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Big rivalry resumes at the Crater Cruise

One of the most exciting rivalries in South African mountain biking resumes on Saturday when Yoland├® Speedy (MTN-Energade) and Eszther Erdelyi-Cluer (Jeep) get on their bicycles to race the MTN Ride Crater Cruise in Parys, Free State.

Judging purely by the way Speedy has been dominating the local women’s mountain bike races throughout the year she should be the outright favourite.

But there is an interesting statistic one can’t ignore when speculating about the outcome of Saturday’s race for women and that is the fact that Erdelyi-Cluer has been victorious the last three times she raced in South Africa. In two of the three races she has managed to beat Speedy.

Then there is also the fact that Erdelyi-Cluer, just like Max Knox (DCM), is on the verge of completing a very unique hat trick in South African mountain biking.

In the last four weeks she has first won the Hill2Hill and a week later she outrode Speedy to also win the MTN 50 Miler. Erdelyi-Cluer now just needs a victory in the Crater Cruise to make it three in row.

There is no arguing the fact that Erdelyi-Cluer is at the moment in top form. During the MTN 50 Miler she had her fair share of bad luck. First she crashed and had to fix her bike’s handlebars. She then remembered that she had forgotten her water bottle at the feeding station which led to her running back about 40 metres to go and fetch it and she had to run back before she could continue racing yet still she won.

Afterwards Erdelyi-Cluer admitted to having surprised herself. ÔÇ£I can’t believe how strong I am at the moment even steep climbs does not phase me. I just want to keep on riding because I love it.ÔÇØ

Erdelyi-Cluer also managed to beat Speedy at the MTN National Cross Country-event in George.

She comes from a strong track running and multisport background and is the 2007 Xterra European Champion, after winning the 2008 SA Xterra Championships in Grabouw she picked up a serious knee-injury which made it difficult for her to keep on running and she had to go for an operation on her right knee in September 2008.

After rehabilitation on her knee she decided to focus her energies on XC mountain biking with her goal to try and represent Hungary at the 2012 Olympic Games in London. Judging by her results so far it is not unrealistic.

At the Hungarian nationals she finished third overall. Then at the World Cup in Britain she was 49th overall and at the World Cup in Belgium 46th overall. If one takes into account that Erdelyi-Cluer is still a novice and had to start right at the back at each of the World Cup events her results are impressive. She basically passed about 50 riders in each race. That takes some doing because on the tough single track technical sections of a World Cup course you really do battle to pass the riders in front of you.

The one thing that might count against Erdelyi-Cluer on Saturday is the race distance. The pro-elite women will, like the elite men, be racing 101 kilometres.

Because Erdelyi-Cluer’s main focus this year was cross-country racing she might start to get tired towards the end of the race due to the fact that her stamina is perhaps not what it should be especially after battling a bout of flu earlier this week. If that is the case Speedy will definitely win.

The other riders to watch are Yolandi du Toit (Bizhub) who is the defending champion, Karien van Jaarsveld (USN) and Mariske Strauss (MTN-Energade).