South African Marathon Champs, Hazyview, 110km, 2400m
The 2013 South African Marathon Championships was held at Induna Adventures, just outside Hazyview in the Lowveld. I last raced this course in 2008, and 2007 I had actually won the SA marathon title on the same route. Jaco and his team always put together a great route, with a superb mixture of trails, climbing and testing jeep tracks, to ensure a worthy winner.
It was a strong field on the start line, and the race would always be hotly contested when there’s a national title up for grabs. This would be my tenth consecutive marathon championships, and was going to have to rely on experience to count in my favor. I had decided to race my Scott Scale RC, choosing the lighter hardtail over the full suspension as I knew the course would be fast.
The marathon consisted of two loops of around 37km, with the last loop being repeated a second time to make up the tough 110km. The first loop was fast as riders were looking to try split up the group, but it remained a strong field with about 12 guys, and all the favorites.
The only meaningful move happened shortly after the start of the second loop, where Darren Lill and Nico Bell put in a move that slipped away. Whilst there was no real concern from the remaining bunch, it didn’t take much than the tough climbs to real them back. We then hit the technical single-track in the final 10km back to the start/finish area. It was a tricky section as you headed into the forested part of the course, and the light change was difficult on the eyes. I was grateful for my Oakley Racing Jackets with Transition lenses at this point! It was in this section that I had some bad luck, clipping a tree and breaking my shoe buckle. This meant I would have to race the last forty odd kilometers with a shoe that I could not tighten.
We raced through the final feed zone and onto our last lap, grabbing our last bit of USN nutrition, and the race was taking its toll on the riders as the group was being slimmed down. I put in a hard effort, followed by a counter attack by Brandon, just before the last few climbs, which narrowed the front bunch down to only five riders.
We were all together when we hit the last technical section, and as we entered it, James Reid made sure to use his cross-country skills to good use, and went in first. Unfortunately for me, a mistake, which may have cost me a shot at the title, went into this section behind Darren, who came unstuck on the first corner. I had to wait for him to get back on his bike, and then try to chase Nico and James as they had now gained around a thirty second advantage.
The trails from there to the finish were too fast and James was too quick on the final descend to the finish where he would be the ‘surprise’ winner of the national title. I say surprise but he was the smartest on the day. He was patient and bided his time as he watched all the big names race each other. Nico was a very close second place, whilst I came in third a minute later.
Considering where I’ve come from in the short space of time, I was happy with my result and it was a good showing from our team. We rode as best as we could, and had the most amazing support from our manager Bridgette, who ensured we were well looked after before and during the race.
Thanks again to everyone involved for your support, it’s great to be able to start racing at the sharp end again.
Next race, Brandon, and I are heading to my neck of the woods for the three day RE:CM Knysna200. I thoroughly enjoyed this event last year, although I’m sure this year, will be slightly faster than riding with Sandi!
Till then, cheers.
1st James Reid (Privateer) 4hrs40
2nd Nico Bell (Westvaal/Columbia) 4hrs41
3rd Kevin Evans (FedGroup/Itec) 4hrs41