31 Aug, 2015

Racing for colours

Photograph by Andrew McFadden/BOOGS Photography
Photograph by Andrew McFadden/BOOGS Photography
Photograph by Andrew McFadden/BOOGS Photography
Photograph by Andrew McFadden/BOOGS Photography
Photograph by Andrew McFadden/BOOGS Photography
Photograph by Andrew McFadden/BOOGS Photography
Photograph by Andrew McFadden/BOOGS Photography
Photograph by Andrew McFadden/BOOGS Photography
Photograph by Andrew McFadden/BOOGS Photography
Photograph by Andrew McFadden/BOOGS Photography

James Reid and Cherie Vale are now South Africa’s elite national champions after they won their respective categories at the recent 2015 Mountain Bike Cross Country National Championships. Held in Stellenbosch, the “nationals” were well-attended with around 300 riders competing in the various age categories.

Perhaps emulating her Novus OMX Pro Team teammate Mariske Strauss’ performance a year ago, Cherie Vale beat her nearest rival Candice Neethling by a shade over seven minutes to become the women’s elite national champion.
“It hasn’t really settled in yet,” said Cherie, who was last year’s runner-up, “winning in Stellenbosch was great and having so many people out there supporting definitely added to the win”.
Despite the absence of defending champion Mariske, who was forced out of the competition due to an ankle injury which has plagued her for most of the 2015 season, it was still a race that Cherie was not quite sure about heading into it.
“The victory is a little bitter-sweet because Mariske wasn’t riding but I knew that I had to go out and really push on the climbs and keep myself as focussed as possible with the mud around the course. The area drains really well,” Cherie, who lives in Stellenbosch, commented, “but there were some areas that were a bit muddy.”
Cherie’s recent trip to Europe where she gained valuable racing experience certainly helped the 26-year-old.
“Riding overseas has been a great experience for me this year,” she concluded, “there are a lot more riders in the race and the standard is high. You can’t be off your game and so that experience has made me a better rider for sure.”
The previously-mentioned Candice came in second with Hanli Cilliers third.
The men’s elite category was something completely different as Team RECM rider James Reid (22) literally had to fight his way from 10th to the top step of the podium, claiming victory in a sprint to the finish.
“I had nothing at the beginning of the race, to be honest,” he said following his win, “I just wanted to stay in touching distance of the guys at the front because I could not see they were having a real scrap up front!”
James also benefitted from his recent stint in Europe, and knew to keep calm but to keep his pace up as there is always a chance to get back into the mix.
“It wasn’t actually a case of me speeding up,” he quipped, “I think the guys at the front slowed down which helped me get among them. On the fifth and sixth laps of the race, I started to try and open it up a bit and Alan [Hatherly – Kargo Pro MTB Team] and Travis [Walker – Full Dynamix/USN] were the guys that were with me, although Travis was a bit behind us. I knew that if I managed to get onto the grass first at the end, then I would have a really good chance and that is how it happened.”
It was James’ first elite championship win, having moved into the category at the beginning of 2015 but it followed on from his African Continental title he won in Rwanda during May.
“That last lap was chaos,” he commented further, “I didn’t have much left but it was marginally more than Alan and the rest of the guys. There was some incredible home crowd support and, after some elbows-out dicing, I got onto the field first for what felt like the longest sprint of my life. Thankfully no wheel appeared in my line of vision and when I crossed the line I couldn’t quite believe I had it.”
Showing just how close the final sprint was, James and Alan were actually given the same time across the line (1:28:41) with Travis taking third spot. And, what makes Alan’s performance so remarkable is that he is actually an under 19 rider who rode in the elite division.
Behind James and Alan, the defending champion, Rourke Croeser (now with Full Dynamix/USN) and early race aggressor Phillip Buys (Scott Factory Racing) seemed to struggle with the late changes to the race tempo. This allowed Travis the last podium spot as he rode his way through the field after a late wheel change.
The under 23 men’s category was won by Gert Heyns, with Arno du Toit and Dylan Rebello in second and third respectively. The under 23 women’s category was convincingly won by Hayley Smith who finished more than 10 minutes ahead of second placed Sara Hill. Third position was won by Rozalia Kubyana.
Julian Jessop won the junior men’s category, with Johan Hartzenberg and Henry Liebenberg close on his heels and Frances “Frankie” du Toit beat out Genevieve van Coller and Kristen Louw in the junior women’s category.
Sub veteran men’s category was won by Danny Fowler, with Matthys Koekemoer and Michael Posthumus in second and third respectively. In the sub veteran women’s category, there was also a huge gap between first and the other placings. Leorine de Wet crossed the line in a time of 1:29:55, Nadine Nunes in 1:41:51 and Katja Steenkamp in 1:45:02.
Veteran women’s category was won by Diana Carolin, with Caroline Dann in second place and Alexandra Hill in third. With the veteran men’s categories, the A-batch was won by Neil Bradford with Warren Price and Jeroen Swart taking second and third. The B-batch was won by Ian van Coller with Rex Benson and Tim Keep taking second and third place respectively.
Corrie Muller won the men’s masters category with Jimmy Redman taking second and Guy Lanfear taking third. The women’s masters category was won by Helen Gibbings with Elizabeth Delport and Christelle le Roux in second and third place.
Pieter du Toit took the youth men’s category with Johann Trotzky second and Chris du Plessis third. The youth women’s category was won by Tiffany Keep with Rimari Sutton second and Danielle Strydom third.
Sub junior girls was won by Megan Bircher and sub junior boys by Luke Moir. Sabien Thies and Kelsey van Schoor took second and third place in this girl’s category while Cwynton Collett and Daniel van der Walt took second and third in the boy’s category.

The following riders have qualified to represent South Africa at the 2015 UCI Mountain Bike and Trials World Championships in Vallnord, Andorra from 31 August to 6 September. Juniors: Francis du Toit, Julian Jessop and Marco Joubert. Under 23: Alan Hatherly and Gert Heyns. Elite: Mariske Strauss, Cherie Vale, James Reid, Rourke Croeser, Philip Buys, William Mokgopo and Sipho Madolo. Downhill: Greg Minnaar, Andrew Neethling, Tiaan Odendaal, Stefan Garlicki, Samuel Bull, Jonathan Philogene (junior) and Christopher Philogene (junior).


Raymond Travers

Raymond Travers

Modern Cyclist Editor |