Durbanville’s Mariske Strauss (Orange Monkey Pro Team) and Pretoria’s Philip Buys (Scott Sports) claimed African Continental Championship titles in the Elite women and men’s mountain bike cross-country categories in Durbanville near Cape Town at the weekend.
Racing in the Elite category this year, local rider Strauss was out at the front right from the get-go, retaining her position until the end of the race in very hot and dry conditions. The 23-year-old local raced a calculated race, taking into account the extra lap and time required to be completed in her new category, to take the top honours on the six-lap, technical course in a time of 1hr 29min 44sec.
ÔÇ£It was a good, hard race,ÔÇØ said Strauss. ÔÇ£The first race of the season is always an interesting one. It’s always good to be in control from the start, and I was happy to do that and just keep it together because it was very hot out there. In the second last lap, I just kicked in. I could really feel the last lap, but my training has been good and I’ve been preparing for this beforehand. It was an awesome track and there was a great vibe out there today.ÔÇØ
Samantha Sanders (SA) finished in second place in 01:30:44 with Cherie Vale completing the podium in third place, in a time of 1:33:56.
Candice Neethling (SA) won the women’s Under-23 race over five laps in 1:15:23 with Ashleigh Moffatt (SA) second in 1:20:26 and Hayley Smith (SA) third in 1:21:01.
The junior women’s race saw Bianca Haw (SA) take top honours over four laps in 1:02:48. Haw was followed by Frances du Toit (SA) in second place in a time of 1:04:41 with Mauritian Kimberley Le Court De Billot rounding out the podium in 1:06:22.
The Elite Men’s racing followed later in the afternoon. The tempo was high and the stacked racing groups tackled the track, all hungry for the title. It was Philip Buys who packed the final punch to take the victory over eight laps in a time of 1:39:15. Buys’ victory did not come easy in a tight tussle with fellow South Africans Rourke Croeser and Lourens Luus.
ÔÇ£It was a hard race today,ÔÇØ said Buys. ÔÇ£I knew I had the shape, and I tried to wear the guys out in the first four laps. I really wanted to play it safe out in front for the final laps, but then I cut my wheel, and had to limp to the tech zone.
ÔÇ£When I rejoined, I was about a minute off the lead pace of Rourke (Croeser) and Lourens (Luus), and was lying in third place. It took me a lap to get back to them, but I rode that too quickly and it took me another lap to recover. I just made it difficult for myself, but these things do happen in mountain biking. I am very happy with the win.ÔÇØ
Luus claimed the silver medal in a time of 01:39:20 followed closely by Croeser in 1:40:06.
In the Under-23 Men’s category, it was South African James Reid who took the title over seven laps in a time of a1:23:54. Defending champion Brendon Davids (SA) crossed the line in second place in 1:26:02, with Arno du Toit (SA) finishing third in 1:26:35.
South African Stephen Senekal took top honours in the junior men category when he completed six laps in a time of 1:15:56. Local rider Sybrand Strauss finished in second place in 1:16:18 with Alan Hatherly (SA) finishing third in 1:17:35.