Mandela Marathon champion and Maxed Elite athlete Thobani Chagwe (02.31,17).


The women’s race was won by Josie Van Den Berg of Dolphins Coast Striders (03:29,47). Second place went to Save Orion AC athlete Helen Buley (03:31,03) and third to Patricia Dammann (03:36,14) of Team Vitality Club KZN.


“The event was great and it all went according to plan. Our volunteers, organisers, sponsors, runners and especially our title sponsor, Umgeni Water, played a big role and made it possible.” - Race organiser Les Burnard from Collegians AC.


***

MTB rider at the Cape Epic race.
Efficient Infiniti Insure's Kim le Court and Vera Looser racing to victory at the 2023 Cape Epic.

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pierrejordaan15
Apr 02, 2023

Can't wait for April's racing!!!

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