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23 Jan, 2015

Buffaloes bash bush biggie

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Thanks to the Tread Buffalo category, it’s not only the waif-like racing snakes that can dominate podiums. Calling themselves the Letsatsi Buffaloes, Conraadt van den Heever and his partner Anton Nel rode the 2014 Isuzu 3 Towers Three-Day Stage Race. Conraadt tells us how it went and also gives other weekend warriors a few hints.

We call ourselves the Letsatsi Buffaloes. Anton is 43 and I am 42 and we compete in various mountain bike events in the newly formed Tread Buffalo category which caters for riders weighing in at 90 kilograms or over.

Since its inception, there have been regular Tread Buffalo divisions at most of South Africa’s stage races and soon most, if not all, will adopt this category. There will soon be a dedicated division in both the daily and general classification results and points will be earned. These will become part of an annual ranking and Tread Buffalo category winners will be guaranteed podium appearances.

The first day of the Isuzu 3 Towers Three-Day Stage Race was met with chilly conditions and predictions of thunderstorms and rain. We had a strong start to the day until a puncture brought us to a stop on one of the route’s fast descents.

Battling serious cramping after an icy water crossing, we pushed on. Luckily, the weather held out and we managed a 03:51:28 for stage one (distance 70.8 kilometres, ascent 1708 metres), leaving us in 24th place overall and leading the Thread Buffalo (weight 90 kilogram plus) category with a 48 minute lead.

Although the puncture set us back three to four minutes and Anton felt the effects of a bout of bronchitis, we still managed to improve our 2013 stage one time.

Day two of the Isuzu 3 Towers had mixed fortunes for us. A little rainfall on Friday evening settled the dust for the Saturday morning ride, leaving the many single tracks in pristine condition.

Day two is basically two long climbs, followed by fast, rewarding descents and a lekker bush tunnel to finish. Unfortunately it was my turn to tend to a couple of punctures that day, a burden luckily not often bestowed upon me.

Day two’s distance was 67 kilometres, with 1752 metres ascent and a total riding time of 03:43.39. Anton, who by then was fully suffering the effects of illness, didn’t seem to let up much and we were still able to increase our lead on the rest of the floundering buffalo herd.

With serious concerns for my partner’s health, day three of the Isuzu 3 Towers stage race was always going to be a matter of heart rate management for him. Team tactics came into play when I took the lead instead of Anton (traditionally the stronger rider) who usually performs this role in the Letsatsi Buffaloes.

I did my best to make up time but he struggled and bunched the field through the single tracks where it’s much more difficult to pass. Having a strong head proved victorious once again with Anton probably surviving his toughest day on a MTB to date.

We celebrated the day with a clean sweep of wins and a two hour lead in our category. We also managed 23rd in the overall general classification.

To conclude, the Isuzu Towers Stage Race and Mankele MTB Park once again hosted one of the best stage races South Africa has to offer. The vibe and cycling spirit are always phenomenal! The trails were well marked and we had no problems finding our way.

Over the three days of racing, everything a MTB race should be gets thrown at you, climbs followed by fast rewarding descents (reaching close to 80 kilometres per hour), single track, bush tunnels, exceptional scenery and you should definitely not leave your technical abilities at home.

Apart from the single water crossing, you don’t ever have to cleat out or get off your bike (something the majority of riders have a dislike for, after all we come to ride, not walk!). The lows of this year’s race were obviously the punctures we suffered together with my partner’s ever worsening condition.

However, the high were the slush puppies at the end of each stage! The Isuzu 3 Towers Stage Race is definitely our favourite!