Commonwealth Games-bound Mariske Strauss (Orange Monkey Pro Team) has put in a dominant performance to claim the 2014 South African Cross-country National Championship Elite women’s title in a time of 1hr 35min 35sec on a challenging and technical course at Thaba Trails in Gauteng.
The Elite women completed five laps of the 4.5-kilometre dusty and rocky track.
The start to Strauss’ race was less than perfect as she encountered what she called a ‘rookie error’ when her foot clipped out of her cleats on the start line. This resulted in Strauss entering the first singletrack section in last place.
Keeping cool and calm, Strauss picked her way through the riders on her first lap and from lap two she held the lead until the end of the race, despite her tumble in the rock garden.
‘I lost a bit of concentration and took a tumble, but thankfully it was nothing serious,’ said the newly crowned champion. ‘There was no damage to my bike so I just carried on. Racing in this event was a nice opener for me for the Commonwealth Games.’
Strauss’ preparations have been going well in the build up to the Championship event. ‘My coach, Jeroen Swart, has been pushing me quite hard, but the data is looking good.’
Apart from the national championships, Strauss leaves for Glasgow for the 2014 Commonwealth Games on Thursday, while her University schedule started again on Monday after the mid-year break. ‘I’ve been trying to keep everything as normal as possible,’ said Strauss. ‘My confidence has picked up a lot, and I will try my best to post a good result for South Africa at the Commonwealth Games. I’m very excited ÔÇô it hasn’t really sunk in yet. But it will definitely feel real when I start packing my bags.’
Cherie Vale (Paarl Media) claimed the silver medal in a time of 1:39:10, while Candice Neethling (Time Freight VELOlife) claimed bronze in 1:40:40. It was great to see mountain biking stalwart Yolande Speedy (Heart-Sports ASG) back in the racing scene, where she claimed fourth place in 1:47:34, with Nicolette Griffioen finishing fifth in 01:29:22.
The Under-23 category saw Ashleigh Moffatt (Time Freight VELOlife) claim top honours in a time of 1:24:35, with Hayley Smith (Bell Equipment) claiming a silver medal in a time of 01:27:27.
Bianca Haw (Time Freight VELOlife) claimed the Junior women’s title in commanding fashion, completing three laps in 1:04:19. Haw was followed home by Genevieve Van Coller (Heart-Sports ASG) in 1:05:49, with Jessica Alcock (GU) claiming the bronze medal in 1:07:04.
African Youth Games champion Frankie du Toit was dogged by problems and ended fifth in the junior category, writes Mark Etheridge.
‘My race didn’t go as planned because in the first lap I crashed hard and then snapped my chain 500m further up the track.
‘I had to run 3km to the tech zone where it was fixed, I eventually fought my way back to fifth place. Very disappointed but that’s racing and it happens.
The Youth women’s category saw some close racing with Lynette Benson dominating her race, and claiming the gold medal in 1:09:46. Allison Morton finished in second place in 01:11:05, while Saffron Vosloo finished third in 1:12:18.
Photo credit: Andrew Mc Fadden/BOOGS Photography