Sunday, May 10, 2009
Karkloof MTB Festival
Karkloof has been a classic mountain bike race for quite a number of years, but for the last three years it has been a whole festival, taking place over the entire weekend. The festival features the night race on Friday evening, followed up on Saturday by the Cross Country in the morning and the Sprint Shootout in the afternoon, and finally the Main event, the Marathon on Sunday morning, attracting more than four thousand riders over the various distances. I was last here in 2007 and participated in all the events. However I suffered in the main event and didn’t have the fire power in the legs to compete with the fresh guys. So this year I decided to concentrate on the Marathon event with Dave, and let Mathys focus on the XC. Having won the Marathon previously on a few occasions, I knew it would be worth saving myself for it.
The XC kicked off at 10:30 and was held over a very technical and physically demanding course. The 6km track was always going to provide good close racing but the field split up early on and very soon into the first of five laps, there were actually only about five riders in contention. Mathys was looking good, and riding comfortably in 4th position for most of the race. The front two riders, who were elite class, only had about a minute on him after the 3rd lap, and he was only a few seconds off 3rd position, lying second in the under 23 category. However the last two laps you could see the riders had turned up the pace and it was local rider Rowan Exelby who took the honours. Mathys rode a good consistent race to maintain 4th place overall and 2nd in his category.
The Marathon kicked off in near perfect conditions with the normal Karkloof “chill’ in the air. The large start field was seeded into batches and the fastest 70 riders made up the A batch. The race consisted of a tricky start loop of about 10km, and it was through here that I could see Burry Stander would be on a mission today, and I had to get onto his wheel when he started to surge. I was the only rider able to follow his pace early on, some what of a surprise as some of the teams on the day had up to eleven riders! Once we had completed the start loop and were back onto the polo field, we had opened a small gap of about 30seconds to Mannie Heymans and a DCM pair. I decided to drive the move hard with Burry as I thought we would have good chance to stay away. With both of us working well together, sharing the pace making on the flats and climbs and using his technical speed through the numerous singletrack sections, we opened up a sizeable gap and continued to grow it.
The course was incredible with so much work that had gone into it, with loads of groomed tracks, but the usual rough and rocky sections through the cattle tracks. Also the infamous legs burning climbs of “Cambells, Lebanon and Cawoods” would always ensure only the toughest would survive out there. It was incredible to follow Burry’s lines through the technical sections and see how smooth he and his bike were. It’s easy to see how he is one of the worlds best XC riders.
With only 15km to go, over the last climb he opened up a small gap on me, about 15seconds but from there we went into the last singletrack descent of about 7km, and through here he really turned up the heat. I got a time split at the bottom and the gap was up to 1minute20. The final 5km were straight along the district road and back to the polo fields where a huge crowd waited to see the out come. It was only fitting for him to take the win in an amazing event put on by Mr Price, also one of his long time and loyal sponsors. I followed in second place about 1min50 down. Third place went to Jacques Janse van Rensburg a further six or seven minutes later.
Now we have some quality time to build for the second half of our season and our next big event will be the Rooiberg Ecochallenge in June. I’m sure we will have some good form by then so expect to see some MTN domination again soon.