South African claimed both the men’s and women’s elite titles at the 2015 African Mountain Bike Continental Championships in Musanze, Rwanda at the weekend.
Slippery conditions in the sub-tropical nation made for an unpredictable, not to mention extremely messy, weekend of racing.
James Reid, pictured above, won the elite men’s section ahead of Matthys Beukes and Rourke Croeser, ensuring an all green and gold podium.
The elite women’s title went to Bianca Haw, with fellow South African Cherie Vale finishing in second place and Namibia’s Michelle Vorster claimed third. Commonwealth Games rider Mariska Strauss was ill in the run-in to the race and had to settle for fourth spot.
Team RECM rider, Reid, said that the race didn’t play out as he expected it to due to rather unfavourable weather conditions. ‘We could see from the women when they came off the track that they were coated in mud. It was very slick and wet and on the start line it was raining. That will always be a factor, and mud can obliterate even the simplest of tracks,’ he said.
‘It was fast for the first couple of laps but then the gaps were big and consistent and you got going in your own rhythm. The conditions definitely affected the speed and difficulty of the track,’ he added.
When asked what the African Continental Champion title feels like to Reid, he had this to say: ‘There are three big titles to achieve in South Africa: SA Cross-country Champs, SA Marathon Champs and African Cross-country Champs. Every year I try to aim for as many possible – last year I got two of three. I have never won an Elite African title, and it means a lot.’
He also mentioned that, because of the multicultural and diverse field of riders from all over Africa and being in Rwanda, the race was a truly African experience, which made it that much more special. Reid is back home for the next few days before he heads to the to the Czech Republic World Cup, and then the World Cup in Germany.
Commonwealth Games rider Philip Buys was fifth as he still attempts to get over a shoulder injury. ‘It wasn’t too good, fifth overall and fourth elite. The legs just weren’t great,’ he told Road to Rio 2016.
‘The shoulder hampered me quite a bit during the build-up. But in the race it was only sore on one occasion.’ For Haw’s side she said: ‘The course was super muddy from all the rain but the mud didn’t stick to the tyres – so that was nice, but it did make it very slippery over the rocks. The track itself was awesome – I loved it.
‘It was fast and flowing with only two climbs but they were pretty hard: the first was between four and five minutes on an open road; the second went up a single-track path in the mud and was difficult to get up, but it was rideable,’ she said.
The Red Bull rider also mentioned that the rest of the track was fast flowing, where a lot of power could be put down. ‘This, in the end, made it an extremely difficult track as there was no time to recover,’ she added.
Haw was overwhelmed by the camaraderie and support from the spectators. ‘The crowds were awesome and they lined the entire track screaming and shouting,’ she said.
On her title win at a young age, Haw had this to say: ‘Its my first year racing in U23, but this year we raced in elites to gain maximum points. It was so great to get it.’
In Saturday’s Junior races, Namibian Brandon Plaatjies took the men’s gold, and Zimbabwe’s Skye Davidson, the women’s.
Cycling SA MTB Commission Director, Brett Coates, who was also cycling manager for Team SA at last year’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland, said: ‘We went to Rwanda to earn UCI points and we have achieved that with a clean sweep. We have scored important points all the way down the line and I am very proud of the team.
‘That was a huge achievement – mission accomplished! I am sure that each rider will remember the experience in Rwanda in those testing conditions for many years to come.’
Summary of results
1 James Reid (SA) 1:54:28, 2 Matthys Beukes (SA) 1:58:08, 3 Rourke Croeser (SA) 1:59:29, 4 Brendon Davids (SA) 1:59:56, 5 Philip Buys (SA) 2:02:15, 6 Yannick Lincoln (MRI) 2:05:12, 7 Arno du Toit (SA) 2:05:42, 8 Nathan Byukusenge (RWA) 2:06:14, 9 William Mokgopo (SA) 2:07:49, 10 Heiko Redecker (NAM) 2:08:40
1 Bianca Haw (SA) 1:43:23, 2 Cherie Vale (SA) 1:44:52, 3 Michelle Vorster (NAM) 1:48:25, 4 Mariske Strauss (SA) 1:52:58, 5 Candice Neethling (SA) 2:01: 20, 6 Joice Nyaruri Matara (KEN) 2:03:52
1 Tristan De Lange (NAM) 1:05:42, 2 Brandon Plaatjies (NAM) 1:07:17, 3 Johan Hartzenberg (SA) 1:09:13, 4 Samuel Mugisha (RWA) 1:15:13, 5 Alexandre Mayer (MRI) 1:16:54, 6 Chad Scallan (ZIM) 1:18:42, 7 Jake Greenway (ZIM) 1:22:28, 8 Liam Beahan (ZIM) 1:22:46
1 Skye Davidson (ZIM) 1:09:16, 2 Stacey Hyslop (ZIM) 1:15:36